If you’re so lucky to be travelling to my (and the world’s) beloved Venice, you may be wondering how to live this experience to the fullest, savouring every single moment of your stay while learning about local culture. Since you’re travelling to Italy, I can imagine you’re craving our delicious food, not only for its world-renowned tastiness but also because of its importance and meaning in the Italian culture. Food is crucial for social relations: it marks weddings, births, and any kind of big events. I mean, just have a look at the variety of sayings we have on food and you’ll see the importance it has in Italian culture!
I must admit, however, that from a foreign perspective it might be difficult to access this cultural knowledge by just entering a restaurant and ordering pizza or pasta; it’s just not enough. That’s why I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of food tours, even though I was kind of skeptical of them because of the risk for tourist traps (as you can easily experience with restaurants) which will both give you shallow information (and maybe too idealising) and empty your pockets.
Having this reality in mind, I was very cautious when I was invited by The Roman Guy to one of their tours, namely the Hidden Venice Food Tour with Rialto Market, Cicchetti & Gondola Ride. I must say, however, that my expectations were fulfilled, even exceeded, and that’s why I’d totally recommend this tour, but let me tell you about my experience.
Meeting Point and First Bàcaro
The tour started on a sunny morning (lucky us!) in the lovely Campo San Bortolomio, an easy spot to reach, being just a few steps from the Rialto bridge. Giuliano, our guide, was already waiting for us, ready to chat a bit with everyone to grant that relaxed vibe that would characterise the tour from that moment onwards.
Once everyone had arrived, we started the tour by heading to our first bàcaro – a traditional Venetian wine bar, but not before a quick stop to the nearby pharmacy which features an electronic device indicating how many locals are still living in Venice (ed the local population in Venice is decreasing because of mass tourism and the so-called “Airbnb effect”). Personally, I did appreciate the choice to put this stop on the tour, because it conveys The Roman Guy’s will to show this wonderful city to its visitors, while underlying Venice’s problems and promoting responsible tourism as well.
After this quick stop, we reached our first bàcaro, hidden from all the fuzz and craziness of Shrove Tuesday. Tucked away in this lovely ambiance, we sipped some Prosecco while tasting some deep fried cicchetti (small snacks): polpette, that is meatballs (also available with fish or vegetables) and mozzarelle in carrozza, that is deep fried mozzarella with either ham or anchovies.
The small size of our group allowed us to enjoy our aperitivo in a lively atmosphere, getting to know each other while listening to Giuliano’s stories about the origin of the ombra, literally “shadow”, a small glass of wine typically drunk with some tasty cicchetti, which seems to take its name from the ancient habit to drink it in the shadow of St. Mark’s bell tower.
Second Bàcaro and Lunch
Since, as we say in Italian, l’appetito vien mangiando (the appetite comes eating), we were ready for the next food stop, but not before taking a short gondola ride just to cross the Grand Canal and admiring Lorenzo Quinn’s artwork from one of the best spots in town: water.
Now in the area of Rialto market, we had a little time to explore the place before heading to our next bàcaro. Suddenly surrounded by an improvised concert, Giuliano managed to extricate from the Carnival’s buzz and got us our cicchetti, which were varied and tasty, and a typical Spritz. Needless to say, this got us just in the right mood for our next stop: lunch!
We ended our tour in a very homely atmosphere, with great food and good wine: we had a bruschetta for starter (careful with the pronunciation! 😉 ) followed by either pasta or lasagne, depending on our individual choice. The service was incredibly friendly with the owners regularly checking if the food was good and chatting with both Giuliano and our group.
Unfortunately, Venice is quite cold in February, way too cold to enjoy Italian gelato, that’s why we opted for a good coffee instead!
I think you may realise now why I recommend the tour: it respects local culture, it’s led by local tour guides, and it’s totally worth the money. The only thing I wish was different is its length. Although I understand that it’s thought for visitors who may have other commitments or tours later, I would consider offering a longer version of the tour due to its social nature. I must say though, that our guide was more than available to stay a bit longer than programmed to make our experience as relaxed and enjoyable as possible.
So, if you’re planning a visit to Venice, I would definitely consider this food tour offered by The Roman Guy (which offers other tours as well and not only in Venice), maybe pairing it with a “regular” tour in order to combine history and local culture.
So… what are you waiting for? Buon viaggio e buon appetito!