How not to eat badly in Venice

There’s a saying that if you eat badly in Italy you must be in Venice. Being something of a foodie myself, on my long weekend in Venice, I was determined to search out the best of Venetian food. I’m afraid to report, however, that my food experiences ranged from the average to the mediocre. Since Venice is such a tourist hotspot, and so many of the visitors are there for such a short time, it is all too easy for many businesses not to try too hard. Still with a little research and planning I think that you can find the best that Venice has to offer, so here are my tips to ensure that you don’t eat too badly in Venice.

Get well away from San Marco

The San Marco district and especially the area around St Mark’s Square is the tourist hub of Venice and is always packed with visitors. Many come for the day from a cruise ship or coach tour and just have time for the tick list sights of the Doge’s palace, San Marco Cathedral, climb the campenile and then a quick gondola tour or foray to the Rialto Bridge. I’m not saying it’s not possible to find a good restaurant in this area, but you are just as likely to stumble into one with a multi-lingual menu designed to service tourists only.

Seafood Pasta in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Seafood Pasta in Venice

Better to venture into the less touristy districts such as Cannaregio, Arsenale or Dorsoduro where you will find more authentic wine bars and restaurants. The area around the Rialto market is good and has a number of good bacari (wine bars) plus it’s a feast for the eyes. Arrive in the morning when the fish is on sale to see the market in full flow; by lunchtime the market is winding down and stalls are packing up, although the fruit and veg stalls will be there for a little longer.

Linguine alle Vongole in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Linguine alle Vongole in Venice

What to eat in Venice

If you’re not sure what to order we found that it was difficult to go wrong with a seafood pasta or pizza. It’s not terribly adventurous but tends to be the least expensive things on the menu if you’re on a budget. Local specialities to look out for are linguine alle vongole, the hot antipasti of mussels and clams and a risotto with black squid ink. The meat dishes that we eat at home such as lasagne and ravioli we found were disappointing.

If you are offered fresh fish, it may be priced by weight and you should take care to establish the cost in advance or you may find yourself landed with an unexpectedly large bill. This is a bit of a scam in the San Marco tourist restaurants where a big show is made of a whole fish cooked in salt which you discover later has a hefty price tag.

Pizza in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Pizza in Venice

Other things to check are the cover charge which may add a few euros per person and a service charge which may be added on to the bill. Of course if you’d like to have that coffee at Florian in St Mark’s Square while listening to the musicians, you should do so knowing that it has a tourist price tag (the prices are clearly shown on the menu outside). Venice is a great place to try local Italian wines by the glass in a side-street wine bar and in the early evening you can join the locals in a bright orange Aperol Spritz, a Bellini or a glass of Prosecco.

Try the cicchetti or bar snacks in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Try the cicchetti or bar snacks in Venice

Eat standing up

A custom that takes us Brits by surprise, but is quite the done thing, is to stand up or perch on a bar stool while having a drink and a snack with friends. Don’t be put off in the wine bars if there are only a few small tables and you have to rest your drink on a shelf along the wall. This is where you can order cicchetti, or small bar snacks which range from miniature sandwiches to dishes of salad and cold seafood. The ideas is to order a glass of wine and point at whatever dish looks tempting, then stay for another or move on to the next bar.

Artizan gelato in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Artizan gelato in Venice

The stand up principle also applies to gelateria. Look for those that are artizan, which indicates the gelato is made on the premises, where you will often find a few small tables or stool to sit inside. The same stand-up approach can also apply at the Pasticceria where you can grab a coffee at the bar with a sweet pastry or cake. Generally eating or drinking standing up means that the price is cheaper since table service is not required.

Eat Venice food app

Before I visited Venice I downloaded the Eat Venice app onto my phone in the hope that I could find some more authentic places to eat. The app is by Elizabeth Minchelli whose blog about Italian food is also a great source of information about eating in Venice. I loved reading about all the great places to eat on this app but found that once we were there we invariably couldn’t find them or were too hungry to hunt around.

It’s certainly worth using the app to find out good food places in your neighbourhood, but don’t get too worried if you don’t find them, it’s better to use your eyes to judge whether a place looks authentic. If it’s busy, packed, full of Italians chatting with their friends, then it’s worth waiting for a table.

Rialto market in venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Rialto market in venice

Self catering in Venice

While there are plenty of apartments in Venice and indeed we stayed in one of them, although it seems to be a bit sad to always be eating in when you are in the midst of a living postcard. There are a few supermarkets in Venice but not really the convenience stores that you find in other cities. The culture is to eat out in a bar or restaurant and picnics are discouraged, in fact there seems to be a rule that they are not allowed. Still an apartment does mean you have the flexibility to make yourself the breakfast or lunch that you want, while perhaps eating out in the evening.

Food Tours in Venice

Another great way to get the feel of the local food culture is to take a food tour like the Rialto Market and Cicchetti wine bar tour with Walks of Italy. This tour takes you around the Rialto fish market and into the artizan food shops with a stop at three different local bars to taste the cicchetti as well as restaurant recommendations from the local guide. I wish that we had been able to take this tour as I feel sure that our food experience in Venice would have been improved had we been armed with some insider knowledge.

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Read about how to eat well in Venice

Some more Venice recommendations

The Go with Oh apartment we stayed in was one that I won through Murissa’s blog at The Wanderful Traveller in the Passports with Purpose fundraiser. Murissa knows Venice well and kindly made me some recommendations of where to eat in Venice;

Hilton Molino Stucky Venice
If you don’t mind your kids drinking a bit of prossecco and toasting to what an amazing city you’ve all traveled to then head up to the top of this hotel. There is a bar that has a picturesque pool and overlooks the entire city of Venice. Take the Zattere water bus stop over to Stucky.

Osteria Enoteca ai Artisti
You’ll find this recommendation in your Eat Venice app. Delicious and not too pricey food in a quaint location not far from where we stayed. http://www.enotecaartisti.com

Al Mercà (Rialto market area)
One of my favourite cicchetti bars – cheap and amazing sandwiches (the prosciutto is my favourite!), delicious prossecco, and a view of the hustle of the market/canal. Standing room only.

All’Arco (Rialto market area)
Family run cicchetti bar where you can eat local foods for very cheap. Cicchetti are Venetian snacks for cheap and have been served for hundreds of years. I personally love the deep fried mozzarella with fresh sardines but stuffed zucchinni flowers are divine as well. Good for lunch – mostly standing room only when you visit cicchetti bars.

Do Spade (Rialto Market area)
Where Casanova frequented in the mid 1700s. Delicious cicchetti, wine and beer. Locals and tourists alike. Just go up to the counter order and find a spot. Not far from the Rialto Bridge/Market.

Book a tour of Venice

We highly recommend Walks of Italy who offer a number of different tours in  Venice and other parts of Italy, which are ideal if you are only visiting for a short time. You’ll have an expert local guide to show you around and can often skip the queues at key sites. We took the 2 hour Venice Boat Tour which took us down the Grand Canal and many of the smaller canals with views of the key sites of Venice including a visit to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore where we climbed the bell tower with amazing views of Venice. Read my review of the Walks of Italy Boat Tour here.

Where to stay in Venice

For our 3 day stay in Venice I rented an apartment with Go with Oh and was able to use the €250 voucher that I won with Passports with Purpose blogger fundraiser. We chose this apartment in the San Marco district since it was so well located for all the main sites.

Thanks to Murissa from The Wonderful Traveller who hosted this prize contributed by Go with Oh and and for her tips on what to see in Venice. Passports with Purpose is a really worthwhile organisation which supports a different cause each year and you can win some really fabulous prizes so it’s definitely participating.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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Exploring Venice with my Maxwell Scott leather backpack + reader offer

When my Maxwell Scott leather backpack arrived in the post, the smell of the leather transported me instantly to Italy, the home of the true leather artisan. Although Maxwell Scott is a British Company, they work in Tuscany with some of the best craftsmen to produce a range of handbags, briefcases and wallets that have a timeless style. These are bags that your friends will admire as the leather mellows to become an old friend. If, like me, you have a daughter with an eye for the good things in life, you may just find her ‘borrowing’ your Maxwell Scott bag and never giving back. Read on to find out how you can get a special 10% reader discount on this and other items in the Maxwell Scott range.

Heather wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice - San Georgio Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice – San Georgio

Since we were off to Venice, I had the opportunity to see how my Sparano leather backpack fared when out sightseeing in the most fashionable surroundings. I like to dress up a little when I travel so I needed a bag that would be elegant enough to compete with all those effortlessly stylish Italian women. But practicality came into it too, since as a blogger I travel with my camera and a fair bit of other gear, and need to have my hands free for photography.

Check out my video below with my Sparano leather backpack in Venice

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Sophie- Anne wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sophie- Anne wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice

I chose the Sparano because the size was just big enough to carry everything I needed but still quite neat and compact, although there’s a smaller Popolo backpack if you only need to carry a phone and your designer sunglasses. My daughter also had her eye on my bag and soon we were sharing it during our sightseeing excursions around Venice. If you are also tempted, check out my 10% reader discount .

Heather wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice

Here’s what Sophie-Anne had to say about ‘our’ Sparano Leather Backpack;

“The best thing about this bag is the fit as it sits comfortably on your back with no awkward gap between the bag and your spine and the straps do not dig in – areas where other bags have failed. It is clear that this is a high quality product shown by the beautiful leather, lining and overall design. Invaluable when travelling, this bag can go from airport, to day, to night, to activities, to strolling around town. The classic style also makes it easy to pair with any outfit a fashion concious individual might have in mind.”

Sophie- Anne wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice - Rialto market Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sophie- Anne wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice – Rialto market

Since Venice is such a tourist hotspot you do need to keep an eye on your valuables, and I liked the fact that there was a neat outside pocket, but also a secure zipped inside packet to tuck away your purse and phone. The bag took me all around town with room for my guidebook, camera, a bottle of water and a few other blogger necessities.

Heather wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice - Doge's Palace Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather wearing the Sparano leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags in Venice – Doge’s Palace

Maxwell Scott is based in York and sells the bags exclusively through their online store. Their understated but stylish designs are crafted in their factory in Tuscany using the finest hides, zips and fittings and the bags have a 25 year guarantee. Orders over £100 have free delivery in the UK but don’t worry, they also ship worldwide.

10% Reader Discount (limited time only!)

I’ve teamed up with Maxwell Scott Bags to offer a 10% reader discount on all their bags and other items. Just click on this special link; http://bit.ly/handbag10 that will take you to the Maxwell Scott Website and the 10% discount will be automatically applied when you add any items to your basket. The reader discount is for a limited time only until 16 August 2015.

St Marks square, Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sophie-Anne in St Mark’s Square Venice with the Sparano Leather handbag

About the Maxwell Scott Sparano leather backpack

The Sparano leather backpack costs £202 and may be ordered from the Maxwell Scott Bags website here. It features a draw string opening, a large polyamide interior with a rear zipped pocket and a small external zipped compartment and adjustable shoulder straps. The bag comes in 3 colours of vegetable tanned, full grain Italian leather; Night Black, Classic Tan and Dark Chocolate. We also loved the smaller Popolo backpack which is ideal if you are looking for a neater bag to carry just the essentials and don’t have to consider space for cameras like me. Click here for my 10% reader discount before 16 August 2015.

If you are visiting Venice….

We highly recommend Walks of Italy who offer a number of different tours in  Venice and other parts of Italy, which are ideal if you are only visiting for a short time. You’ll have an expert local guide to show you around and can often skip the queues at key sites. We took the 2 hour Venice Boat Tour which took us down the Grand Canal and many of the smaller canals with views of the key sites of Venice including a visit to the island of San Giorgio Maggiore where we climbed the bell tower with amazing views of Venice. Read my review of the tour here.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Venice?

For our 3 day stay in Venice I rented an apartment with Go with Oh and was able to use the €250 voucher that I won with Passports with Purpose blogger fundraiser. We chose this apartment in the San Marco district since it was so well located for all the main sites.

Thanks to Murissa from The Wonderful Traveller who hosted this prize contributed by Go with Oh and and for her tips on what to see in Venice. Passports with Purpose is a really worthwhile organisation which supports a different cause each year and you can win some really fabulous prizes so it’s definitely participating.

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Read about my Sparano Leather backpack from Maxwell Scott Bags

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

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You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Join me on our Venice boat tour – with Walks of Italy

The crowds of St Mark’s square swirled around us as we waited at the Lion of Venice column for our Venice boat tour to begin. What a fabulous spot for people watching; the brightly clothed Chinese with every inch of skin hidden from the sunshine, the couples with their selfie sticks and the children chasing pigeons. Close to us was the line for the Doge’s palace, a little further the queue for the Campanile, while on the far side of the square, tour groups were being herded towards the entrance of St Mark’s Basilica.

Venice Featured

Thank goodness that our guide Jennifer soon led us away from the noise and crowds towards the water taxi, and we were off to see Venice by boat on our Walks of Italy tour. Our small group comprised a couple from San Diago, Sandy from Australia as well as the four of our family and in moments we were following the Hotel Cipriani launch across the lagoon towards the island of San Georgio Maggiore.

The Hotel Cipriani launch in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Hotel Cipriani launch heads across the lagoon in Venice

Ten minutes later and we stepped onto the landing stage in front of the pure white facade of Chiesa San Georgio, designed by the architect Palladio at a certain angle so that it would glow in the afternoon sun. This is the spot where every bride and bridegroom will come after their wedding, to have their photo taken with the view of St Mark’s square in the distance across the lagoon. There is no-where to stay on the island but it’s not much of a hardship posting for the handful of monks who still live in the Benedictine monastery.

San Georgio Maggiore in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

San Georgio Maggiore in Venice catches the afternoon light

Jennifer led us through the chuch and to the lift which took six people at a time up to the top of the campanile with 360 degree views over the lagoon – the cost of €6 was included in our Walks of Italy Venice boat tour. From here we could look down into the monastery gardens, towards the outer islands and clearly see the channels of the lagoon that are under heated discussion in Venice. The big debate is whether to reduce the number and size of the cruise ships going through the channel in front of St Mark’s square, since this would mean dredging deeper channels in other parts of the lagoon which could cause just as much environmental damage.

View of San Marco from the bell tower of San Georgio in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

View of San Marco from the bell tower of San Georgio in Venice

Once we were back on the boat, our guide Jennifer fed us a steady stream of stories about Venice – a mixture of celebrity, history and money just as Venice has always been. Soon we could point out the house owned by Elton John on the nearby island of Giudecca and the church where Verdi was the choir master.

Our guide on the Walks of Italy Boat tour in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Our guide on the Walks of Italy Boat tour in Venice

Skirting around the Arselale district we rounded the far side of the lagoon with a view of San Michele, the graveyard island. It was Napoleon who ordered all the graves to be moved to this island since it was becoming insanitary in Venice and it is still used as the burial place today.

Beyond San Michele is the island of Murano known for the glass blowing – the glass industry was moved there due to the risk of fire and to keep the closely guarded secrets of the art of glassmaking. The Venetians were the first to perfect the making of coloured glass through the addition of gold, mercury and copper and of making mirrored glass to replace the polished metal looking glasses.

Check out the dog we saw standing at the prow of the boat alongside us as we passed the island – typical of Venetians going about their business by boat!

San Michele island in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Passing San Michele island in Venice

Next our Venice boat ride took us through the pretty backwaters of the Cannaregio district, with much more of a local feel, where the tide of cruise ship guests rarely reaches. This is the neighbourhood I’d choose to stay if I ever go back to Venice, in some crumbing but atmospheric house with a balcony overlooking a small side canal.

Cannaregio district in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Cannaregio district in Venice

We passed the famous church of Madonna dell’Orto that we had already visited on our wanderings, with the huge paintings by Tintoretto who had a studio nearby. Jennifer pointed out the more mundane necessities of daily life in Venice; the hospital with yellow ambulance boats moored outside and the sports centre close to the station where the train tracks end. You’ll know you’re nearby if you see a large H for hospital on a bridge to warn you to keep the noise down.

Yellow ambulances outside the Hospital in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Yellow ambulances outside the Hospital in Venice

There are only a couple of places that the famous gondolas of Venice are made and we passed one of them on our boat tour. Check out the Alpine looking buildings made of wood, since the first boatmakers came from the Tirol, north of Venice.

Gondola workshop in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Gondola workshop in Venice

As we entered the Grand Canal, we heard more stories of life in Venice, and learned how there were originally far fewer streets, which since they were likely to be muddy and smelly, were only used by servants. The main house entrance was always on the canal side and everyone who was anyone would go about their business by gondola. The bridges and pavements alongside the canals were only built later and if you see a street called Calle Terre it means the canal that was once there has been filled in and paved over.

On the Grand Canal in Venice on our Walks of Italy Tour Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

On the Grand Canal in Venice on our Walks of Italy Tour

Now the celebrity stories were coming thick and fast as we passed the Gritti Palace hotel where Gwyneth Paltrow celebrated her birthday, the Mayor’s office in the Cavelli Palace, where George and Amal Clooney had their civil marriage ceremony and the ultra-luxe Hotel Aman Canal Grande where they held their wedding party.

A little further on and Jennifer pointed out the house that Angelina Jolie rented when she was in Venice to film The Tourist, as well as the building in the Rialto market where Jonnie Depp is chased along the terrace in the same film. Right next door to Angela’s house is the Palazzo where Lord Byron lived for a few years in the early 1800s and since he had a club foot, liked to exercise by swimming in the Grand Canal behind his own private gondola.

You’ll also pass the building that featured in the James Bond movie, Casino Royale, where the magic of cinema makes it look as if the whole front of the building collapses into the canal.

Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Gritti Palace Hotel in Venice

Beyond the celebrity gossip, our tour of Venice helped us to understand how wealthy Venetians lived in the past, since all the Palazzos, whatever their outward style, share the same internal arrangements. While the ground floor was for coming and going by gondola, the first noble floor was where the wealthy family would live and entertain, the second and third floor housed their bedrooms while the servant’s rooms and kitchen were on the top floor allowing easier evacuation if a fire broke out.

Palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Palazzo on the Grand Canal in Venice

Since all the waste went into the canal, the ladies would go go up to the roof terrace to get away from the smells of the canal in the hot summer months. If you look up at the roofs of many of the buildings, you can still spot these terraces, where they would go to create the Venetian ideal of beauty, a fair complexion with strawberry blonde hair.

What you may not realise is that to achieve the look they would sit in the sun with their face shaded and their hair spread out across the wide brims of special hats to bleach it with horse urine. Lovely! Look at the picture below and you can spot one of these roof terraces on the right.

Passing the Rialto bridge on our Walks of Italy Boat Tour Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Passing the Rialto bridge on our Walks of Italy Boat Tour

There are only a few bridges that cross the Grand Canal and the oldest is the Rialto bridge, set on the narrowest part of the Grand Canal. While the Rialto is a single arch stone bridge, it replaced older wooden bridges of the same design, always with shops above so that the rent would pay for the upkeep of the bridge.

Before other bridges were built, the Rialto was considered the heart of the financial and commercial district. In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Shylock says, ” Ha’ what now on the Rialto? ” since this is where you would come to hear all the news and gossip. Until 1860 it was the only bridge across the Grand Canal and at other places you would cross on a gondola. You can still find these gondola stations in a few places on the Grand Canal and take a short gondola ride without the €100 bill.

 Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Accademia bridge on our Walks of Italy Boats Tour

The next bridge we passed was the Accademia bridge, constructed of wood in the 1930s as a temporary solution, although since people like it, it keeps being restored. A little beyond the Accademia bridge was the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, the low building of the unfinished Palazzo housing a fabulous modern art collection that we had visited the day before – highly recommended!

The Old Customs House on the Grand Canal in Venice Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Old Customs House on the Grand Canal in Venice

Now our two hour boat tour of Venice was nearly over and we reached the Old Customs House with the dome, on top of which the golden goddess Fortuna stands, holding a sail. She acts as a weather vane, twirling around in the wind and as Jennifer told us, “who needs a weather app when you can have a weather goddess?”

Heather & Guy on our Walks of Italy Boat Tour Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather & Guy on our Walks of Italy Boat Tour

We reached the landing stage at San Marco again, and sadly our Venice boat tour was over. I’ve not even had time to tell you why the chimneys look like upside down cones, how Venice showed the world how to make money out of gambling and where you find the gas station to fill up your boat.

If you want to feel a touch of that George & Amal glamour on your private water taxi while soaking up the stories and atmosphere of Venice, I guess you’ll just have to take the tour!

More information about our boat tour of Venice

We took our Venice boat tour with Walks of Italy who offer a number of different tours of Venice and other parts of Italy. Other tours on offer that looked interesting were a Venice Food Tour with a visit to the Rialto market including cicchetti and wine tasting, a Welcome to Venice Walking Tour with a gondola ride and a Venice in a day tour with St Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace and a Gondola Ride. You can see all the different Walks of Italy Venice Tours here.

Our Venice Boat Tour took 2 hours and cost €98 per person which included;

  • A 2 hour private motorboat ride
  • A small group (9 or less) with an expert guide
  • Headsets so we could listen to the guide
  • Entrance tickets to the bell tower of San Giorgio Maggiore

Thanks to Walks of Italy who provided a complimentary tour for Heather and her family

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Read about my Venice Boat Tour with Walks of Italy

Where to stay in Venice

For our 3 day stay in Venice I rented an apartment with Go with Oh and was able to use the voucher that I won with Passports with Purpose blogger fundraiser. We chose this apartment in the San Marco district since it was so well located for all the main sites.

Thanks to Murissa from The Wonderful Traveller who hosted this prize contributed by Go with Oh and and for her tips on what to see in Venice. Passports with Purpose is a really worthwhile organisation which supports a different cause each year and you can win some really fabulous prizes so it’s definitely worth participating.

This article is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com – Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

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