You might assume that Venice is only about Romance, art and architecture. Few people know that food and drink in Venice plays a big part in making it what it is.
Local specialities from Cicchetti to Spritz, and Venetian Cuisine, are unique and different from the rest of Italy, and contribute so much to give Venice its vibe. Here are some highlights you should know before you go.
Cicchetti are tapas-like, bite-sized snacks that are served at bacari (bars) in Venice. They are had with white wine, called ‘ombra’ or shadow. Cicchetti come in a wide variety, and are not expensive.
Much like Tapas in Spain, eating Cicchetti is more a social activity than it is food focused. Locals hop in groups, from one Cicchetteria to another.
Cicchetti bars or Cicchetterias are tucked away on back streets, away from the crowds. To make the most of the Cicchetti crawl, start early as most Bacari (bars) close by 9pm. You can stand at the bar or sit at a table.
Typical Cicchhetti include deep-fried mozzarella cheese, artichoke hearts and Crostini with marinated seafood. Other favourites are uovo sodo con arringa, hard boiled egg and herring fillet; and panino con il salame, bread and salami.
A Spritz has white wine or proseco as a base topped with a bitter liqueuer, like Aperol or Campari, and water. Having a Spritz is a ritual for Venetians and Spritz is served at bars with olives or snacks.
The origins of Spritz are Austrian; Hapsburg soldiers used a squirt of water to dilute the strong local wines. Venetians added liqueur to make it interesting!
Traditionally had in the early evening after work, it is common now to see Spritz being consumed at pretty much any time of the day.
Some popular types of Spritz are:
Traditional Venetian food is influenced by cuisines of North Italy, neighbouring Austria and Slavic countries. Rice, and Polenta made of ground semolina cornmeal are dominant ingredients, along with seafood.
Pasta is also eaten but is less popular. The traditional pasta of Venice is bigoli (thick spaghetti), historically prepared by men, as the dough is much coarser than normal pasta.
Common Venetian dishes are Risi e Bisi, rice and peas; and Baccalà mantecato, creamed cod. For dessert you can have Torta Nicolotta or Frittelle di zucca, pumpkin doughnuts.
Venetian wines are famous - Prosecco the sparkling white, the complex Amarone of the Valpolicella Valley, the Bardolinos and the white Soave - while Grappa is distilled from remnants of wine pressings.
Venice is a truly Romantic city, one with not-so-great nightlife. Evenings are best spent hanging out at one of the bars or cafes and chatting with friends over Sprtiz or Cicchetti.
There are some clubs too, though you will not get the same vibe as in Rome or Florence.