Venice is a city like no other, and one that remains the highlight of any Italian river cruise through the Po Valley and into the Venetian Lagoon. Think of Venice, however, and you would be forgiven for accepting that to truly experience all it has to offer is going to be expensive. Not necessarily so, thankfully. Once you know where to go, especially when it comes to eating and drinking, you will be able to not only indulge in the local cultural way of enjoying food but you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the cost too. |
The key to eating well in Venice is to avoid the top notch restaurants and even the touristy pasta and pizza eateries. Instead you need to make a beeline for the off the beaten track bacari (traditional bars) that sell the famous and very delicious cicchetti. Not only will you be rubbing shoulders with the locals, but you will eat some of the best food you’ll get on any Italian river cruise.
What is Cicchetti?
The delightful artistic display of nibbles served up behind glass counters by busy bar staff are the traditional Venetian snack known as cicchetti. Ranging from the classic tramezzino (a little white bread sandwich) to fresh seafood from the local fish market, every morsel is expertly made and served with a choice glass of local wine, or ‘ombre’ (shadow) as it is colloquially known.
Where to Eat Cicchetti
The Rialto Fish Market in Venice is a spot you don’t want to miss on your Italian river cruise, especially when you know it’s a great place to start your tour of the best bacari. In Campo Bella Venezia (very close by) is the lively MuroVenezia bar, which serves up an array of freshly fried fish that flies off the counter as quickly as it is made.
On the other side of the Campo Al Mercà is the place to stop for some fine examples of the tramezzino. When enjoyed alongside a bowl of fried olives and potato croquettes these tiny sandwiches are made even more delicious. Not too far from here is the ProntoPesce, where the staff sit shucking oysters while you enjoy their specialty of artichokes and salt cod and prop up the bar inside.
Do Mori is probably the least obvious of the cicchetti bars, which means that it really is only ever frequented by those in the know. Situated down a back street it has a quieter atmosphere and oozes fifteenth century charm, offering a welcome respite from the bustle outside.
The bacari have been feeding hungry gondoliers and merchants for centuries, and today the tradition of local and seasonal food with no frills or fancies stands strong. The simple recipes and combinations make the ingredients sing and they complement the Ventian wines beautifully. The locals tend to use the bacari as places to grab a snack or a quick pre dinner nibble, but be warned, they are pretty addictive and if you have too many nibbles you won't need any dinner!
For a real intro in the cicchetti bars of Venice, book your Italian river cruise with a reputable company that employs local guides. They will be on hand to help you navigate the city and point you in the right direction of the finest attractions and the best bacari.
Author Plate Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive luxury barge holidays. If you're looking for a fantastic Italian river cruise, or cruises to other great destinations, they are the go-to experts. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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