If you’ve been to Venice even just once you’ve seen Piazza San Marco and the Rialto. You’ve also likely pushed and elbowed your way through crowds in those very spots. Don’t get me wrong; these spots are beautiful. I literally stop to tweet a picture from the top of the Rialto looking out over the Grand Canal every time I go to Venice, which is a lot!
But my absolute favorite spots in Venice are the quiet ones; the off-the-beaten path hidden campos that only the locals know about and only the tourists that are so lost accidentally stumble into. So when Urban Adventures invited me to discover the local side of Venice through food, I couldn’t resist!
I met our guide at the Campo della Maddalena and already was impressed because in all my 50+ times I’ve been to Venice, I’ve never been to this particular campo, just 5 minutes walk from the train station. The campo was quiet with just a few people milling about and kids kicking around a soccer ball. Soon Cecilia appeared holding the Urban Adventures sign and our small group gathered.
We would be taking a cicchetti (pronounced chi-KET-tee) tour of some of Venice’s best bacari (cicchetti bars). Cicchetti are small snacks or side dishes sort of like tapas served in bars around the city before dinner. Cicchetti are properly enjoyed between 5 and 8pm.
There are six historic sestieti (districts) in Venice and we headed off immediately into quiet little calles (streets) of Cannareggio, the northernmost of the districts. This area is known as the Jewish Ghetto because this is the area that Jews were once restricted to living in. It was enclosed by guarded gates and no one was allowed to leave from sunset to dawn; these restrictions continued for more than 270 years until Napolean Bonaparte conquered Venice and tore the gate down.
Our first stop was a tiny little bar with just a few tables and a boat moored in the canal where you can also sit. They are quite famous for their meat selection and their Prosecco. It is also one of the few places in Venice which you will pay the same price whether you sit or stand. Cicchetti of the day are displayed in the glass case at the bar and you can select many at just €1 a piece.
We continued on our walking tour with Cecilia pointing out various little wine shops where you can refill your plastic bottles with various wine on tap, a beautiful squero where gondolas are restored and made, and lovely little local neighborhoods. She also made note of where to find the best meatballs in Venice; have them as a bar snack for just €1.
Cecilia also taught us how to take the cheapest gondola ride in the city for just €0.50! I won’t give away her secret to the best deal in Venice – you’ll have to join her on your own Cicchetti of Venice Urban Adventure to learn more.
Now that we had arrived in the Rialto area, our next four bacari would be here literally steps away from the main tourist haunts.
One of my favorite bacari of the tour was a little un-named shop right alongside the famous Pescheria Rialto fish market. Here owner/chef/server Bruno purchases all his fish from the daily fish market and cooks it up into delicious cicchetti. Once he sells out of whatever he’s made for the day, he closes up shop. His tuna carpaccio on a brioche with mustard and his skewered anchovies with sweet red and yellow peppers were to die for! Of course, we washed it all down with a glass of Garganega.
Another bacari we visited is one which I had written about before on my giro d’ombra pub crawl. I absolutely love the old copper water pails hanging from the ceiling. And a glass of Raboso at just €3 is a steal this close to the Rialto! Try the fried eggplant cicchetti. And if you love the wine as much as several others in my tour group, you can do a bit of shopping and take a few bottles home with you, just as my new friends did!
Our fourth stop Cecilia dubbed as the best cicchetti in all of Vencie. I had to agree after enjoying a crostini topped with a form of blue cheese and sweet onion marmalade that made my mouth water for more. It was all nicely washed down with one of my favorite white wines from the Veneto called Verduzzo. The Verduzzo served is only produced exclusively for the osteria and I’ll definitely be back for another glass and more cicchetti!
I had an excellent crostini topped with roast beef and balsamic at our fifth and final stop. We topped it all off with biscotti made on the island of Burano just for this little bacari.
All of the bacari, with the exception of Al Timon, were literally a street and steps away from the normal hustle and bustle of the most frequented tourist areas. I have been by these hidden little gems countless times and did not know most existed until my Cicchetti of Venice Urban Adventure!
Who are Urban Adventures? They are a tour company with small group tours led by locals that help you discover cities just like the locals do! With tours in more than 45 countries, there is sure to be an urban adventure to help you discover a new city’s, or even your favorite city’s, hidden gems!
You can book your own Cicchetti of Venice Urban Adventure tour for €45 per person. Save 10% on your booking with the promo code JDOMBSTRAVELS.
NOTE: While I was a guest of Urban Adventures on the Cicchetti of Venice tour, as always, all opinions expressed are my own.
In which city would you most like to take your own Urban Adventures tour?