Non-tourist Venice – eating for adventure and enjoyment, not sustenance and convenience

Johanna Read

Website: TravelEater

I love travelling and I love eating, but I hate eating tourist food. So I collect advice about eating (and about what to do between snacks).  I figured I should share …  You can follow me on twitter, or share eating advice at TravelEater.

Johanna in the crow's nest on a tall ship in the Med on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Johanna in the crow’s nest on a tall ship in the Med.

TravelMind

1. How did you get involved in writing/blogging?

I’ve been writing all my life and blogging just in the past couple months.  I hate eating crap food, so have been a long time collector of tips.  I suffered a burnout at work in 2010 and since then I’ve been trying to reprioritize my life.  I had forgotten how much I enjoyed travelling and eating, and it suddenly occurred to me that I should more actively do it, write about it, and even share it.  So, @TravelEater was born.  She is hoping to live a long and happy life!

2. Describe your earliest remembered ‘adventure’.

Hard to say … my first sight, as a Canadian prairie girl, of the ocean as a two-year-old in Hawaii (“woah … big water!”) …. Almost stepping on a rattlesnake in Alberta’s Badlands and losing both shoes diving through a barbed wire fence to get away from it ….  Or maybe coming face to face with a bear behind my family’s cabin outside Banff National Park…

American Black Bear Standing by Tree on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Black Bear

3. Share you ‘guilty’ travel secret.

I take the cool toiletries from hotel bathrooms, with the intention of putting them in my guestroom.  Then I get them home and stuff them in the closet.  And I can’t stop.

4. Rockstar blogger or bestselling author and why?

How about half-decent blogger and half-decent author?  I’d like to keep sharing travel and eating advice, plus write the novel that has been swimming around in my head for years.  It takes place in SE Asia … I may need a refresher trip soon to fact check!

5. What is the best tip you have ever been given?

Don’t be afraid of street food.

6. Where would you be if you could be anywhere right now?

Anywhere I haven’t been yet and where I can eat great food.  So …. Spain? Argentina? Indonesia?

Calvin & Hobbes on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Calvin_&_Hobbes

7. If you could travel with any three people, celebrity, fictional or historical who would be your companions?

Another tough one.  Let’s see … Mark Bittman, the cookbook and NY Times writer.  He was so cool in the “Spain: On The Road Again” series, he’s laid back, knows a lot about travel, food and writing (he wrote “The Best Recipes in the World”), and he loves to eat.  Leonardo da Vinci for his curiosity and knowledge.  And Hobbes, the “stuffed” tiger from Calvin and Hobbes with the dry sense of humour, because he can fit in a suitcase or growl threateningly as needed.

Non-tourist Venice – eating for adventure and enjoyment, not sustenance and convenience

There are so many great places to see in the world.  And because people go to see those places, infrastructure is set up to cater to them.  Too often, that means crowds, exorbitant prices and, worst of all, indifferent food served by joyless waiters.  If there is something interesting to see in the world, you can bet there is someone nearby selling pizza, ice cream bars, Coca-cola, and bland over-cooked versions of dishes Americanized in the last century, whether it be curry, spring rolls, or souvlaki.

The gondolas of Venice in Italy on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

The gondolas of Venice

Venice is a prime example.  About 50,000 people visit per day, even more in the summer.  But the island city has gotten so expensive and so overrun with tourists that every year more and more Venetians move away.  It is easy to find restaurants who ply the tourist trade, and it is therefore easy to pay a lot of money for crappy food.  But it is still possible to find good food at reasonable prices in Venice. While it is a challenge to find places that are tourist-free, that’s ok.  Your goal is simply to avoid the places that jack up prices for ill-informed tourists who eat for sustenance and convenience, rather than adventure and enjoyment.  You want to experience Venice like a Venetian.

This means getting as far as you can away from Piazza San Marco, the train station, and the cruise ship terminal.  It means going to the areas where the remaining locals live.

The only way to travel in Venice in Italy on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

The only way to travel in Venice

Wander.  There are few cities in the world where you can safely wander about.  In Venice you may get momentarily lost, but it will be fun (unless you’re late for a dinner reservation), and you’ll soon find your way again.  Plus you’ll stumble upon something you would have otherwise never known you wanted to experience.

Messing about on the canal in Venice, Italy on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Messing about on the canal

Helpful for wandering is to get a vaporetto pass.  This way, if your feet get tired or if you suddenly have a craving for Grom gelato (and you will), you can get there easily.  A single fare is six euro, so you’d think twice about it paying per ride.  But a pass (12, 24, 36, 48, or 72 hours, at E13-30) means you’ll hop on and off like a local.  Taking traghetti (gondola ferries) occasionally is also a good idea.  They cost 50 cents, and are placed along the Grand Canal in spots without a bridge nearby.  You’ll get to ride in a gondola (albeit standing), and not have to fork over E73 for a fifty minute ride with a tinny O Sole Mio playing from under your seat.

If you are like me, wandering is a great way to experience a city, but its main purpose is to work up an appetite so you can try the local specialities.  In Venice, you should sample:

  • cicheti: an Italian version of tapas
  • seafood like prawns, octopus, Murano crab, marinated sardines, squid or cuttlefish cooked in ink
  • spaghetti al vongole (with clams)
  • risotto (made with rice from west of Venice, in the Po Valley)
  • raddichio from the Veneto
  • wine of all kinds, especially Prosecco
  • spritz: white wine with soda, or spritz con bitter (with Campari or Venetian Select)
  • pastry (choose a pasticceria with an “Antichi Pasticceri Venexiani” sign to ensure quality), and look for fritelle veneziane in particular (fried dough with raisins, best at Rizzardini, Calle della Madonetta 1415, but not available year round)
  • gelato (try Grom in the Campo San Barnaba, or Causin in Campo di Santa Margherita)

A few neighbourhoods to explore, with some eating recommendations:

Giorgione masterpiece in Venice, Italy on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Giorgione masterpiece

Dorsoduro

This neighbourhood has the wonderful Gallerie dell’Accademia, which is a Venetian can’t miss.  Here you will find many beautiful works, including The Tempest by Giorgione, featured in Mark Helprin’s novel A Soldier of the Great War.  After feasting your eyes, head over to Cantinone Gia Schiavi (Fondamenta Nani 992), a famous wine store and bar, to feast on award-winning cichetti and panini.

Campo Di Santa Margherita is a good spot to hang out, and while tourists certainly know about it, this is a square for Venetians.  You’ll see little kids playing soccer watched by grandparents on park benches, and food or flea market stalls several days a week.  The best pizza in Venice is here at Pizza Al Volva – look for the lineup, order a slice or two (try potato with rosemary, or zucchini with eggplant), and eat it in the square.  There are several gelato shops here, with Venetians arguing over which is best: Il Doge and Causin are the top contendors.  Just off the south end of the campo you can get a cone of fried calamari at Al Carmini (Rio Terra de la Scoazzera 2894).  On the other side of the Rio Foscari from the Campo you’ll find Tonolo (Calle San Pantalon 3764), which has fantastic krapfen (cream filled doughnuts, which sell out by noon).

Another fine Dorsoduro square is Campo San Barnaba.  There is nothing particularly exciting here, just a church, cafes, shops and a canal, but it is lovely.  The San Barnaba grocery barge nearby is a good stop for a piece of fruit, or, if you must, a photo.  For lunch or dinner I suggest Oniga (Campo San Barnaba 2852).  The menu changes every day, and it is excellent for seafood dishes of all kinds.  There are only 40 seats inside (plus a small patio), so reservations are a good idea.  And visit Grom for artisanal gelato as many times as possible.

San Polo and Santa Croce

Home to the Rialto market, the lovely Campo di San Polo and some beautiful churches, San Polo and Santa Croce are another part of Venice wonderful for wandering, and eating.  The Rialto Bridge is a must see, but steer away from the crowds and shops on the bridge and at either end.  Walk into the real market, to your right after you cross the bridge.  The market sellers are busiest in the mornings, so this is the time to come if you want to see the unusual fresh fish pulled from the Adriatic.  Many bars and restaurants here cater to the market porters and sellers, meaning you’ll get good food for good prices (try Do Mori (Calle Do Mori 429)). Or pick up some picnic supplies and head toward Campo di San Polo to sit and snack.  For pastries, go to Rizzardini (Calle della Madonetta 1415), which sometimes has fritelle veneziane.

Colourful spices in Venice, Italy on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Colourful spices

If you’d prefer a restaurant in this neighbourhood, try Vecio Fritolin (Calle della Regina 2262).  It has seasonal food and seafood, with well executed frying, and is recommended by Mark Bittman.  Alla Madonna (Calle della Madonna 594) is another local recommendation for seafood.

Cannaregio

A stop at the Jewish Ghetto in Cannaregio will have you imagining what it must have been like to live here, with building stories made as low as possible, to meet building rules, and with the gates locked at night.  Northeast of the Ghetto are beautiful houses and great restaurants to wander past.  Al 40 Ladroni (Fondamenta della Sensa 3253) has delicious cicheti and other dishes.  Anice Stellato (Fondamenta della Sensa 3272) is a favourite of locals and therefore you’ll want a reservation.  Alla Fontana (Fondamenta Cannaregio 1102) specializes in seafood and you can sit by the canal in nice weather.  Osteria da Alberto (Calle Giacinto Gallina 5401) has great cicheti, fabulous spaghetti with clams, and pasta of all kinds for lunch and dinner, reservations recommended in high season.

Seafood in Venice, Italy on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Seafood diet

If your focus is eating unlike a tourist in this beautiful floating city, then it is also worth it to spend the extra money for a hotel in Venice, as opposed to in a mainland city like Mestre.  After all, your aim is to experience the city as a local.  This way you can see Venice when all the day-trippers and cruise-shippers have left, or have yet to arrive.  Late nights and early mornings in Venice are eerily quiet and beautiful.  You’ll imagine you’re in another century (although your belly will likely be much fuller).  You certainly won’t feel like a tourist.

Reflections on washing in Venice, Italy on Mallory on Travel, adventure, photography

Reflections on washing

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Comments 9

  1. John

    How do I say this politely? The post keeps repeating the non-tourist mantra yet. What is so terrible in admitting to be a tourist? We all are at some time in our travels, even Iain admits this. All you are pointing out are establishments that are frequented in the main by locals. As soon as you or any other visitor goes there, then there are tourists there. Whatever the definition of non-tourist is, it is a fact that to the locals, a visitor is a tourist. How you feel is up to you. I feel happy to be a tourist, it means I am there for recreation.
    A Matt of Landlopers has a better distinction on the subject of tourists. He uses the term “touron” for the few visitors who act like morons when visiting a new place.

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      Iain

      I think we all enjoy finding a place away from other travellers, tourists, tourons or whatever you want to call them. I personally like to find a little of the authentic part of any destination rather than follow the hordes. Whether it is Venice, Salalah or Marrakech wandering around the out of the way places, exploring the places others don’t usually choose to visit is part of the adventure. I have a piece on this site in which I found a little quite spot in the middle of the chaos of the medina in Marrakech, utter bliss, there were one or two other ‘tourists’ there but it was still quiet and away from the hustle & bustle. Tourist spots in this case I believe is referring to the places where the food is poor and over priced as it often is where travellers frequent. We are all aware that if you want the best places to eat look for the ones where the locals are prepared to wait for a table. Each to their own and travel on your own terms whatever they maybe.

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      Author
  2. Barry Frangipane

    Nice blog post. As an ex-resident of Venice, I will back up these comments. Anice Stellato is where us residents had our fests, bringing our dog Freckles, of course. Thanks for including Johanna’s blog post, Iain.

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      Author
      Iain

      Great to hear that a Venice ‘vet’ like yourself concurs with Johanna’s viewpoint Barry nice to know we’re providing accurate information for those considering a visit.

  3. @TravelEater

    Thanks, Barry, for your kind comment! I’d love your tips on your favourite restaurants in whatever city you’re in now. Johanna

  4. jen

    I love the advice about getting off the beaten track and not being afraid to eat street food. I can’t imagine the local guy with the food truck is going to stay in business by making his neighbors sick. But I also always try to find one with a nice long line of locals – always worth the wait.

  5. Syed Ali

    Regarding the restaurants in Venice is one word. Expensive but very few restaurants only in number provide the good food in that location but you can enjoy the Ice Cream. Groom has the best taste available in that town. Venice has alot more then food. Piazza San marco, Local Shopping etc.

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