Venice. The first trip of 2018 for me, and a really special experience. I took a little holiday there with my lovely mom in the middle of March this year – just after a week of 7 night shifts which ended on the morning of my birthday. With a week off after to rest and reset my body clock, I figured it was a good opportunity for an adventure and mother-daughter bonding time combined!
Venice is a beautiful little city. It’s really unusual and unique, in that it is a collection of 118 small islands, separated by canals and bridges galore. In case your geography is as disgraceful as mine, it’s located in Northern Italy, and to get there, you take a flight followed by transport across a big old bridge from the mainland into Venice city centre. The smaller surrounding islands are there for you to explore from your central base. We had a fantastic time, spending 3 days seeing the city and islands by foot, boat and train, diving into the culture of food, gondolas, history and trade. So I figured, after the success of my foodie guides for Dublin, Barcelona and Amsterdam, why not create one for Venice too!
Cafe Culture – Coffee, Chocolate and Bakes
- Rosa Salva
This little gem is a cute Venetian café which is known for its vast range of baked delights! Stop by to grab your coffee of choice (I highly recommend a Marachino, which is a delicious little espresso with milk froth and cacao!), and take your pick (or two!) from a beautiful range of pastries, chocolates, and fruity treats too! There’s limited tables so pop by for a mid-morning pick me up before the crowds hit.
- Torrefazione Cannaregio
What is a food guide without a coffee stop? Enter Torrefazione. Easily the best coffee I had in Venice. Torrefazione is a very small little pit-stop located in the chilled out Canareggio region, where the layout is very classic of the Italian style of coffee drinking – order, sip it at the counter, and then head on your way. You can also ask them to grind the beans of your choosing for you, and bring them home for your own brew!
Chocolate. Heaven. Two words that aptly describe this fabulous chocolate café or cioccolateria, Vizio-Virtu, opened by Mariangela Penzo 10 years ago. The speciality here, which is a MUST try, is the Classic Hot Chocolate – not your average hot choc guys, this is a decadent, indulgent #wortheverytaste drink made with melted dark chocolate. I also highly recommend trying the Vizio range of candied fruits coated in dark chocolate – the figs and apricots in particular were beautiful. Make sure to grab a bar to bring home – it’s worth the price tag!
Market Wanders – Rialto Market
Who doesn’t love a good market? I adore them. Rialto Market is the place to be in Venice every morning – popular among tourists and locals alike, it’s centrally located right beside the famous Ponte de Rialto. Stop by to take in the atmosphere, sights and scents – you’ll find locals picking up fresh vegetables, spices, fruits and fish for their dinner! Treat yourself to authentic Italian spices and herb mixes you can take home to jazz up your pasta night, or a little bag of dried figs and apricots to snack on as you explore the city.
Lunch & Dinner Dates
- Le Spighe
It can be tricky to find a menu that isn’t pasta or pizza based in Italy, no matter what the city. As a result, as a gal whose intake of fruit and veg is probably more like 10-a-day than 7, I often find myself craving something a little lighter and plant-based for lunch. Le Spighe was a fantastic little cafe I found listed on pretty much every Venice foodie guide – so I figured it had to be good! Le Spighe is both health food store and vegetarian/vegan cafe, where you’ll find a selection of freshly prepared plant-based salads on offer, which you can grab a plate of on your travels! You can see in the photo below it was a really varied menu – we even had chickpea burgers!
- Osteria Antica Adeliade
A hidden little restaurant gem located at the edge of the Cannaregio region, this spot is all the about the local, seasonal, fresh ingredients, in a traditional (yet modern) menu that changes every day. You’ll find a friendly owner who passes by each table, and is more than happy to advise you on your dish choices! I recommend trying the exciting pasta dishes made using flours like buckwheat and kamut – an unusual find in Italy, but a funky twist on a traditional style!
- Principe – Hemp Pizza
Principe is a gorgeous pizzeria located Burano, on my favourite of the Venetian island and easily the prettiest (more on those below!) I’m not a pizza gal, I’ll put my hand up and say it openly, but when in Rome! I was intrigued by this place, where we stopped after a busy morning exploring the islands, as it offered pizza bases made with hemp flour, as well as traditional dough. I had this gorgeous creation with tuna and mediterranean vegetables, and I was delighted by how delicious it was, and light!
Finally, excuse the pun, but you can’t go to Venice without chilling with a gelato. Even if, like me, you don’t have a sweet tooth, there are so many exciting flavours to choose from, both dairy-based and vegan, that you’ll find one you like! Grom are known for their very authentic gelato, plus a vast array of flavours. I highly recommend the extra dark chocolate vegan gelato – my mom would recommend the salted caramel!
I’m pretty sure I ate my gelato in Suso before I managed to grab a photo of it, that’s how good it was! I think I preferred Grom, but in both I had the vegan extra dark chocolate gelato, and it was utterly delicious. Like Grom, Suso was highly rated as a quality gelateria, and it didn’t disappoint. There’s a wide range of flavours to choose from, and friendly staff to help you pick!
See The City – Neighbourhoods, Panorama and Island-Hopping
- Walk the city & Explore the neighbourhoods
Venice is a city to be seen on foot, full of narrow enticing streets throughout each neighbourhood, with canals separating each in parts. You can easily hot foot it to each area over a couple of days – must see regions on the mainland include San Marco, Cannaregio, and Castello. In particular, Cannaregio is my favourite spot to lose myself in for a few hours – home to the first Jewish ghetto, it’s composed of busier tourist streets as well as quieter areas with authentic Venetian restaurants and cafes.
- Island Hopping
Murano, Burano and Torcello are the three main islands just off the Venetian mainland, and I wouldn’t consider a visit to this city complete without a boat ride over to Murano and Burano, and Torcello if you have an extra day. Murano is known for the glass-blowing trade historically, while Burano is famous for lace-making, and Torcello is the smallest, more rural island. On Murano, you can visit glass-blowing factories, take a tour to see the trade in action, and afterwards stroll the streets lined with endless shops and galleries show-casing the incredible glass creations, from jewellery to sculptures to fridge magnets! Burano, my favourite of the three, is known for its beautiful colourful houses, bakeries and little stores selling handmade lace creations – pick up a locally made scarf to jazz up your wardrobe at home! The islands are easily accessible by frequent vaporettos on weekdays and weekends.
- Take in the view from the Top of the Fondaco & San Giorgio Maggiore Tower
I’m a BIG fan of a panoramic view, and those you can see from the top of the Fondaco building and the Maggiore bell tower cannot be missed during a trip to Venice. Grab a 5 minute vaporetto across the water to Gorgio Maggiore island and take a quick elevator to the top of the Campanile inside the church. The view is breath-taking, and many say it’s the best you’ll see in this city, as you can take in all of Venice from a unique perspective. The Fondaco building however, is located in the centre of Venice, right beside Ponte de Rialto, and is home to a VERY plush store full of labels you would need to save a year’s wages to afford. Happily, booking a slot online to see the view from the top of the Fondaco is both free and very easy to do! You won’t be disappointed, trust me.
And that’s a wrap guys! If you do travel to Venice this year, or at any stage, I would love to know what you thought, and if you found this travel guide helpful! I love checking out local travel and foodie guides before I visit anywhere new – and I always look for an ‘off the beaten track’ or ‘insider guide’ as well as jotting down the traditional touristy activities. That way, you really feel like you make the city your own, a unique experience you’ll treasure forever!
Ciara 🙂 x