The Small Group Sweet Taste of Venice food tour with dessert samples and coffee was the best thing I ever settled for.
I was excited to take a food tour in Venice, having read about Cichetti, the Venetian equivalent of tapas. However, to my surprise and disappointment I was unable to find any food tours that were alcohol free.
As a last resort, I finally settled for the Sweet Taste of Venice food tour. It turned out to be one of the best experiences and one I would gladly do again.
The reservation and payment for this food walk was made online through Viator but you can book directly through the Urban Adventures website here. This was the only tour in Venice that I found that catered for small groups and did not include alcohol, although they do have tours that include food and wine.
The price of this tour at the time of writing is US$42.50 for an adult.
The meeting point for the Sweet Taste of Venice food tour was on the steps of Santa Lucia railway station, a two minute walk from my hotel. I met the tour guide, Simona, and discovered that I was the only participant and would have an exclusive tour that day.
We were embarking on an exploration of the family run bakeries in the Cannaregio and Castello districts, with a coffee or two thrown in for good measure. It was an overcast and dull day but it was brightened much by the wonderful eateries that we visited on the Venice food tour.
I must confess that even though I had learnt in Rome and Florence that Italians were accustomed to a pastry with coffee for breakfast, I was not quite sure what to expect on the Sweet Taste of Venice food tour. You can read about my experience on the Taste of Testaccio food tour in Rome and the Other side of the Florence food tour in the bohemian neighbourhoods of Florence.
I was excited to see Venice from the perspective of a local and learning about the customs and culture, but was not too keen on eating sweet things for three hours. Surprise! Surprise! I absolutely loved it, and would go back again only to feast on the sweets of Venice.
Pasticceria Dal Mas – Rio Terà Lista di Spagna, 150
I popped in to the Dal Mas pasticerria on my first night reconnaissance of my neighbourhood on the day of arrival, and bought the most delicious cream puff for dessert. When we started the food tour this happened to be the first stop, and I could not have been more delighted.
The bakery was founded in 1965 by the Balestra family who owned an Italian ice cream shop in Germany at the time. I wondered about the German / Austrian employees and some of the bakery items and Simona mentioned that there were remnants of the Austrian influence in Venice since the brief Austrian rule in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
For breakfast we did it the Italian way, standing at one of the bar tables drinking a quick coffee and nibbling on a pastry. In my case it was a cappuccino and a croissant alla crema. During morning hours consider it peak time traffic in this bakery so come early or come after the rush to have a more leisurely browse of the baked goods and chocolates in the shop next door.
Torrefazione Cannaregio – Rio Terrà San Leonardo, 1337
We left Dal Mas and continued down Rio Terà Lista di Spagna and crossed over the Ponte delle Guglie to reach this coffee roasters. It has been operating since 1930 but has been in it’s current location with the new hipster image since 2013. It is one of the few establishments in Venice to be licensed for roasting on the premises.
The shop is tiny for the number of bodies that aim to squeeze in there. I would love to go back one day and browse in a more leisurely fashion and taste more of their coffees.
They import the best quality beans from all over the world and you can smell it roasting as the aroma beckons to coffee lovers near and far. For the commemoration of the 500th year of the Jewish Ghetto, the roasters created a new blend called the Mixture of the Ghetto made up of 70% Arabica and 30% Robusta beans. I tasted it and it blew my mind!
Gam Gam Goodies – Calle Ghetto Vecchio, 1243
After the caffeine fix we walked back to the embankment, or Fondamente Cannaragio, until we reached the entrance to the Jewish Ghetto. The Jewish Ghetto was established on 29 March 1516 to segregate Jews living in the Venetian Republic from the rest of the citizenry.
A man was standing in the centre of the entrance to the ghetto, his hands outstretched, begging for money. Simona informed me that the beggars were a syndicate who collected money all over the city, and then paid it over to one man who controlled all of them.
Gam Gam Goodies Bakery is a kosher bakery specialising in pizza, sandwiches, baked goods including pastries, cakes and cookies. In addition to the bakery items they also stock a variety of kosher deli meat items.
One of their bakery specialities is Orecchiette di Amman, a biscuit filled with dried fruits. I found it very dry to be honest, and needed a few mouthfuls of water to swallow it down.
Pasticceria Rosa Salva – Campo dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo
The walk from the Jewish Ghetto to the next stop on the square overlooking the church at San Giovanni e Paolo was exactly what was needed after the early morning pastries. There were numerous bridges as well as lots to learn about the ghetto from Simona.
We passed many homes that appeared to have the ground floor flooded and Simone mentioned how many of the families have moved out of the homes due to the flooding as repairs and renovations were prohibitively expensive in Venice and subject to much red tape due to the age and cultural significance of the buildings.
At the pasticceria I opted for a savoury pastry instead of sweet. I chose a very delicious tomato and cheese pizza and enjoyed it with a glass of orange juice. The shop specialises in small pastries, cakes and local specialities and has been in the catering business since the nineteenth century.
Pasticceria Italo Didovich – Campo S. Marina, Castello 5908
The next stop on the walk was an artisanal pastry shop specialising in Venetian and Austro-Hungarian pastries, cakes and desserts. I would have loved to sit down and enjoy the tempting delight of a delicious Tiramisu.
However, Simona reminded me that Italian eateries charge more if you sit down. It was entirely weird eating dessert standing up!
Vizio Virtu Cioccolateria – Calle Forneri, Castello 5988
The aroma of chocolate comes to get you as you walk down the narrow lane to this chocolate lab. The business was established in 2005 and now produces chocolate cakes and pastries, cookies, candied fruit, creams, pralines, bars, brittles and truffles. The owner says she is a chocoholic herself and cannot live a day without eating and working with it.
They offer chocolate workshops every day from 19:30 t0 21:30. They also have guided tastings every day from 10:00 to 19:30. I tasted a slice of warm chocolate cake that was melted on the tongue and was not overly sweet or bitter.
PLACES OF INTEREST
During the Sweet Taste of Venice food tour we rambled through the Jewish Ghetto and visited the Libreria Acqua Alta bookshop.
The Jewish Ghetto
The Venice ghetto was centred around the location of the city’s ancient foundries where metals were melted down and derives from the Venetian word for metal, ‘getto’. The ghetto was the first place in Europe where Jews were segregated into a confined space and restrictions placed on their movement, civil rights and property ownership.
The Republic of Venice enacted a decree in 1516 that officially entrenched the persecution and isolation of Venetian Jews. Jews regained their rights under Napoleon in 1797 when he ordered desegregation and equal rights for all citizens. When Italy was occupied by Nazi forces in 1943, Jews were hunted and declared as enemy aliens.
Between 200-250 Venetian Jews were sent to Nazi concentration camps and only 8 survived. The commemoration plaque in Campo del Ghetto Nuovo is a reminder of the holocaust victims of Venice.
A noticeable feature of the ghetto is that the ceiling heights of the floors in each building is much lower than elsewhere in the city. This was because the population was confined to live within the limits of the ghetto and had to fit more floors within the allowed height restrictions for residential buildings.
There were five separate synagogues for people sharing the same geographical origin within the area of the ghetto.
Libreria Acqua Alta bookshop
This bookshop opened twelve years ago and was the brainchild of owner, Luigi. The bookshop floods regularly as a result of rising waters of the Adriatic and to protect the books from water damage they brought in a gondola and bathtubs.
They sell both new and pre-loved books sourced from deceased estates and clearances.
Despite my reservations about eating this much cake and pastry for breakfast, I had an amazing morning with Simona. She gave me a local’s insight into the difficulties faced by Venetians who have been forced out of the city due to staggering rents and the loss of neighbourhoods and communities as a result of mass tourism.
During our walk past schools, churches and clinics in residential neighbourhoods we witnessed the vibrancy of Venetian life.
If you are travelling onward to Florence and Rome you may find my Florence travel guide and my Rome travel guide useful to make the most of a short stay and my Top Travel Tips for any traveller post may be useful for any future travels.
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