I’ve come to realize that in order to get the best experience of a destination, you need to embark on a food tour. Especially when it’s guided by a local. Not only do you learn about the gestational habits, but you also learn more about the community and its unique history.
The Sweet Taste of Venice delivered exactly that – and more.
We decided taking a tour would be a good introduction to Venice, so we booked one with Urban Adventures for the morning after our arrival.
This tour promised to indulge our sweet tooth, accompanied by delicious coffee while wandering through ancient neighbourhoods and mingling with the locals. Sounded perfect to us!
We began at the Santa Lucia train station at 9am on a chilly Venezia morning. On the steps of the station we meet Francesca, designer of this great tour, and announced: ‘Yes! We are ready for our ‘Best. Day. Ever!’ (Urban Adventure’s slogan.)
We were ready.
We were joined by three very cheery English gentlemen who were in Italy for their annual ‘boys getaway week’. It was bound to be entertaining, if nothing else as they shared anecdotes of their previous night’s escapades.
But we were there for coffee and pastries, so Francesca started us out with cappuccinos and croissants at a patisserie near the train station. This is place that has been influenced historically by Austrians and is a popular spot with the locals.
Mouth-watering doesn’t even cover how good the croissants were. They were to die for. Melt in your mouth, pastry flaking goodness with every bite.
Oh boy, this tour was going to be great. It was starting out very well.
Despite being squeezed inside, we had a leisurely sip of our coffees. It’s amazing how quickly you adapt when you’re with a local, teaching you the ropes. Francesca spoke more of the neighbourhood, providing history and cultural references. I could repeat it, but then you wouldn’t take the tour and learn about it yourself, and how much fun would that be?
We continued our exploration into the heart of the Jewish Ghetto, a neighbourhood that dates back more than 500 years. Family run businesses have existed for generations, transcending the horrors inflicted on the Jewish people, even way back then. My arms tingled as I listened Francesca tell the story. Naturally, the area remains an important part of the Venetian Community.
We stepped into a local patisserie and tasted kosher pastries that were, while rustic looking, melt-in-your-mouth delicious bursting with apricot centres.
We continued on to a coffee roaster next, which, when walking inside the shop had the smell making my mouth water. Bags of fresh coffee beans lined one side of the shop, waiting to be roasted by the huge machine in the corner.
I could taste the coffee already before it was served to us. When I looked down into the cup, you could see the strength of the coffee. It was thick. The aroma was pungent, and upon the first sip (I didn’t need a lesson on drinking coffee like a local to tell me that), it was strong enough to put hairs on your chest.
You had to be a serious coffee drinker to drink this stuff. It was not made for sissies. Natalie declined and given how much of a caffeine punch it gave me, a major coffee drinker, I was kind of glad she did. The last thing we needed was her hyped on caffeine for
Continuing on, we walked through the ‘streets’ of Venice, asking Francesca all kinds of questions as we walked. How was Venice actually built? (A fortress was built using wood, that was then built up with stone to build the foundation) What was the population now? (Around 54,000) We discussed the tourist influx, especially around cruise ships. (“It’s like being squeezed out by the guided tours”)
We also got to know the chatty Englishmen a little better. The one thing that is great about these Urban Adventure tours is that the groups are small, so you do have an opportunity to get to know both your guide and your fellow participants a little along the way. We all felt like long lost friends by the end of the 3.5 hour tour. They even gave us a few tips on where to eat, where to explore and even a secret spot that provides great views of the Grand Canal near the Rialto Bridge that they were happy to show us at the end.
Our next stop was to indulge in some cream puffs or Italian bigné. We learned the secret to eating these was not to bite in, but to use the top part to scoop out the cream center, then you eat the remaining puff. (Oh, of course, that totally makes sense, right?!) I was expecting a super sweet pastry but was delightfully surprised that it had the best balance of sweet and creamy goodness.
Onwards to the next stop, we had a look at the entrance to the hospital in Venice. It is in an old Venetian building, as you would expect, but it has a helicopter pad on the roof. The entrance was a cavernous hall, which historically was used for dances and meetings, but today is the entrance into the main area of the hospital. While I would have loved taking photos of this area, it was not permitted, like other places in Venice.
Our tour continued and now it was time for our pre-lunch. Something to cut the sweetness. Here, we stopped in for a spritzer and prosciutto on a savoury style of croissant. The spritzer is like a watered-down wine. They offered 2 options: white and red. I’m not a big fan of white wine in the first place, and it proved way too sweet for me, even though it had a good squeeze of lemon in it (and 10% alcohol content). The red aperitif was more my style containing only a mere 15% alcohol content.
Keep in mind, it was 11.30 in the morning by this stage. Going from coffee to alcoholic beverages within an hour was surprising, but hey, when travelling, it’s always best to just fit with the locals and do as they do…right?! Sure, why not!
Our next stop was a delight and Francesca knew, after speaking with Natalie for only a little while, that it would be a place near and dear to her heart. A book store. And with cats in residence.
Not only was this bookstore packed to the rafters (literally), they have created steps using books in the small courtyard out the back. You can climb the stairs and will be rewarded with an amazing canal view. It was a surprise indeed! My favourite part of this bookstore was the eclectic essence. From the trinkets to the ‘fire escape’, it was clear the owner had a quirky sense of humour.
Our second to last stop was for tiramisu. This was amazingly different than that of which we tried in Rome. This was light and not too sweet, with the bitterness of chocolate to balance it all. We just had to be careful not to inhale as we indulged, as it could easily send you into a sneezing fit.
This patisserie was just around the corner of our hotel, we realized and I had visions of coming back to have more later. I’m usually not a tiramisu fan but when made right…
Around the corner was our last stop and it was as if we had walked into nirvana. It was a handmade chocolate and pastry shop, where we met the owner. She was so generous.
When Francesca asked us which pastry we would like to try, my first thought was ‘one of each please?’ How could you decide? They all looked delicious. I eventually settled on an apricot pastry and Natalie had the 70% molten lava mini cake.
Both were beyond expectations.
This place was also around the corner from our hotel, so you can see where my mind was going.
I no longer want to buy trinkets when I travel. I’d rather spend my money on experiences. This tour is worth every single Euro.
Just in food alone, this tour is worth your money. The gathering of local knowledge and history as a bonus makes it a no-brainer. Take it from this frugal one, I would gladly recommend this tour any day.
After three visits to Venice, I finally feel as if I’ve been to Venice thanks to Urban Adventures.
NOTE: This was a sponsored experience and one we sought out ourselves. We do not promote any brand we have not used or experienced for ourselves. All opinions are our own. Please follow our advice at your own risk.
Also, I have decided not to give away the names of the places on the itinerary because I truly believe this tour is worth your time and money. If you love the places on the tour, simply return. We did!
As an incentive, Urban Adventures have graciously offered a 10% discount when you book directly with Urban Adventures.