Do the Cicchetti Crawl in Venice

Cicchetti Pub
Cicchetti Pub ~ rub elbows with the locals

Venice has much to be admired for, including St. Marks Basilica, Byzantine art, the rambling Museo Correr, the famed Rialto Bridge crowded with shops, and winding waterways.

Gondola traffic on the Venetian Canals
Gondola traffic on the Venetian Canals

However, the one thing I look forward to the most, without exception, is doing the Cicchetti pub crawl.

Seeking Cicchetti Bars in Venice
Seeking Cicchetti Bars in Venice
Venice alleyway
Looks like Pub possibilities straight ahead

Also known as the Venetian Crawl, it’s intended for the locals who stop by after work to munch on “toothpick uglies” downed with glasses of wine. These uglies range anywhere from crostini with toppings, deep-fried mozzarella cheese, gorgonzola, calamari, artichoke hearts, sliced hard-boiled eggs, marinated seafood, olives and prosciutto with melon. Plates of these tidbits usually line the top of the bar. The ‘bacarri,’ or local pubs, open at 6 pm and generally close early.

Cicchetti pub eats. Not so ugly!
Cicchetti pub eats. Not so ugly!

Cicchetti pubs are found on the back alleys. They are generally small and unpretentious. A popular one will have a spilling out of people holding small plates of bites and a drink. There are no cars in Venice, so no need to concern yourself with driving home safely. Just make sure you can swim!

More Pub Grub
More Pub Grub….Yum…

Ombra, small glasses of wine, are typically offered. However, a whole slew of drinks are available upon request. These include prosecco (local sparkling wine), and spritz (white wine with added bitters and seltzer water). Non-alcoholic drinks include arancietta (small glasses of carbonated orange soda), cochetta (small glasses of Coca-Cola or Pepsi), san bitter (slightly carbonated aperitif, similar to spritz without the alcohol), and gingerino (ginger-based aperitif) with no alcohol. It can be served with a small amount of sparkling or still water, or white wine. Mineral water is also offered as either sparkling of still.

Venice pubs come alive
Venice back roads

I found that the further away from the main tourist attractions I ventured, the better and more original the cicchetti pubs became. It is getting harder to find an authentic pub anymore. One that is not too far from the Rialto bridge and down a little winding alley is called Do Mori (San Polo 429 Calle dei Do Mori) which claims to be the oldest bacaro in Venice, dating back to 1462. With a dark wooden interior and copper pots hanging everywhere, it’s a no miss. This pub is famous for its francobollo, postage-stamp tiny white bread sandwiches filled with sliced meats, roasted vegetables, raddichio or gorgonzola.

I love the social atmosphere, the hubbub of people ending their workdays and relaxing into their evening repasts. The only non-touristy eateries in Venice, they offer insight into the life of the average working class resident. And this, I believe, is what makes the heart and soul of Venice come alive.

Urban Trekking – Get to Know the Real Italy

Grab a Gelato and Go Explore
Grab a Gelato and Go Explore

One of my greatest temptations when visiting a city is to wander off the beaten path. It’s useless to resist. What is this place all about? Who are these people? How does it feel, taste, smell? Nooks and crannies, alleyways and winding cobbled streets that lead to…I must find out! Just what is around that next corner?

“Vagabonding” tourism is free and enriching. Urban Trekking takes you where many feet have never trod and sights that have been overlooked. It means walking through beautiful parts of a city that even the locals aren’t familiar with, up and down hills and stairways, under (or over) arches, along walls, across ramparts, through alleyways, and meeting the unexpected. Urban Trekking is seeking out the interesting and fascinating sides of an area.

Charming Venice
Charming Venice

There is a special excitement that comes from watching the sun set over a medieval turret and then walking the cobbled streets as twilight gives way to the night. I remember the evening I got delightfully (some would say hopelessly) lost in Venice. After visiting some cicchetti bars, we ventured out into the night, padding up and down pathways that wound deep into the heart of the city. We encountered shopkeepers that sold us stuffed eggs and vino for a song. We passed balconies with open shutters and the sound of voices drifting on the air. Smells of the lagoon and the shine of the moon on the inky waters. The gentle lapping of boats tied to their mooring. I became acquainted with the sights, tastes and smells of the real Venice. I had developed a deeper, emotional connection. Away from the crowds. Slow walking.

Siena is great for exploring on foot. One of the first cities to establish a traffic-free zone, practically the entire area within the Renaissance city walls is off-limits to all but residential traffic. Even so, the residents are required to use the beltway if they want to reach a different part of the city. But any city or village in Italy has fascinating things to see on foot. Just set your course and go. Having an itinerary is great, but I have set out to explore a city without one and stumbled upon some memorable places and experiences that otherwise would have been missed.

Medieval Meandering in Siena
Meandering Medieval Siena

Besides the health and heart benefits of walking, Urban Trekking creates an emotional bond between you and the land. The art and architecture, breathtaking panoramas, alleys and gardens, chance meeting with locals, embracing the feel of a place…..this is true vagabonding. I encourage you to bring home the real Italy. The memories will last a lifetime.

Suggested Urban Trekking Routes and Tours (links below)for those who prefer some structure, these are great ideas.

*Rome Walking Tour: Via Veneto

*Jewish Ghetto Walking Tour Map

*Florence City Walking Map