Venice Travel Tips from Gionata Smerghetto, Venetian Blogger

Conversations with Locals

Venice may be overrun by tourists, but Venetian blogger Gionata Smerghetto knows just where to go and where to avoid in the City of Canals. Gionata reveals the one authentic Venetian dish to eat, a magical staircase for a view of the city, and why Venetians are campaigning for tourists to leave. 

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

What do you feel defines Venetian cuisine?

Venetian cuisine is strongly influenced by the Adriatic Sea. Fresh fish is the highlight of Venetian cuisine – full of delicate flavours, pure and immediate. The Rialto market is indeed the center of Venetian cuisine. Every morning at dawn, fresh fish is sold to the Venetians, who are masters at cooking it. The flavours and tastes are enhanced by the use of spices and oriental scents, originating from the historical trade of the Serenissima Republic with the East.

What is the one local dish you feel travellers can’t leave Venice without trying? 

My favourite Venetian dish that I recommend to any tourist is sarde in soar, which literally translates to sardines in flavour. It is historically a poor man’s dish, which was made using the cheap but very popular fish, stored in a baking pan covered with onions and cooked in vinegar to ensure that the sardines are preserved for as long as possible. The modern version of sarde in saor have also introduced more ingredients, such as pine nuts and raisins. It is certainly a dish not to be missed for the flavour and history of Venice.

What about your favourite restaurants?

My favourite restaurants are found in the areas behind the Rialto Bridge. They are slightly out of the touristy central square, and are not commonly featured in tourist guides. The food is rich in flavour and close to the great Venetian fish market. My favourite places to eat are Al Raspo de Ua, Al Mercà, Antico Calice and Antico Forno. They are so pretty and honest!

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

Name one best kept secret of Venice 

One of the great secrets of Venice that I can give to tourists is to not stop in the usual tourist spots. The true Venice exists even in the most hidden streets, where you can see the authentic, everyday Venice. Try exploring using Google maps! 

The best way to experience Venice like a local is to explore it with a Venetian. I’d love to visit a city with local eyes, allowing you to see and appreciate the hidden corners of the city that never would have been identified. 

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Venice

I think the traps to avoid for tourists are shops who are not managed by locals. Often, there are restaurants, bars and taverns opened by foreigners. In addition to the poor quality of food, you definitely pay too much for the service! And there’s no fresh Venetian fish!

Where can we go to see your favourite view of Venice?

My favourite view is of course at La Scala Contarini del Bovolo. It is a magical staircase in the heart of Venice; you will definitely feel immersed in the heart of the city and you have a 360 degree view of the Venetian landscape. It is less known to tourists, so I recommend it. 

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Photo: Gionata Smerghetto

Recently, there have been news reports of locals in Venice campaigning for tourists to leave the city.

Venice unfortunately turns out to be a very expensive city, not only for tourists but also for residents to live in. Due to the difficulty in building new buildings, it is hard for anyone to develop and upgrade the city. This has caused young people and even tourists to live on the mainland, travelling into Venice everyday by public transport. 

It’s a problem difficult to solve, partly because Venice is one of the most fascinating cities in the world, and at least once in their lives, tourists from all corners of the world want to see it. It is as if it there is always a carnival along the Venetian streets, which can sometimes put a strain on those living there.

WHERE TO EAT IN VENICE


Al Raspo de Ua
Where: Via San Martino Destro, 560, 30012 Burano, Venezia VE, Italy
For: Italian food

Al Mercà
Where: Campo Bella Vienna, 213, 30125 Venezia, Italy
For: Cichetti 

Antico Calice
Where: Calle dei Stagneri, 5228, 30124 San Marco, Venezia VE, Italy
For: Seafood

Antico Forno
Where: Calle dei Stagneri, 5228, 30124 San Marco, Venezia VE, Italy
For: Pizza

WHERE TO GO IN VENICE


Scala Contarini del Bovolo
Where: Via Montacuto, 121 60129 Ancona (AN)
For: A view of Venice

The Eating Guide to Cinque Terre, Italy

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The Italian Riviera is bustling with tourists, and they are all in Cinque Terre – colourful villages atop steep cliffs where no cars dare venture. Life moves a little slower here. Locals carry their goods in hand drawn carts, fishermen go out to the sea for a fresh catch, and the lemon dressing from your plate is probably picked from the tree near the restaurant. These are the five villages, and they are beachy Monterosso, rugged Corniglia, beautiful Vernazza, traditional Manarola and calming Riomaggiore. Here, we seek out the taste of the Ligurian sea. 

Look forward to: Fresh seafood and Ligurian pesto

Ristorante Belforte

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Where: Via G. Guidoni, 42, 19018 Vernazza SP, Italy
What: Codfish ravioli with pesto
For: Romantic dining

Fresh seafood, homemade pesto and a view of the sea puts Ristorante Belforte on the top of everyone’s list. Ligurian recipes dominate the menu here. Ligurian pesto is the region’s most celebrated dish, and Belforte’s version has a creamy texture with a zesty lemon aftertaste. The Vernazza seafood salad is a mixture of steamed seafood topped with olive oil, lemon and parsley – the perfect antipasti to whet your appetite. Chances are that sea view seats are not guaranteed for walk-ins, so book in advance to get that spot by the sea. 

Trattoria Locanda Il Porticciolo

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Where: Via Renato Birolli, 92, 19017 Manarola di Riomaggiore SP, Italy
What: Roasted fish with vegetables
For: Variety

The casual Trattoria Locanda Il Porticciolo is hard to miss if you look out for the parked boats along Manarola’s main street. Local fish dishes are some of the restaurant’s top dishes. Dig into the pappardelle with swordfish, roasted fish with vegetables, and salted anchovies with peppers. 

Aristide

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Where: Via Discovolo, 290, Manarola, Italy
What: Eggs
For: Breakfast 

Breakfast eggs can be hard to come by in Italy, as locals go for a pastry and a coffee to start their day. Aristide provides a good Italian alternative to the all American breakfast. Omelettes are made with stretchy Italian cheese and parma ham. For something sweet, there is always a crostata. If you’re staying in Manarola, make this place your pitstop for your morning pick-me-up en route to the train station. 

Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre

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Where: Via Gavino, 36, 19018 Vernazza SP, Italy
What: Cannoli
For: Sicilian cuisine

We may be all the way up north of Italy, but the Sicilian palate is not lost in Cinque Terre. Massimo and Gianluca are the Sicilian brothers who opened Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre, which became a breakfast favourite in Vernazza. As expected from Sicilian cuisine, desserts and pastries are the extraordinary items on the menu. It gets busy during breakfasts, and a meal there is incomplete without trying the cannoli with ricotta cheese. 

The 24 Hour Guide to Eating in Venice, Italy

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It’s mid day in Venice, and the Venetians are congregating in bàcaris, where alcohol is often paired with small plates of crostinis, deep fried seafood balls and mini sandwiches. Forget the overpriced restaurants along the Grand Canal. The heart of Venetian cuisine is in this street food – cicchetti. These bite sized pieces of food are the perfect combination of Italian ingredients served on a toothpick, each ranging from one to three euros. We round up the three places you need to know if you have 24 hours in Venice. 

Look forward to: Cicchetti

Al Merca

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Where: Campo Bella Vienna, 213, 30125 Venezia, Italy
What: Panini
For: Cicchetti

Equipped with just a storefront, Al Merca is a haven for the mid afternoon wine and miniature panino. No seating areas? No problem, just blend in with the locals standing in front of the store, with food and drink in hand. The counter is stuffed with panino, some with gorgonzola cheese and others with parma ham. Amongst these, other cicchetti such as deep fried seafood can be found. Take your pick from any of these, but the Italian cheese and prosciutto panino always wins. 

Osteria Alla Ciurma

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Where: Calle Galeazza, 406A, 30125 San Polo, Venezia VE, Italy
What: Crostinis
For: Cicchetti

The orders never stop at Osteria Alla Ciurma, and neither does the drinking. A glass of wine starts at €1.50, and ranges from friulano to prosecco. Seating areas are few, but you wouldn’t need that if you’re going for the drinks and finger food. The top item to try? The different types of crostinis. Owner Marco Paola is a whiz at experimenting with crostini toppings, such as stuffed eggplant, baccalà mantecato (creamed codfish) and anchovies. 

Pontini

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Where: Fondamenta Cannaregio, 1268, 30121 Venezia, Italy
What: Seafood pastas
For: A sit down restaurant

Of course, it’s not all cicchetti in Venice. Fresh seafood in the Venetian markets always find their way inside this trattoria along Cannaregio. To avoid the queue at Pontini, dinner at 6 pm is essential. Pastas with any kind of seafood are exceptional, as the pastas are doused in a thick seafood stock, the result of a hearty combination  of shellfish and tomatoes. Every bite is filled with the flavours of the sea.