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Cities in the Spotlight: Venice, Italy

Updated: Mar 11

Today we will be taking another trip to Europe. This time we will be visiting Venice, Italy.


Please let me know if you have city suggestions for me to cover in these posts. I simply use a random city generator to get my ideas.

 

Venice City Information

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is built on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay lying between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers (more exactly between the Brenta and the Sile). In 2020, around 258,685 people resided in greater Venice or the Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historic island city of Venice (Centro storico) and the rest on the mainland (terraferma). Together with the cities of Padua and Treviso, Venice is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), which is considered a statistical metropolitan area, with a total population of 2.6 million.


Venice has been known as "La Dominante", "La Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Parts of Venice are renowned for the beauty of their settings, architecture, and artwork. Venice is known for several important artistic movements—especially during the Renaissance period—and has played an important role in the history of instrumental and operatic music, and is the birthplace of Baroque composers, Tomaso Albinoni and Antonio Vivaldi.

Although the city is facing some challenges (including an excessive number of tourists and problems caused by pollution, tide peaks, and cruise ships sailing too close to buildings), Venice remains a very popular tourist destination, a major cultural centre, and has been ranked many times the most beautiful city in the world. It has been described by The Times as one of Europe's most romantic cities and by The New York Times as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man".

 

Venice Historical Significance

Although no surviving historical records deal directly with the founding of Venice, tradition and the available evidence have led several historians to agree that the original population of Venice consisted of refugees—from nearby Roman cities such as Padua, Aquileia, Treviso, Altino, and Concordia (modern Portogruaro), as well as from the undefended countryside—who were fleeing successive waves of Germanic and Hun invasions. This is further supported by the documentation on the so-called "apostolic families", the twelve founding families of Venice who elected the first doge, who in most cases trace their lineage back to Roman families. Some late Roman sources reveal the existence of fishermen, on the islands in the original marshy lagoons, who were referred to as incolae lacunae ("lagoon dwellers"). The traditional founding is identified with the dedication of the first church, that of San Giacomo on the islet of Rialto (Rivoalto, "High Shore")—said to have taken place at the stroke of noon on 25 March 421 (the Feast of the Annunciation).

Beginning as early as AD 166–168, the Quadi and Marcomanni destroyed the main Roman town in the area, present-day Oderzo. This part of Roman Italy was again overrun in the early 5th century by the Visigoths and, some 50 years later, by the Huns led by Attila. The last and most enduring immigration into the north of the Italian peninsula, that of the Lombards in 568, left the Eastern Roman Empire only a small strip of coastline in the current Veneto, including Venice. The Roman/Byzantine territory was organized as the Exarchate of Ravenna, administered from that ancient port and overseen by a viceroy (the Exarch) appointed by the Emperor in Constantinople. Ravenna and Venice were connected only by sea routes, and increasing autonomy came with the Venetians' isolation. New ports were built, including those at Malamocco and Torcello in the Venetian lagoon. The tribuni maiores formed the earliest central standing governing committee of the islands in the lagoon, dating from c. 568.


The traditional first doge of Venice, Paolo Lucio Anafesto (Anafestus Paulicius), was elected in 697, as written in the oldest chronicle by John, deacon of Venice c. 1008. Some modern historians claim Paolo Lucio Anafesto was actually the Exarch Paul, and Paul's successor, Marcello Tegalliano, was Paul's magister militum (or "general"), literally "master of soldiers". In 726 the soldiers and citizens of the exarchate rose in a rebellion over the iconoclastic controversy, at the urging of Pope Gregory II. The exarch, held responsible for the acts of his master, Byzantine Emperor Leo III, was murdered, and many officials were put to flight in the chaos. At about this time, the people of the lagoon elected their own independent leader for the first time, although the relationship of this to the uprisings is not clear. Ursus was the first of 117 "doges" (doge is the Venetian dialectal equivalent of the Latin dux ("leader"); the corresponding word in English is duke, in standard Italian duca. Whatever his original views, Ursus supported Emperor Leo III's successful military expedition to recover Ravenna, sending both men and ships. In recognition of this, Venice was "granted numerous privileges and concessions" and Ursus, who had personally taken the field, was confirmed by Leo as dux. and given the added title of hypatus (from the Greek for "consul").


In 751, the Lombard King Aistulf conquered most of the Exarchate of Ravenna, leaving Venice a lonely and increasingly autonomous Byzantine outpost. During this period, the seat of the local Byzantine governor (the "duke/dux", later "doge"), was at Malamocco. Settlement on the islands in the lagoon probably increased with the Lombard conquest of other Byzantine territories, as refugees sought asylum in the area. In 775/6, the episcopal seat of Olivolo (San Pietro di Castello, namely Helipolis) was created. During the reign of duke Agnello Particiaco (811–827) the ducal seat moved from Malamocco to the more protected Rialto, within present-day Venice. The monastery of St. Zachary and the first ducal palace and basilica of St. Mark, as well as a walled defense (civitatis murus) between Olivolo and Rialto, were subsequently built here.


Charlemagne sought to subdue the city to his rule. He ordered the pope to expel the Venetians from the Pentapolis along the Adriatic coast; Charlemagne's own son Pepin of Italy, king of the Lombards, under the authority of his father, embarked on a siege of Venice itself. This, however, proved a costly failure. The siege lasted six months, with Pepin's army ravaged by the diseases of the local swamps and eventually forced to withdraw in 810. A few months later, Pepin himself died, apparently as a result of a disease contracted there. In the aftermath, an agreement between Charlemagne and the Byzantine Emperor Nicephorus in 814 recognized Venice as Byzantine territory, and granted the city trading rights along the Adriatic coast. In 828 the new city's prestige increased with the acquisition, from Alexandria, of relics claimed to be of St Mark the Evangelist; these were placed in the new basilica. Winged lions—visible throughout Venice—are the emblem of St Mark. The patriarchal seat was also moved to Rialto. As the community continued to develop, and as Byzantine power waned, its own autonomy grew, leading to eventual independence.

From the 9th to the 12th centuries, Venice developed into a powerful maritime empire (an Italian thalassocracy known also as repubblica marinara). In addition to Venice there were seven others: the most important ones were Genoa, Pisa, and Amalfi; and the lesser known were Ragusa, Ancona, Gaeta and Noli. Its own strategic position at the head of the Adriatic made Venetian naval and commercial power almost invulnerable., With the elimination of pirates along the Dalmatian coast, the city became a flourishing trade centre between Western Europe and the rest of the world, especially with the Byzantine Empire and Asia, where its navy protected sea routes against piracy. The Republic of Venice seized a number of places on the eastern shores of the Adriatic before 1200, mostly for commercial reasons, because pirates based there were a menace to trade. The doge already possessed the titles of Duke of Dalmatia and Duke of Istria. Later mainland possessions, which extended across Lake Garda as far west as the Adda River, were known as the Terraferma; they were acquired partly as a buffer against belligerent neighbours, partly to guarantee Alpine trade routes, and partly to ensure the supply of mainland wheat (on which the city depended). In building its maritime commercial empire, Venice dominated the trade in salt, acquired control of most of the islands in the Aegean, including Crete, and Cyprus in the Mediterranean, and became a major power-broker in the Near East. By the standards of the time, Venice's stewardship of its mainland territories was relatively enlightened and the citizens of such towns as Bergamo, Brescia, and Verona rallied to the defence of Venetian sovereignty when it was threatened by invaders.


Venice remained closely associated with Constantinople, being twice granted trading privileges in the Eastern Roman Empire, through the so-called golden bulls or "chrysobulls", in return for aiding the Eastern Empire to resist Norman and Turkish incursions. In the first chrysobull, Venice acknowledged its homage to the empire; but not in the second, reflecting the decline of Byzantium and the rise of Venice's power. Venice became an imperial power following the Fourth Crusade, which, having veered off course, culminated in 1204 by capturing and sacking Constantinople and establishing the Latin Empire. As a result of this conquest, considerable Byzantine plunder was brought back to Venice. This plunder included the gilt bronze horses from the Hippodrome of Constantinople, which were originally placed above the entrance to the cathedral of Venice, St Mark's Basilica (The originals have been replaced with replicas, and are now stored within the basilica.) After the fall of Constantinople, the former Eastern Roman Empire was partitioned among the Latin crusaders and the Venetians. Venice subsequently carved out a sphere of influence in the Mediterranean known as the Duchy of the Archipelago, and captured Crete.

The seizure of Constantinople proved as decisive a factor in ending the Byzantine Empire as the loss of the Anatolian themes, after Manzikert. Although the Byzantines recovered control of the ravaged city a half-century later, the Byzantine Empire was terminally weakened, and existed as a ghost of its old self, until Sultan Mehmet The Conqueror took the city in 1453. Situated on the Adriatic Sea, Venice had always traded extensively with the Byzantine Empire and the Middle East. By the late 13th century, Venice was the most prosperous city in all of Europe. At the peak of its power and wealth, it had 36,000 sailors operating 3,300 ships, dominating Mediterranean commerce. Venice's leading families vied with each other to build the grandest palaces and to support the work of the greatest and most talented artists. The city was governed by the Great Council, comprised of members of Venice's noble families. The Great Council appointed all public officials and elected a Senate of 200 to 300 individuals. Since this group was too large for efficient administration, a Council of Ten (also called the Ducal Council, or the Signoria), controlled much of the administration of the city. One member of the great council was elected "doge", or duke, to be the chief executive; he would usually hold the title until his death, although several Doges were forced, by pressure from their oligarchical peers, to resign and retire into monastic seclusion, when they were felt to have been discredited by political failure.

The Venetian governmental structure was similar in some ways to the republican system of ancient Rome, with an elected chief executive (the doge), a senator-like assembly of nobles, and the general citizenry with limited political power, who originally had the power to grant or withhold their approval of each newly elected doge. Church and various private property was tied to military service, although there was no knight tenure within the city itself. The Cavalieri di San Marco was the only order of chivalry ever instituted in Venice, and no citizen could accept or join a foreign order without the government's consent. Venice remained a republic throughout its independent period, and politics and the military were kept separate, except when on occasion the Doge personally headed the military. War was regarded as a continuation of commerce by other means. Therefore, the city's early employment of large numbers of mercenaries for service elsewhere, and later its reliance on foreign mercenaries when the ruling class was preoccupied with commerce.

Although the people of Venice generally remained orthodox Roman Catholics, the state of Venice was notable for its freedom from religious fanaticism and executed nobody for religious heresy during the Counter-Reformation. This apparent lack of zeal contributed to Venice's frequent conflicts with the papacy. In this context, the writings of the Anglican divine William Bedell are particularly illuminating. Venice was threatened with the interdict on a number of occasions and twice suffered its imposition. The second most noted occasion was in 1606, by order of Pope Paul V. The newly invented German printing press spread rapidly throughout Europe in the 15th century, and Venice was quick to adopt it. By 1482, Venice was the printing capital of the world; the leading printer was Aldus Manutius, who invented paperback books that could be carried in a saddlebag. His Aldine Editions included translations of nearly all the known Greek manuscripts of the era.


Venice's long decline started in the 15th century. Venice confronted the Ottoman Empire in the Siege of Thessalonica (1422–1430) and sent ships to help defend Constantinople against the besieging Turks in 1453. After the Fall of Constantinople, Sultan Mehmed II declared the first of a series of Ottoman-Venetian wars that cost Venice much of its eastern Mediterranean possessions. Vasco da Gama's 1497–1499 voyage opened a sea route to India around the Cape of Good Hope and destroyed Venice's monopoly. Venice's oared vessels were at a disadvantage when it came to traversing oceans, therefore Venice was left behind in the race for colonies. The Black Death devastated Venice in 1348 and struck again between 1575 and 1577. In three years, the plague killed some 50,000 people. In 1630, the Italian plague of 1629–31 killed a third of Venice's 150,000 citizens. Venice began to lose its position as a centre of international trade during the later part of the Renaissance as Portugal became Europe's principal intermediary in trade with the East, striking at the very foundation of Venice's great wealth. France and Spain fought for hegemony over Italy in the Italian Wars, marginalizing its political influence. However, Venice remained a major exporter of agricultural products and until the mid-18th century, a significant manufacturing centre.

The Republic of Venice lost its independence when Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Venice on 12 May 1797 during the War of the First Coalition. Napoleon was seen as something of a liberator by the city's Jewish population. He removed the gates of the Ghetto and ended the restrictions on when and where Jews could live and travel in the city. Venice became Austrian territory when Napoleon signed the Treaty of Campo Formio on 12 October 1797. The Austrians took control of the city on 18 January 1798. Venice was taken from Austria by the Treaty of Pressburg in 1805 and became part of Napoleon's Kingdom of Italy. It was returned to Austria following Napoleon's defeat in 1814, when it became part of the Austrian-held Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia. In 1848 a revolt briefly re-established the Venetian republic under Daniele Manin, but this was crushed in 1849.


In 1866, after the Third Italian War of Independence, Venice, along with the rest of the Veneto, became part of the newly created Kingdom of Italy. From the middle of the 18th century, Trieste and papal Ancona, both of which became free ports, competed with Venice more and more economically. Habsburg Trieste in particular boomed and increasingly served trade via the Suez Canal, which opened in 1869, between Asia and Central Europe, while Venice very quickly lost its competitive edge and commercial strength. During the Second World War, the historic city was largely free from attack, the only aggressive effort of note being Operation Bowler, a successful Royal Air Force precision strike on the German naval operations in the city in March 1945. The targets were destroyed with virtually no architectural damage inflicted on the city itself. However, the industrial areas in Mestre and Marghera and the railway lines to Padua, Trieste, and Trento were repeatedly bombed. On 29 April 1945, a force of British and New Zealand troops of the British Eighth Army, under Lieutenant General Freyberg, liberated Venice, which had been a hotbed of anti-Mussolini Italian partisan activity.

 

Travel to Venice

*taken from Lonely Planet*


Imagine the audacity of building a city of marble palaces on a lagoon – and that was only the start.

 

Must See Sites

Basilica di San Marco; With a profusion of domes and more than 8000 sq metres of luminous mosaics, Venice's cathedral is unforgettable. It was founded in the 9th century to house the corpse of St Mark after wily Venetian merchants smuggled it out of Egypt in a barrel of pork fat. When the original building burnt down in 932 Venice rebuilt the basilica in its own cosmopolitan image, with Byzantine domes, a Greek cross layout and walls clad in marble from Syria, Egypt and Palestine. Unbelievably, this sumptuous church was the doge's private chapel. It only officially became Venice's cathedral in 1807 following the demise of the Republic, replacing the considerably less grand Basilica di San Pietro in Castello. The front of St Mark's ripples and crests like a wave, its five niched portals capped with shimmering mosaics and frothy stonework arches. It's especially resplendent just before sunset when the sun's dying rays set the golden mosaics ablaze. The oldest mosaic on the facade, dating from 1270, is in the lunette above the far-left portal, depicting St Mark’s stolen body arriving at the basilica. The theme is echoed in three of the other lunettes, including the 1660 mosaics above the second portal from the right, showing turbaned officials recoiling from the hamper of pork fat containing the sainted corpse. Grand entrances are made through the central portal, under an ornate triple arch featuring Egyptian purple porphyry columns and intricate 13th- to 14th-century stone reliefs.

Palazzo Ducale; Holding pride of place on the waterfront, this pretty Gothic confection may be an unlikely setting for the political and administrative seat of a great republic, but it's an exquisitely Venetian one. Beyond its dainty colonnades and geometrically patterned facade of white Istrian stone and pale pink Veronese marble lie grand rooms of state, the doge's private apartments and a large complex of council chambers, courts and prisons. The doge's official residence probably moved to this site in the 10th century, although the current complex only started to take shape around 1340. In 1424 the wing facing the Piazzetta was added and the palace assumed its final form, give or take a few major fires and refurbishments.

The Ghetto; In medieval times this part of Cannaregio housed a getto (foundry), but it was as the designated Jewish quarter from the 16th to 19th centuries that the word acquired a whole new meaning. In accordance with the Venetian Republic’s 1516 decree, by day Jewish lenders, doctors and clothing merchants were permitted to attend to Venice's commercial interests, but at night and on Christian holidays they were locked within the gated island of the Ghetto Nuovo (New Foundry). When Jewish merchants fled the Spanish Inquisition for Venice in 1541, there was no place left in the Ghetto to go but up: in buildings around the Campo del Ghetto Nuovo, upper storeys housed new arrivals, synagogues and publishing houses. A plain wooden cupola in the corner of the campo (square) marks the location of the Schola Canton. Next door is the Schola Tedesca, while the rooftop Schola Italiana is a simple synagogue built by newly arrived and largely destitute Italian Jews, who had fled from Spanish-controlled southern Italy. As numbers grew, the Ghetto was extended into the neighbouring Ghetto Vecchio (Old Foundry), creating the confusing situation where the older Jewish area is called the New Ghetto and the newer is the Old Ghetto. Sephardic Jewish refugees raised two synagogues in Campo del Ghetto Vecchio that are considered among the most beautiful in northern Italy, lavishly rebuilt in the 17th century. The Schola Levantina, founded in 1541, has a magnificent 17th-century woodworked pulpit, while the Schola Spagnola, founded around 1580, shows just how Venetian the community had become through a demonstrated flair for Venetian architectural flourishes: repeating geometric details, high-arched windows, and exuberant marble and carved-wood baroque interiors. After Venice fell to Napoleon in 1787 the city's Jews experienced six months of freedom before the Austrian administration restricted them to the Ghetto once again. It wasn't until Venice joined with Italy in 1866 that full emancipation was gained, but even that was short-lived. Many of Venice's Jews fled before the Nazi occupation, but 246 were arrested and sent to concentration camps between 1943 and 1944; only eight survived. A memorial consisting of harrowing bas-reliefs and the names and ages of those killed now lines two walls facing Campo del Ghetto Nuovo.

Gallerie dell'Accademia; Venice's historic gallery traces the development of Venetian art from the 14th to 19th centuries, with works by all of the city's artistic superstars. The complex housing the collection maintained its serene composure for centuries until Napoleon installed his haul of art trophies here in 1807 – looted from various religious institutions around town. Since then there’s been nonstop visual drama on its walls. Note that the gallery is in the midst of a major refurbishment; some rooms may be closed. The Accademia inhabits three conjoined buildings. The Scuola della Carità (founded 1260) was the oldest of Venice's six scuole grandi (religious confraternities); the current building dates to 1343. Bartolomeo Bon completed the spare, Gothic-edged facade of the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Carità in 1448. A century later, Palladio took a classical approach to the Convento dei Canonici Lateranensi. From 1949 to 1954, Carlo Scarpa chose a minimalist approach to restorations. The bulk of the collection's treasures are on the 1st floor, and this is the best place to start your visit. The ground floor houses major exhibitions, sculpture and a less showstopping collection of paintings from 1600 to 1880.

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute; Baldassare Longhena's magnificent basilica is prominently positioned near the entrance to the Grand Canal, its white stones, exuberant statuary and high domes gleaming spectacularly under the sun. The church makes good on an official appeal by the Venetian Senate directly to the Madonna in 1630, after 80,000 Venetians had been killed by plague. The Senate promised the Madonna a church in exchange for her intervention on behalf of Venice – no expense or effort spared. Before 'La Salute' could even be started, at least 100,000 pylons had to be driven deep into the barene (mudbanks) to shore up the tip of Dorsoduro. The Madonna provided essential inspiration, but La Salute draws its structural strength from a range of architectural and spiritual traditions. Architectural scholars note striking similarities between Longhena's unusual domed octagonal structure and both Greco-Roman goddess temples and Jewish Kabbalah diagrams. The lines of the building converge beneath the dome to form a vortex on the inlaid marble floors; some believe the black dot at the centre radiates healing energy. The basilica's interior is flooded with light filtered through disks of pale-tinted glass encircling the implausibly high dome. The main focus of devotion is the elaborately carved baroque high altar, with a 12th-century Cretan icon of the Madonna of Good Health set into it. A side altar near the entrance to the sacristy showcases The Descent of the Holy Spirit (1546) by Titian.

Museo Correr; Napoleon pulled down an ancient church to build his royal digs over Piazza San Marco, and then filled them with the riches of the doges while taking some of Venice's finest heirlooms to France as trophies. When he lost Venice to the Austrians, Empress Sissi remodelled the palace, adding ceiling frescoes, silk cladding and brocade curtains. It's now open to the public and full of many of Venice's reclaimed treasures, including ancient maps, statues, cameos and four centuries of artistic masterpieces. Napoleon's wing links the 16th-century Procuratie Vecchie on the northern side of the square to the Procuratie Nuove on the south. The latter, described by Palladio as the most sumptuous palace ever built, is incorporated into the museum. It includes the magnificent Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, a large library designed by Jacopo Sansovino in the 16th century and covered with frescoes by Veronese, Titian and Tintoretto featuring larger-than-life philosophers and miniature back-flipping sea creatures. Adjoining it is the collection of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, featuring an extraordinary array of ancient sculpture, much of which was bequeathed to the city in 1523 by Cardinal Domenico Grimani. Also on this floor, look out for Jacopo di Barbari's minutely detailed woodblock perspective view of Venice and Antonio Canova's 1776 statues of star-crossed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice.


Rialto Market; Venice’s main market has been whetting appetites for seven centuries, with fruit and vegetable stands abutting the rather more pungent Pescaria. To see it at its best, arrive in the morning along with the trolley-pushing shoppers and you’ll be rewarded with pyramids of colourful seasonal produce like Sant’Erasmo castraure (baby artichokes), radicchio trevisano (bitter red chicory) and thick, succulent white asparagus. If you’re in the market for picnic provisions, vendors may offer you samples.

Burano; Burano, with its cheery pastel-coloured houses, is renowned for its handmade lace, which once graced the decolletage and ruffs of European aristocracy. These days, with a couple of notable exceptions, much of the lace sold in local shops is imported. Still, tourists head here in droves to snap photos of the brightly painted houses reflecting in the canals – clogging up the bridges and driving the locals to distraction in the process. It's a much more peaceful place in the evening.

 

Must try Food & Drink


Carpaccio; This traditional Italian dish of worldwide fame is typically served as an appetizer, and consists of very thin slices of raw fish or meat served on a plate with olive oil, cheese shavings, and lemon. Carpaccio was created in 1950 by a Venetian restaurateur named Giuseppe Cipriani, the owner of Harry’s Bar, who first made the dish for Countess Amalia Nani Mocenigo, whose doctors had recommended she eat raw meat. Cipriani based the dish on a specialty from Piedmont consisting of slices of raw beef dressed with lemon juice, olive oil, and white truffle shavings. An impassioned art lover, Cipriani named the new dish carpaccio in honor of painter Vittore Carpaccio, whose style and bold colors were reminiscent of the intense red color of raw meat. Today, there are numerous modern varieties of carpaccio made with zucchini, scallops, beet, salmon, figs, and lamb, and it is said that any kind of carpaccio is best paired with a glass of wine on the side.

Bellini; Bellini is a classic Italian cocktail made with a combination of Prosecco and white peach nectar or white peach purée. Peach purée or nectar is first poured into a chilled flute glass, and it is then topped with Prosecco before being gently stirred and served. Outside of Italy, Bellini is often made with champagne, but any sparkling wine will do. The cocktail was invented by a bartender named Giuseppe Cipriani in the 1930s or 1940s at Harry’s Bar in Venice, and it was named after the famous Italian painter Giovanni Bellini. Today, Bellini is especially popular as a brunch drink.

Spritz Veneziano; The coral-hued Spritz Veneziano (also known as Aperol Spritz) is one of the most popular aperitif cocktails in Italy. It is made with a combination of prosecco (3 parts), Aperol (2 parts), and a splash of soda water. The drink is traditionally garnished with an orange slice and served in a wine glass with a few ice cubes. The history of Aperol Spritz dates all the way back to the Napoleonic wars of 1805, when the Austrians took local Italian wine and added a spritz (lit. splash) of water into it. Later on, water was replaced by soda water, and wine was replaced with a combination of prosecco and Aperol. The popularity of Aperol Spritz reached its peak in the 2000s, and nowadays it is one of the ideal choices for a light summer drink.

Cicchetti; Cicchetti are traditional Venetian small dishes, a concept that is similar to Spanish tapas - there is even a theory implying that their name comes from the Spanish word chico, meaning small. Fresh and seasonal, these irresistible little nibbles full of local flavor present the best of Venetian cuisine in miniature versions. Cicchetti can range from simple snacks and ingredients such as olives, hard-boiled eggs, panini (small sandwiches) or marinated anchovies, to more elaborate dishes such as polpette, sarde in saor, or baccalà - creamy salt cod, smeared over toasted bread. Cicchetti are typically enjoyed in local bars called bàcari, served at the counter and accompanied by ombra, a small glass of local wine.

Bigoli in salsa; Bigoli in salsa is an Italian pasta dish and one of the emblematic dishes of Venice, although its variations can be found throughout the Veneto region. It consists of whole wheat bigoli pasta in an anchovy and onion sauce. Bigoli is a traditional Venetian pasta, a bit thicker than spaghetti, with a rough texture that allows the sauce to be absorbed more easily. It is made using a special press called bigolaro, originating from 1604. The nutty flavor of bigoli pairs well with anchovies, creating a unique, rich flavor of the whole dish, which is sometimes made with sharp-tasting salt-cured sardines instead of anchovies. Every local seems to have their own way of making the dish, and some cooks also add pine nuts and raisins to the sauce as a nod to the Venetian period during the Renaissance when raisins and pine nuts made their way to Venice. Bigoli in salsa was originally consumed during fasting days such as Ash Wednesday, Christmas Eve, or Good Friday, and over the years it became a dish that is best consumed the night before a big feast, since it is both substantial and light enough to leave some space for the next day's feast.

Sarde in saor; One of Venice's most traditional dishes, this delicious appetizer of marinated sardines originated among the fishermen and seafarers of La Serenissima as a way to preserve fish during their long voyages. Sarde in saor are made by frying fresh sardines and then marinating them either in white wine or vinegar with softly cooked onions, pine nuts, and raisins. The dish is preferably prepared the day before serving, and it can keep well over the course of a week. In Venice, this ultimate antipasto agrodolce is found on every corner and is typically served alongside grilled polenta.

Seppie in umido; Seppie in umido is a traditional Italian dish originating from Venice. The dish is usually made with a combination of sliced squid, onions, garlic, tomatoes, tomato paste, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary, oil, salt, and black pepper. The onions and garlic are sautéed in oil until soft, and then mixed with the rosemary and squid. The mixture is covered with water and simmered for more than half an hour, and the tomatoes, tomato paste, spices, salt, and pepper are then added to the pan. The dish is slowly cooked until the sauce becomes thick and the squid is tender. Seppie in umido is typically served over polenta.

Tramezzino veneziano; Tramezzino veneziano is the Venetian version of the famous tramezzino sandwich. The sandwiches are made with two thin, soft, and triangular slices of crustless white bread that are generously stuffed with rich fillings, resulting in a puffy and domed shape that looks similar to a smile. Mayonnaise is always used as a base, accompanying classic fillings such as tuna and hard-boiled eggs, ham and mushrooms, ham and cheese, mozzarella and tomatoes, or rocket and crab or shrimp. Modern versions also exist, such as salmon and avocado. The humid climate of the city keeps the Venetian tramezzini extremely soft. The sandwiches are enjoyed as street food, usually in mid-morning or mid-afternoon. It's recommended to pair them with a glass of Spritz.

Fegato alla Veneziana; This classic Venetian dish couples thinly sliced liver with caramelized onions, and it is probably the best known way to prepare sautéed calf's liver in Italian cuisine. While the onions provide sweetness to contrast the liver's earthiness, a splash of vinegar, white wine or even lemon juice adds a sour note to make a dish of perfectly balanced flavors. The Venetian-style liver is typically served with grilled polenta, but it can also be accompanied by steamed potatoes or crusty bread on the side.

Capelonghe veneziane; Capelonghe veneziane is a traditional Venetian way of preparing razor clams. The dish is made with a combination of razor clams (capelonghe or cannolicchi), olive oil, parsley, salt, and black pepper. The razor clams are washed, soaked in cold salted water in order to remove the sand, and then cooked in olive oil until they open. When they open, the razor clams are removed from the pan, while the cooking juices are strained to remove leftover sand. The strained liquid is mixed with olive oil, pepper, and parsley, and the dressing is then poured over the razor clams before serving. Razor clams can also be baked in the oven and dressed the same way. Just be careful not to overcook them as the texture will become rubbery.

Zaletti; These rustic cornmeal cookies get their name from the word zálo, which means "yellow" in the Venetian dialect. They are typically flavored with lemon zest, studded with rum-soaked raisins, and traditionally made without sugar, while a splash of grappa if often added to the dough. Zaletti are excellent for dipping in milk, tea, or coffee, which makes them a popular breakfast choice in Venice, though they are also often enjoyed as an after-meal snack, paired with a glass of dessert wine like Vin Santo.

 

 

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