A Taster's Journey is a newsletter on food, wine and travel. After 15 years of studying, tasting, teaching, and selling wine, I created this newsletter to not only share my passion about wine, but of food and travel as well. Each month I hope to share wines that I am drinking, food that is in season, restaurants that I have enjoyed, and places I have traveled. Enjoy!"

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Venice

January 29th, 2004

Rialto Bridge over The Grand Canal

Rialto Bridge over The Grand Canal

The other day I heard The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour on the radio and thought it perfectly described one of my favorite cities …Venice. It is like traveling back in time; no cars, no Vespas, and no noisy garbage trucks. Venice is a city with old palazzos, narrow streets that weave back and forth, and many bridges that cross over a network of waterways. Although most visitors carry two maps, it doesn’t matter because you’ll get lost anyway. Part of the charm of Venice is too aimlessly walk the streets, explore the neighborhoods and soak up the history.

Venice is broken into six sistieri (districts) with the Grand Canal slicing through the center. The Rialto Bridge is the largest and the best known of Venice’s bridges. It connects the districts of San Marco and San Polo spanning the Grand Canal. Although the shops on the Rialto are touristy, the view down the canal is incredible. It is also near one of my favorite sites in Venice, the Rialto Markets. You will never see a seafood market like it. There are endless tables of fresh clams, squid, crabs, tuna, sole, sardines and dozens of other varieties of fish. It is a spectacle you must see, but visit it early in the morning when the market is at its peak. If you love fresh seafood, then you’ll love eating in Venice.

On Venice’s Magical Tour there are many mysteries, which is what makes it so exciting. The city constantly seems to be shrouded in a veil of clouds. The Palazzos, although grand, seem eerie in that they almost appear boarded up. That’s because many have closed down the bottom floor due to constant flooding. The back canals are so narrow that two boats can barely pass, and the shadows make it feel almost spooky. Even the main festival during the year, “Carnivale” is draped in mystery as guests all wear elaborate masks to disguise their identities.

Venice is often besieged with tourists, yet they all seem to gather in the Piazza San Marco or on the Rialto Bridge. Although I prefer to avoid tourists, the Piazza San Marco is a must. The Basilica San Marco and the Doge’s Palace are the two most important historical sites in the city, and are truly amazing. But after San Marco, I recommend that you explore, and visit the outlying neighborhoods. The Vaporetto (ferry) will whisk you up and down the Grand Canal, making it easier to reach some of the more remote areas. Gondola rides are an interesting way to see the smaller network of canals. Gondolas have been around for centuries, a craft passed down generation to generation. Although gondola rides may appear to be a trap for tourists, they are an important source of revenue. They also continue to be an important part of today’s culture …often used for weddings, funerals, and even races as depicted below.

Many people say that Venice is a city not known for its’ food. I have found the opposite to be true. There are many touristy restaurants here, so avoid the ones with English menus posted outside. Also realize that you are not near Naples, so do not expect pasta with red sauce.

In Venice, it is all about the seafood. One of my favorite meals in Venice was at a small local spot called Da Remigio. We went on a Sunday for lunch, and since it was pouring outside, we were in no rush. We were the only Americans, but we were treated like all the other families. As we looked over the menu, a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano was put on the table. We feasted on razor clams, grilled monkfish, and tiny shrimp in polenta.

Another favorite is Hostaria da Franz. It is in the Castello district, and although a bit hard to find, it is worth the trek. The waiter recites the menu, since it changes daily depending on what’s fresh. I love their spaghetti alla vongole as well as many of their other pastas. The fish is extremely fresh and the scampi is to die for.

So book your tickets for Venice, a truly magical experience, and Buon Appitito!

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