A cicchetti tour introduces a tasty side of Venice. But it's more than a tour with some good food; it's a way to tap into a Venetian tradition. The word cicchetti is Venetian, coming from the Latin ciccu, which means very small. The word (sometimes spelled cicheti) might not be familiar, but the concept probably is. Like the tapas of Spain, this involves small bites of good, plus good drinks and welcoming hospitality. These tours are a great way to sample the many fine places to eat in this culinary capital city—a way to experience Venice one bite at a time.
Places that serve these small plates go by the Italian bacaro, not really a full restaurant, but they're more than a wine bar. Many of these bacari are located along the narrow streets, off the beaten path from the attractions and the squares where the tourists gather. These authentic eateries serve their specialties throughout the day, from the morning to well after dinnertime. Cicchetti tours depart throughout the day. They can work for lunch, an afternoon's adventure, or an alternative to dinner.
A good cicchetti tour can introduce you to the history of the tradition. When it started, the typical cicchetti service included a slice of grilled polenta, topped with some Venetian salami, or a boiled egg topped with an anchovy. Over time, more tastes and flavors were popping on bacari menus, offering tastes typical of Venice and other regions of Italy like Rome and Tuscany. It's not uncommon to find dishes based on seafood like calamari or risotto con seppie e radicchio, a mix of cuttlefish and the purple lettuce radicchio. Folpeto, an octopus served with olives and lemons, is another Venetian delicacy. If you're not into seafood, don't worry. There's a full array of choices for carnivores and vegetarians alike.
When you're ready to experience this Venetian tradition, there are several ways to partake in a cicchetti tour. You could grab a guidebook and pick three or four of the bacari locations within walking distance. But be cautious; after a couple of stops, it's easy to lose track of how much wine and food has been enjoyed over the course of the adventure.
Formal cicchetti tours are available as well. When you travel with a local/expert, you don't have to worry about pesky details liking making reservations, knowing where to go, and pulling out your wallet at each destination. All you need to do is book the tour, pay once, and show up on time. When it comes time for the tour, you can follow the guide and worry about having a good time. Plus the guide can answer your questions, make suggestions about wine parings, and provide insight only a local can give.
Cicchetti Tours in Venice
Alessandro Schezzini is one of those guides who likes to share the best of Venice cicchetti scene. One of his tour company’s English-speaking excursions visits three bacari, each featuring a glass of wine and several small plates, more than enough for a light dinner. The tour can go off the beaten path for those who really want to see the local side of Venice. Both of these tours can be combined, at a price that's comparable to a diner at a restaurant. A more detailed tour, complete with access to the Venice transportation network, take the leisurely approach to hopping from location to location, plus time to shop and see the glassmakers of Murano.