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A walk amidst the ombre and cicheti

In Venice you walk a lot. But in order to cross the Grand Canal, you sometimes use the “vaporetto” (water bus) or the gondola ferry available at several points around the city.

Going on foot, one has the chance to run into people, friends and acquaintances. After saying hello, you go to a local spot for a drink together, continuing to discuss all the latest about yourself or mutual friends.

Stopping at the café in the morning, one usually has a coffee. But in the middle of the day or in the evening, you go and have an “ombra,” as Venetians call a glass of wine. You could also have a “spritz.” This is a classic Venetian aperitif made of white wine with Aperol or bitters and mineral water, garnished with an olive and a slice of lemon or orange. There’s variations on this as well that include other typical Italian liqueurs.

For Venetians, to go and drink an “ombra” or “spritz” is almost a daily routine. In the past, there were many local “osterie” or taverns in the city that sold wine along with some simple dishes. Even today, this tradition continues with many taverns still offering a wide assortment of “cicheti” which are quick snacks or small dishes you eat along with a good glass of wine.

There were many more places like this in the past. Some have now been turned into cafés which are a bit generic. They serve rolls and sandwiches to workers on their lunch break or tourists in a hurry.

Fortunately, some of the traditional “osterie” or taverns have survived and kept up tradition through time.  New ones have also opened up in recent years where you can try classic “cicheti” which are a far cry from rolls and sandwiches.

The offerings of these taverns range from the classic half of a cooked egg topped with an anchovy fillet to boiled gristle or, depending on the season, potted artichoke. There’s also a variety of seasonal fried or roast fish (especially fried and breaded sardines), squid skewers, roast cuttlefish, and boiled octopus.

A few of the areas where you find locales serving this kind of food have become evening meeting places for Venetian teenagers. One of these areas is “Campo dell’Erbaria” which is just after you cross the Rialto Bridge near the market.  Here you find many spots offering “cicheti.”  In the morning and early afternoon, people working in the nearby market and area go to these places.

But if you enter the surrounding streets, you can find there many other taverns also offering a wide range of wines and “cicheti.”

Another well known area much frequented by younger people is that close to the University and Santa Margherita. This part of the city also has a multitude of taverns.

Wandering around Venice, you’ll find many of these “osterie.” For those who plan to visit the city by losing themselves in its streets, these taverns offer an alternative to a traditional lunch.

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