Forget the churches, architecture, art galleries, concerts, Bellinis (painted and poured), carnivals, masked balls, vaporetti and gondolas – the great claim to fame of Venice is that it’s the last great drinking city on earth.
There for three nights the weekend before last, it dawned on me that the Venetians are not as other races when it comes to drinking.
The British like to slump in the corner of a pub sinking pints over several hours; the French like to chat at a café table; the Americans like to sit up at a bar; the Germans like to get noisy in a warm fuggy atmosphere; and the Japanese like to get completely rat-arsed.
But the Venetians are different. They enter one of their little bars. They order a drink which is usually very small. They exchange a word or two. Then they’re off. They don’t sit down. They don’t argue, or wax expansive. They’re in, knock it back, then off to the next bar. So a bar can be packed one moment and almost empty the next.
When in Venice do as the Venetians do. We adopted the local drinking style. Lots of walking and fresh air, interspersed with the odd boat trip and the odd little, very tasty, nibble, and lots and lots of little drinks. It’s a great way to spend the day and, of course, Venice is built perfectly for this kind of activity.
The streets are tiny and have, obviously, never needed to be, nor could be, widened for cars, supermarkets, car parks or office blocks. The bars are as numerous as the sands on the shore.
But a word of advice. The bars to the North of the Rialto are far cheaper than those to the South. A couple of Euros will get you a decent prosecco or Merlot to the North of the Rialto but, as soon as you cross the bridge, the price for the same thing goes up to three Euros, and the nearer you get to St Mark’s Square the more it costs – 5 Euros, even 6 Euros a shot..
Then, in the Ritzy posh bit of Venice between St Mark’s Square and the wooden bridge over the Grand Canal to Academia, you get the really expensive drinks like 15 euros a shot in Harry’s Bar or the Gritti. Though the Gritti’s nibbles are good.
So if you’re in Venice, forget the bolloxy cultural stuff. I don’t believe real Venetians give a fig for the arty tarty side, after all their ancestors were the equivalent of today’s Somali pirates.
Just have an excellent day – Venetian style – in the greatest drinking city on the planet.