Venice: Eat, Pray, Love (But Mainly Eat)

This article was previously published in the special edition, VENICE (July 2019).

“I wish Giovanni would kiss me,” is the first line of Elizabeth Gilbert’s 2006 book, Eat, Pray, Love. This book was later adapted to the big screen, with Julia Roberts as the lead, of course. On the 6am flight to Venice in early June, it was this film that kept me from dozing off and giving my eyes the well-needed rest that they would have deserved after only two hours of sleep the night before. Instead, I was training myself for the marvels of Italy and, more precisely, the microcosmic world of Venetian food, envisioning myself in the shoes of Liz ordering antipasti, primi piatti, secondi piatti and dolce… and, of course, house red wine for the table. In that way, I also had a yearning, although it was not for Giovanni, but rather for the discoveries awaiting.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Venetian cuisine has been shaped greatly by the proximity of water or alternatively, inhibited by it, seeing as most ingredients have to be imported to the city from the mainland due to limited space for kitchen gardens. Venice’s peculiar situation is nevertheless perfectly suited for the simplicity of Italian cooking. At its heart, Venetian food is not frivolous or over the top, but it is full of heart and flavour. This is how it happened that I was near-enough brought to tears by a spaghetti al pomodoro – most likely aided by the sleep deprivation and the intense heat. This was the first meal we sat down for after arrival, by a quiet canal a bit further from the epicentre of tourist activities. For the first time in months, everything felt calm and familiar, but also mixed with the excitement of the upcoming days which would be spent walking up, down, and across the islands, crisscrossing canals, and visiting every church in sight. In moments like these, you come closer to understanding why Liz Gilbert writes so reverently about the food culture of Italy.