A quiet spot in a city of water, a city most commonly associated with tourists fighting pigeons for space in front of the Piazza San Marco, gondolas gliding down the canals and Harry’s Bar, the birthplace of the Bellini. There is so much to see in this city that has the look of a movie set. For the wine lover, Venice is so much more.
There is a tradition in Venice called the Ombra. The literal translation is shade. To Venetians, it means a glass of red wine. Some say the origin of the term comes from the wine sellers who sold their wares in the shadow of the tower in Piazza San Marco. Another story claims it came from the fishermen who worked each morning in the baking sun. Once they unloaded their small boats, heavy with their catch of the day, they retreated into small bars which lined the dock for a glass of red wine or Ombra. My favourite story, echoed by the concierge at the Hotel ai Mori D’Oriente, is that Ombra became a noun that refers to strolling from one small bar to another for a glass of wine, a pub crawl of sorts for the oenophile as in “We are going for an Ombra.”
Paradiso Perduto (Translation: Paradise Lost) topped the recommended list and it turned out to be the perfect place to start our Ombra. We each had a glass of the house Prosecco, gentle bubbles of the lightest kind. Outside, tables laden with cichetti or Venice’s answer to Tapas, lined the canal. From roasted vegetables to fried shrimp, octopus, Baccala and zucchini flowers. Simple, fresh and affordable.
The Real Wine Thing
Our best find of the day, just a few steps away, has clearly been found before. Vino Vero is a small wine bar with a dozen seats inside and a few tables outside. You know when you walk into a bookstore and can tell instantly it is run by someone who truly loves books? That’s the feeling at Vino Vero.
There are about 200-300 wines here. So much choice but somehow Esmerelda, who handles the bar, makes it approachable. “Give me something I have never tried before,” I asked. Esmerelda pulled out two wines to try before committing which goes a long way to building my loyalty.
First up: Esmerelda suggested a sparkling wine called MUNI made from Durella, a white grape native to Northern Italy. It was fruity, classic and elegant – with plenty of spritz. However, sparkling wine is the only spritz you’ll find at Vino Vero. There’s a sign on the counter that warns – No Spritz – just in case someone was considering ordering the popular Aperol cocktail. In case you doubted their policy – “Nospritz” is even the WIFI password .
Esmerelda then pulled out a bottle of Slavcek 2012 – a Merlot from Slovenia – for me to sample. Deep ruby red, dry and delicious. She is extremely knowledgable, with a lovely blog of her own called Yeasteria.it, focusing on Italian bio-dynamic wine and beer.
We shared a drink with Chris and Vivian from Queensland, who were at the bar for the third time – proof that while the wines make Vino Vero worth visiting, the atmosphere and service make it worth the trip back.
Cannaregio District: Both bars are located in the Cannaregio district. It’s the historical Jewish quarter and far from the cruise travellers and tourists armed with selfie sticks. A 10-minute walk from the train station and 20 – 30 minutes walk from most of Venice’s most popular sights.
Vino Vero, Fondamenta Misericordia 2497, 30100 Venezia
Paradiso Perduto, Fondamenta Misericordia 2540, 30100 Venezia