It’s late afternoon when our group steps ashore at Bauer Palazzo Hotel after a special gondola serenade through the canals of Venice. With the sun glinting off the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute, it seems the perfect time for a cicchetti (tapas) tour in the Venetian tradition. One of the best cicchetti crawls centres around Campo Casare Battista near Rialto Bridge. At Rialto Market, I watch vendors trim artichokes into rounds called fondi, immersing the white discs in acidulated water to prevent discolouration. Vegetable stalls brim with Carciofi de Sant Erasmo, small purple artichokes shaped like pussy willows on a stem. At Ancora wine bar, I pair an Aperol spritz with a salad of artichokes served carpaccio style.
Another turn around the market takes me to Cantina Do Spade, an atmospheric watering hole that dates back to 1754 when it offered hospitality to merchants and Silk Road traders. There on the cicchetti menu between the sarde in saor (fried sardines with sweet onion) and code di rospo alla grigua (fried monkfish tail) are two types of artichokes. I happily order both and sit at a barrel table where I sip Cygnar, a bitter artichokebased aperitif created by Venetian entrepreneur Angelo Dalle Molle in 1952. I savour my final artichokes of the trip and contemplate a spring journey which, while admittedly not as rigorous as those of Venetian travellers such as Marco Polo, has been no less rewarding.