These are Venice's legendary biscuits

Venice. City of countless canals, breath-taking architecture and… biscuits. Wait, biscuits? Yes, you heard that right. Many people may not immediately associate the city of love with these baked goods, but Venice has a long tradition of biscuit-making. For centuries, the Venetians have been baking them in all sorts of varieties. Why is that, you may wonder? To find the source of Venice’s biscuit craving we have to go back quite a few centuries, to the times when the Venetian Republic ruled the waves.

As a historic maritime trading city, Venice has always been home to a merchants, sailors and fishermen. Often, they would spend extended times at sea. On their journeys they would bring foods that could last a long time without going off. With their long shelf life, dry biscuits were an ideal food item to bring on board, especially when kept in tins. And so, biscuits became a key staple in the Venetian Republic.

Among the city’s most iconic biscuits are those made on the Venetian island of Burano, called buranelli. Buranelli biscuits come in different shapes, including a doughnut-shaped version called bussolà and an ‘S’-shaped biscuit called esse. Made of eggs, flour, sugar and butter, buranelli were traditionally made by the wives of fishermen as a snack for their trips at sea, as early as the 1500s.

A plate with biscuits and a cup of coffee in the sun

Equally popular are zaletti biscuits (also called zaeti in Venetian dialect). These rustic biscuits have been made in Venice since the 1600s. They’re made with corn flour – which gives them their yellow colour – and are traditionally filled with small raisins.

But perhaps the most famous Venetian biscuits of all are the baicoli. With their oval, elongated shape, these biscuits resemble sea bass, hence their name (baicoli means sea bass in Venetian dialect). Their very laborious baking process involves a double bake, resulting in a biscuit that’s dry yet durable. Baicoli were first created in the 1800s by a local baker who had just moved to Venice. The biscuits became increasingly popular after 1880, when Angelo Colussi started producing them on a larger scale and selling them in the now iconic tins depicting a Venetian man offering his love to a woman. Back in the day, they were the perfect food to bring on long sea journeys. Now, they can be found all over Venice and many households have a least one tin of baicoli somewhere in their larder. Because baicoli are not very sweet, they’re usually used as an accompaniment, dipped in coffee, zabaione or chocolate.

So, next time you’re in Venice, don’t leave without having tried some of its legendary biscotti.

Table display with dry biscuits and tea

 Image credits: The Hyper Localist and Colussi