In the past times Chioggia was the largest fishing port on the Adriatic. Even today, fishing is very important part of the local economy and the most comon occupation among the local population. The Fresh Fish Market (Pescheria) offers, on a daily basis, excellent choice of fresh fishes from the Adriatic Sea, which is in terms of quality among the best in the world. Don't miss it when in Chioggia, especially if seafood lover as I am.
Jacket needed most of the year
If it is not July or August, you will need a jacket on a windy day. The weather here is very similar to San Francisco. In the depth of winter you will need a coat, the humidity makes the cold worse cutting right through your clothing and chilling you to the bone.
It snows in January and February in the Veneto. Chap Stick for dry lips Bottle of water
CHIOGGIA - THE BACK DOOR TO VENEZIA
Chióggia, at the southern end of the Laguna Veneta, has two faces – the lido, Sottomarina, which is just as faceless as any of the other resorts along this stretch of the Adriático, and, on the opposite side of a broad inlet, crossed by a causeway, the old town. Two canal-streets remain, though the main urban thoroughfare was filled in many years ago. On the right of this view the pavement runs through arcades beneath the porticoed buildings.
Let us continue our visit to Chioggia - and travel on to Venezia - in the company of Des Whittaker, in my novel 'The Rape of Arcadia' . . .
One day early in October 2001 I left home at the crack of dawn and drove north through the autumnal mist along the Nº. 309 or Strada Romea to Chióggia. My brief from ERRR was to visit the offices, bus depot, and shipyard of the Azienda del Consorzio Trasporti Veneziano (ACTV), in order to collect material to be incorporated into an interview-feature with one of the company’s senior engineering managers. The article would cover ACTV’s latest buses, its proposals for a tramway network linking the city with Mestre, Marghera and Favaro, and its so-called ‘ecological’ vaporetto, built in 1999, fitted with a hybrid battery/genset propulsion system, and designed to reduce wash turbulence and resulting damage to the foundations of the ancient buildings lining the main canals in Venezia. The buses and tramway project would form the main part of the text, the innovatory water-bus would feature in a half-page insert panel.
Now, the easiest way of getting into Venezia from the south is by the so-called Linea Mista operated by ACTV from Chióggia. This novel public transport route avoids having to drive all the way round the eastern shore of the great lagoon, then fighting one’s way through the nightmarish traffic of industrial Mestre, and finally paying the earth for parking at Piazzale Roma. The only potential snag in using the Linea Mista can be finding a free parking space in Chióggia. After all, the Italians (well, most of them) have a passionate love affair with the infernal combustion engine on wheels. That morning I was lucky. I located and claimed a vacant space near the railway station, from where it is a pleasant walk of about a kilometre along the broad, pedestrianised Campo G. Marconi (a canal which was filled in many, many moons ago, in fact), to the landing stage.
From Chióggia a small motorship plies to Pellestrina, a humble village at the southern end of the long, thin island of the same name. A bus then conveys passengers northwards up the island to Santa Maria del Mare, where they join a car ferry for the ten-minute crossing of the Porto di Malamoco to Alberoni, where another bus awaits for the drive to Lido, at the northern tip of the island bearing this name. And from Lido there are frequent vaporetti to and from La Serenissima. One buys a biglietto 24 ore, which for a bargain price gives one unlimited travel on all ACTV public transport services for twenty-four hours following the precise moment when you choose to validate it by stamping it. Lagoon travel could not be simpler - or more fun.
On this particular morning I found myself queuing on the ACTV pontone for my biglietto behind a tall, slender young lady, clad in a long, beige coat and ankle-length bottle-green skirt. A white woollen scarf was wrapped around her neck, in deference to the early morning chill, which after the scorching summer can come as a rude shock. Down her back, reaching almost to her waist, hung a mane of straight, glossy, fawn-coloured hair, this being a not uncommon shade in those parts of northern Italy bordering on Slovenia, Austria and Switzerland. She was carrying over her shoulder a dark green canvas overnight bag of modest proportions.
Continued in the Travelogue for Chioggia . . .
At the ticket window she asked for a 15,000-lire 24-hour ticket, and offered what looked to me like a 100,000-lire note. This provoked an explosive reaction from the other side of the glass, the ticket vendor (who was also one of the crew off the motorship, the office only being staffed when the vessel was alongside) gesticulating in the direction of the various bars which border the Piazza Vigo, most of which were still closed at this early hour. In a quiet, cultured voice she explained this unfortunate fact to him, adding that the ship was scheduled to leave in a couple of minutes, and that she was extremely sorry, but having paid for her hotel room and breakfast she had practically no small change left.
The vendor-cum-crew member then suggested that she should catch the next service an hour later. She gently protested, explaining that if she did so, she would be late for an appointment in Venezia. I made a quick search of my wallet, produced a 50,000-lire note, and waved it in the air.
‘Scusi, Signor; due biglietti 24 ore, per favore.’
The girl turned and regarded me with a mixture of astonishment and relief. I quickly took in her spontaneous smile, her greyish-brown eyes, which twinkled with kindly humour behind thick-lensed glasses with gold-plated metal frames, and her finely sculptured, aristocratic facial features.
Uttering a grunt of satisfaction, the man behind the desk promptly slapped down two tickets together with two 10,000-lire notes in change, before glancing at his watch and gruffly declaring, ‘Andiamo!’
I only spent a few evening hours in Chioggia, so I didn't see much of the town - we only walked around and had dinner in a lovely restaurant -, but I really liked it, so I'm definitely planning to return.
‘That was molto gentile of you,’ she said to me as we boarded Adria and together ascended the broad companionway to the open upper deck. ‘But it places me in a most embarrassing situation, because I now owe you 15,000 lire. It is perfectly true that I have only one ten thousand note and a bit of small change on me, apart from larger denomination notes, and there is no way I can hope to pay you back until we reach Venezia. I suppose you are travelling as far as Venezia, aren’t you?’
My morning destination, I told her, was the S. Angelo pontone on the Canal Grande, the closest vaporetto stop to the ACTV offices. Doubtless by the time we arrived - it would be nearly eleven before we reached the city - we would both be in need of some liquid refreshment, hopefully at an establishment willing to split a 100,000-lire note. If not, there was always the option of a bank, though visits to banks in Italy can be protracted affairs. Roll on the introduction of the Euro at the end of the year. Here in Italy it would make our wallets and purses a lot less bulky - though what it would do to the real cost of living I - and most Italians - dreaded to think.
Apologetically, my companion informed me that a morning break for coffee in the city would be out of the question, since she had a meeting at eleven with the curator of an art gallery near the Ca’Rezzonico. When we discovered that the steward who manned the snack bar on board Adria was none other than the ill-tempered ticket vendor, she suggested instead that we should lunch together at a trattoria she named on the Isola della Giudecca. This island, being one of the few districts in Venezia not frequented by tourists, was therefore blessed with various humble eating places which charged near-normal Italian prices while offering value for money fare.
During our nearly two-hour journey into the city I learned that her name was Anna Vallardi, that she was thirty-six years old (but looked a good ten years younger), and that she lived with her parents in Vergato, a small market town in the Reno valley to the south of Bologna. She was a lecturer in nineteenth century Italian art at Bologna University. Her visit to Venezia (and the previous day to Chióggia, where she had spent the night) was in connection with some aspects of research for her doctoral thesis.
We did indeed meet up as arranged outside the Ca’Rezzonico, then threaded the narrow lanes to the Zattere ai Gesuati, from where we caught one of the frequent vaporetti on the Linea 5 or Circolare (which is the ideal way for a newcomer to see as much as possible of Venezia from the water) across the Canale della Giudecca to the former Jewish quarter of the city. Our conversation resumed and continued unabated over a modest lunch starting with pasta with tomato, mushrooms and olives, followed by succulent grilled veal fillets (still pink and oozing blood in the middle) served with massive dollops of spinach and juicy wedges of lemon, accompanied by a litre jug of red wine and packs of crispy bread sticks, and concluded with apple tart, coffee, and grappa. This fuelled us both adequately for our afternoon meetings, hers with the curator of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, mine with the ACTV shipyard manager out in the wilds at S. Elena.
At the end of the day we reunited at the Lido pontone and travelled back together as far as Chióggia. The mist had lifted by late morning, and by the time we were on board Adria, southbound from Pellestrina, the setting sun was silhouetting the fishermen’s huts on stilts and the long lines of wooden stakes which rose out of the mirror-calm lagoon.
Postal addresses, telephone numbers and e-mail addresses were duly exchanged, and we promised to keep in touch.
Curious to know what happened after that? Read my novel 'The Rape of Arcadia'!
It is frequently said that one should write from experience. The above snippet is based very loosely on a sweet but brief encounter en route from Chioggia to Venezia in the autumn of 1987 (and yes, I was on my way to an appointment to visit the ACTV shipyard . . .)