Markets - Mercati, Venice
A visit, best before 9 am, to the fish market is like visiting the collections of the sea life department of a natural history museum. The variety of fish, shellfish, cephalopods and mollusks is amazing.
And there is the extraordinary freshness!
There is on the French television a competition for amateur cooks called "MasterChef" (which I think exists also in other countries). It happened that the 8 finalists were taken to Venice to prove their talent in cooking Venetian dishes. They had to get the products at the Mercato-Pescheria and then to cook at their choice what they thought to be Venetian specialties.
All of the competitors and the judges were full of admiration for the products on sale at the fish market. Most of the candiates prepared excellent plates.
If amateurs can prepare such good things with the products sold at the Mercato I wonder why so many visitors of Venice are deceived by what they eat in the restaurants.
I think there are two types of cooks in Venice: those who cook to earn money from the tourists and those who cook for the pleasure of their guests.
I put here some photos of good "raw materials" found on the market leaving the names in Italian as you will find them on the menu of your restaurant.
You will see that they are very well labeled according to prevailing regulations.
The since the turn of the millenium existing market was rebuilt after the fire of 1514 by Antonio Abbondi. His work largely repeated the previous, but unified the design of the new shops and created distinctive from each other divisions. The pescheria was built in 1907 in the Venetian Gothic style by the architect Domenico Rupolo.
If you want to see some Venetians not directly involved in tourism you might find some at the Pescheria, along the Grand Canal, not far from the Rialto Bridge. The building of the fish market is easy to recognise by the red blinds between the columns of the arcades. The first fish market on this spot goes back to the 11th c. The neo-gothic style building you will see now dates from 1907.
It is important to note that the opening days are Tuesday to Saturday, the hours 6 to 12 am. The fish is caught at night in the lagoon (at least that was the case a century ago).
Like many things of life in the ancient Republic of Venice fishing and selling fish had to follow a strict legislation. In 1227 there was already a charter "Capitulare de pescatoribus" fixing all details of periods of fishing, type of fishnets, hygiene of the fish market. Control was by the administrative organism called "Giustizia Vecchia". As you can see the EU commission did not much invent!
In the 19th c. there were a thousand of fishermen mostly on the many islands of the Laguna but only 160 were allowed to sell their fish in Venice. This function was reserved to the elder fishermen in order to provide them an income.
I ignore if these rules and traditions are still actual but what is sure is that for eating fresh fish in a Venetian restaurant it is best to avoid Sunday and Monday when the fish market "Pescheria" is closed.
Furthermore if you want to see the stalls full of fresh fish and sea food exposed on ice you must go there early in the morning. Not later than 10 am, best before 9 am when the locals buy their fish.
You will also see that for all type of fishes and other sea food price and name are clearly indicated as well as origin.
Venezia has a super fish market, and even if you are not interested in buying seafood, the walk through will be an experience, bring your camera.
They are open in the mornings, and you are going to see all kinds of fish and shells fish, some flown in from the Atlantic. Stroll through and keep your eyes on the sea gulls who are super thieves at flying in a grabbing a snack for themselves.
The area known as Rialto is one of the oldest in Venice. While most people associated this name with the famous bridge, the area first gained popularity because of its markets established during the 11th century. In fact, the Rialto bridge was constructed to give more people access to the Rialto markets, which are still in operation today. It's worth getting up early at least once during a trip to Venice (the markets are open until noon, from Monday to Saturday) to walk around the "mercati" area and see boats arrive full of fresh fruits and vegetables for the Erberia market while others make their way over to the Campo della Pescheria to deliver fish and seafood. I also really enjoyed walking around the little streets crammed between the bridge and the markets - perhaps because it's one of the city's oldest areas, we found some streets that were no more than a few feet wide!
Since 1097, fish and other fresh produce have been sold at this very exchange, known as il Mercato di Rialto. Little has changed since ancient times, for the market receives the hustle and bustle of locals and tourists alike, even if only the locals are there to make a purchase. The location of the market, overlooking the Grand Canal in the area also known as Rialto in the San Polo sestiere, is due to the fact that this was the earliest inhabited part of Venice. The market is divided into two parts, il Mercato del Pesce di Rialto and il Mercato della Frutta e Verdura, for fish and fresh produce, respectively. The fish market is located underneath the building known as la Pescheria, which was built only in 1907 in a neo-Gothic style, as a replacement to a 19th century steel structure. It is well worth wandering into the market one morning and allowing your senses to experience it! Il Mercato di Rialto is open Tuesday through Saturday from 7:30 am until 12 noon.
Campo della Pescaria is very close to the Rialto Bridge. Here every morning there is the fish market with fish fished in the lagoon and in the Adriatic Sea. The Pescheria was built in 1907 by Domenico Rupolo and Cesare Laurenti with a facade in Neo-Gothic style.
San Giacomo di Rialto (pic 1) is probably the oldest church in Venice! It is located in the middle of the famous Rialto market, which you will visit anyway. It was probably built in 421 (in the time of the first arrivals) and was the only building of the campo di Rialto hat survived the fire of 1513 when all the surrounding buildings (residences for the merchants) destroyed. The church we see today dates from the 11th century when the Rialto market settled in the area so it was there for the use of the merchants. The church is called S.Giacometo because of its small size but the most interesting thing is the large clock(pic 2) above the entrance that was created in the 15th century.
Campo di Rialto was always the place where the trade with merchants from all over the world were taking place. If you go early in the morning you will notice a boom of colors and smells. The nearby Pescheria is the fish market(pic 3). I didn’t buy any fish because I wouldn’t know where to cook them and I don’t like sushi that much :) The neo gothic building that houses the fish market was built in 1917 and has many arches. The earlier you go the better so try to be there as early as you can when the fishermen bring their stuff and the market bustles with life from locals and tourists. It opens at about 7.00am but till 13.00 everyone is gone.
An interesting experience, especially early in the morning. All kinds of seafood are offered here, including some you may never have seen before. In the area there vegetable stands and meat and cheese stores as well.
The boats/vaperettos carry the burden of getting goods to the islands daily. They seem to do that with ease. All types of goods are transported into the city to serve the retail, food and nick knack industry for the establishments. It is absolutely amazing that this all works so smoothly. many stores compete so heavily with its neighbor that it is hard to figure why more store fronts are not boarded up. On the other hand, many tourists come by daily along the routes, and it only takes one to buy to make their day. I have great respect for the proprietors who treat all tourists with dignity, and tolerate many foreign traits that can be irritating. The Rialto market has been in operation since 1097 to vendors of fish, fruits, meats and spices. It is a daily routine for the locals to come here and shop. I did not see any supermarcato in Venice.
The Pescheria (fish market) is well worth a wander, not least because of he huge variety of fish/veggies/fruit on the surrounding stalls.
And because it's full of ordinary Venetians doing ordinary shopping, and there aren't so many tourists (the 'tourist tat' talls are nearer the Ponte Rialto, in the main).
And because the colours are wonderful (especially for someone from grey UK).
It made me wish I was self-catering!
There are brilliant cheese stalls around the Ruga degli Orefici, and some very dimly-lit, male-dominated porter's bars in the Calle do Mori/Calle do Spade (I didn't dare go in, just peeped as I went by!).
But the best bit for me, apart from the food (obviously) was the smiley fish-heads carved into the market structure. Do have a look for them: they are very happy fishies (see photos)!
SAN POLO and SANTA CROCE
Venetians all gravitate to the markets of the Rialto, for their daily shopping and socialising.
As more local shops close in favour of souvenir shops to appease the hoards of tourists, these markets remain the stronghold for the tradition of Venetian trading.
Each housewife will have her favoured butcher, baker, grocer, fishmonger etc, but woe betide them if they offer a sub standard item, or try to give short measure!
The Fish Market (Pescaria) was built in 1907, and sells fresh fish and shellfish to the local restaurants and shoppers.
The Butchers street (Calle dei Beccarie) heads into Campo Beccarie, from which a maze of tiny alleyways lead.
This is the area where valuable commodities such as sugar, pepper and spices were sold, (Sugar was once equal to gold weight for weight!!)
The Fruit and Vegetable Market - The Erberia is probably the largest area of the market, stretching nearly from the corner of the Rialto Bridge, at the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi, to the Campo San Giacomo.
Barges arrive at dawn with their crates of produce to be unloaded. The best time to see the market is early morning, it is usually closing around 12 noon. However, remember that this is where the Venetians are carrying out their daily lives, it's not a good idea to be barging the shoppers out of the way to get a photo!! However, it's a good place to buy food for snacking on, and a chance to practice Your Italian.
When I visited at Christmas 06, the stalls were all empty, a slight whiff of fish, and the various discarded boxes and crates, giving a clue as to what would normally be sold from the deserted stalls. I enjoyed wandering about the market stalls and the maze like lanes, and it didn't cost anything!.
UPDATE Christmas Eve 2007, I spent a pleasant few hours wandering around the atmospheric market stalls - then enjoying the bars here at night
The Rialto Fish Market is known locally as the ‘Pescheria’. The current high arching building was built in 1917 on the site of a working fish market over the last 600 years. I have been to Venice 3 times and never seen it fully in operation. If you want fresh fish, you need to get up early!
Opening Hours are:
7.30am to 12:00pm - Tuesday to Saturday
this is the shop of the masks that have been done for the film 'eyes wide shut'.There are lots of mask shops but you can also mention in that shop that the owner women are not just painting the white masks but also building up new mask shapes at the back of the shop. You can find masks about 50-80 euros but be sure that the ones you fall in love will be at the prizes 150-300 euro:)
What an experience - 6am and the fishermen just bring in their catch --- all filled in ice-crates and set on display.
You probably need a private boat to get over to Burano THAT early in the morning--- or maybe even ask a fishermen to take you - that's what I did :)
FISHY BUSINESS indeed ... you will find it by the smell - mostly ...