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.
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.
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
SAN POLO and SANTA CROCE
When I visited here in December 2006, the markets were closed. 2007 when I visited it was very different.
Christmas Eve, mid morning, the market was buzzing! Fresh vegetables, fruits, fish and meat were all attractively displayed on the various stalls. The surrounding shops were busy selling game, poultry and horsemeat to their customers.
Queues formed outside bread, pattisserie and cold meat shops, and crowds were gathered outside the markets bars, nursing glasses of wine, prosecco and spritzs'.
After browsing the stalls I decided to buy some fruit and nuts. I selected the stall I liked the look of and took my place. 15 minutes later and myself and other locals still hadn't been served. The young woman at the side of me was getting quite annoyed that others had queue jumped and been served before her - if a local was having this much trouble, I'd got no chance! So I decided to miss out on the clementines, brazil nuts, and jar of olives that I'd been anticipating eating later, and left.
Next stop, the fish market - after spending some time enjoying watching the traghetta travelling backwards and forwards across this stretch of the Grand Canal, with its nervous passengers, clinging to each other. Something for me to try later!
The fish market was nearly closing, but I got the chance to look at the displays and take a few photos. I particularly enjoyed looking at the sculptures of fish and sea related items adourning the outside of this market.
So Christmas Eve at the market was an experience that I really enjoyed, it reminded me of when I was growing up, when My mother and all our neighbours still shopped for fresh produce daily from individual shops, and that extra buzz of shopping for food for our Christmas meals.
FOR THOSE WHO'VE BEEN FOLLOWING MY TIPS IN ORDER AS A WALK, YOU CAN NOW RETURN TO SAN MARCO, OR CONTINUE EXPLORING MORE.
THE FOLLOWING TIPS DON'T FOLLOW A ROUTE, BUT ARE DIVIDED INTO SESTIERIS.
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.
The daily fruit and veg market of Rialto is a colourful way to see the bustling buyers of daily produce. Carnival time is even more colourful as the stall holders dress up in costumes - that must be a great sight!
Go in the last hour of trading and you can get half price bargains too.
The Rialto market situated very close to the Ponte Rialto, formerly known as trade marks for the trading of coal, wine, oil, fish, fruit, vegetables, rich textiles and spices. A walk through the Rialto area shall not be missed, for one can notice the old street names, obviously named after that particular trade activity in that street.
Today the Rialto Market sells fruit, vegetables, flowers, fish and souvenirs, while being surrounded with restaurants and all kind of shops.
Just adjacent to the fruit and veg market on the grand canal is the fish market. Glad I saw it when it was over - phew, the smell of fish and seeing wriggling eels is not for me - but i did enjoy lookin at the neo-gothic fish market hall (built 1907). Really handy location for the seagulls to mop up the bits!
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)!
Note: Please click the photographs to see it all!
While visiting the Rialto Bridge and the shops surrounding it, a shopkeeper suggested that we visit the Rialto Fish Market (Pescheria). What a great suggestion.
From the pictures, you can see how interesting this visit is. I have never seen so many different kinds of sea life. There are fish that I had never heard of before.
The best time to see it is early in the morning when the locals are there shopping, and the people who own restaurants are there to purchase their seafood for the day.
The action is hectic with sellers "hawking" their catch, and anxious buyers jostling to get just the best merchandise.
If you go at dawn, you will be able to see the barges filled with actual crates of seafood arrive and unload at the quayside by the Grand Canal. Quite a sight!
Early Morning until Noon Tuesday-Saturday
Closed Sunday and Monday
As well as browsing the shops in the arcades of the Ruga degli Orefici take notice of the colourful frescoes that adorn the passageways here. It was much quieter at night when we were here again and it was easier to admire them without all the crowds.
There are few places like this to be found where we live, in San Francisco. While taking the vaporetti one day, I saw what looked like empty market stalls. I made it a point to find that area on foot the next morning, when I was sure the market would be open. I'm so glad we did!
Across the Rialto Bridge, down a ways and to the right, along the Grand Canal waterfront, you will find a produce and fish market. The locals were obviously doing their grocery shopping for the day. So much wonderful produce and seafood -- it was a treat for the eyes and the soul!
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.
Rialto Market has been the centre of trade for centuries, from 1097 onwards to be exact.
Every morning the merchants come with their fresh fruits and vegetables. The shopowners display their goods on the bridge and there's a really southern market feeling.
The Rialto Market is on the Santa Croce side of the main Island, straight across from the Rialto bridge.
Initially there a number of gift and craft stalls, and then by the waters edge are the fruit and fish markets.
The whole area is a hub of activity and it great fun walking around checking out the produce.
There is also a traghetto which is only E0.50 to cross to the other side on which is a bargain.
Definitely worth a visit before carrying on to wander around San Polo or the Cannaregio districts.