Chioggia – the pantry of Venice
Not so long ago, the southernmost island in the Venetian lagoon, Chioggia, served as the pantry of Venice. A place where smallholders produced vegetables and fish for the aristocracy of the city.
The colours and the canals are unmistakably Venetian, but you don’t see many grand palaces in Chioggia. This is a working class area, where many people still work out in the open, mending nets and ropes or cleaning their small blue boats after a trip around the lagoon. A smell of tomato sauce, motor oil, fish and onion permeates the air. And you half expect to see traditionally veiled women sitting in the shade outside their front doors making baskets and lace as they did 50 years ago.
Farmers and fishermen
At that time there were nearly as many farmers in Chioggia, as there were fishermen. People had allotments along Sottomarina on the mainland, where they cultivated Rosa di Chioggia radicchio, candy striped Chioggia beets, artichokes, asparagus and many other kinds of roots and salad. And every morning they would navigate their boats through the canals with the harvest of the day. In that sense Chioggia lived up to the Venetian ideal of a sustainable economy based on both the land and the sea.
Today Sottomarina on the headland is mainly a holiday destination with lots of beaches, restaurants, hotels and campsites. But Chioggia proper has retained its position as one of the most important fishing ports on the Adriatic. And this is where you can experience one of the liveliest fish markets in Italy.Pictures from the fishing harbour in Chioggia
Visit the markets
Chioggia’s wholesale Fish Market is a huge structure selling local as well as imported products. This is where chefs and shopkeepers find a variety of fresh, conserved, frozen, smoked, dried and processed fish products from countries all over the world. This market can be found in the Via Giovanni Poli on the Isola dei Cantieri – a small island east of the old town, but it is not immediately accessible to tourists.
A smaller retail fish market is located just behind Palazzo Granaio on Corso del Popolo, where about thirty fishmongers sell local specialties. These include all kinds of mussels, octopus, shrimp, crab and lobster along with shallow water species such as sole, bass and scallops.
So even if Chioggia has developed into a tourist satellite, you don’t have to go far behind the scenes to discover, why it used to be the pantry of Venice.