The fish market in Venice
The fish market in the Rialto area
There is a postcard for every corner in Venice: Rialto Bridge, Saint Mark’s Square, Grand Canal, Bridge of Sighs… there is none of the Fish Market.
Because the market is not on sale and not to be sold, there is a heart beating that resists to hit and run tourism.
Because the fish market in the Rialto area has something unique and genuine: think about the fact that it’s among the oldest fish markets in the world (almost 950 years) and still run by the native population.
Almost thousand years of history and stories: thousands of tons of fish bought and sold, generations of fishmongers and fishermen who are still preserving the essence of this market, which used to be included into a huge one.
The Rialto market used to offer everything you needed: Venice was actually “invented” to be a department store, a huge mall “where everything was to be found, in a city that not one single own resource”.
From slave trading to the commerce of spices; from gold to furs, from metals and weapons to food and silk… a gigantic trade centre led only by Venetians themselves. Merchants and brokers of the biggest marketplace in Europe.
The journey of our fish towards Rialto
We are going to start our tour where tours are forbidden: from the wholesale fish market (MERCATO ITTICO). There starts the journey of our fish to the retail market in Rialto, right into the heart of the city.
Here arrives every kind of fish from every sea and ocean, ready to be unloaded from trucks and fisher boats. Haggling will start in a short while. These are kind of jobs which are both fascinating and hard…tired and wrinkled faces due to the nights spent on board, or to early wakings just to be here on time, when the siren calls to the negotiations.
It’s a nighttime work, mysterious and almost secret…because the door won’t be opened for us, the outsiders.
The best fish buyers try to get to local fish, the most expensive one: canoce, caparosoli, folpetti, soasi, otregani, bisati… not even Italians would know what these names are about. Impossible for a “foresto”, a foreigner.
Finally the fish arrives at the market, unloaded from the typical venetian boats called “topi”, and prepared on the stands packed with ice. Since 4 o’clock in the morning workers start to get ready to welcome the fish. At 7 o’clock the market is officially opened.
Slowly the market awakes the city…
Slowly the market awakes the city, the “Bacari” and “osterie” (our local wine bars) are already packed with market workers, earlybirds and the last party people.
During the entire morning housewives, retired gentlemen, employees and everyone who decides to buy food or meet and greet or simply melt with the local population walk through the fish stands: and the colors of the sea catch life, and the sound of the market too. What you hear speaking is Venetian, our local language. Here you speak Venetian, here you yell Venetian, because apparently the “homo veneticus” is unable to speak softly.
Orate, branzini, seppie, telline, canestrelli e peoci… everything is displayed in the most tasty way. Every fishmonger will prepare and “clean” your fish in filets and seagulls seem to be everywhere, ready to eat what they are throwing away. You can feel the sea… you can smell the sea… you can see the sea. If kindly requested, tasty recipes are to be given by the fishmongers themselves: they won’t be speaking your language, but strangely everyone’s happy and perfectly understand. Maybe the couple of glasses of wine?
A guided tour at the fish market and its colors, to its activities and history is not only interesting and unique to know about fish and to understand the Venetian society. It’s also worth to be done in order to mix up with the real native population which is fighting to be real and not part of a postcard.
This kind of tour deserves time and love for all what’s:
For families, kids, photographers, traveling souls, couples…
For everybody, but not for squeamish ones!