Rialto Fish Market – Mercato del Pesce in Venice:
Getting up early for sightseeing isn’t our idea of a fun thing to do on holidays, but to catch the action at the Rialto fish market (Mercato del Pesce) we made the effort. To see the stallholders receiving their barge loads of seafood supplies would have required us to be there at the crack of dawn, but we didn’t bother. We arrived at the percheria (fish market) at 8:00 a.m. to find the place was quite free of tourists and the only people in the market were a few local shoppers and a number of restaurant chefs buying their day’s supplies.
The Rialto markets are made up of the pesheria (fish market) and the erberia (fruit and vegetable market) and both are open to the public. This is where Venetians and the restaurant chefs come for their daily supplies and it gives you an idea of what’s being cooked in the kitchens of Venice. We’ve strolled through the Rialto market area many times before, but usually never early enough to see the fish market in operation as it closes around midday.
Mercato del Pesce
The fish market was a visual treat of colour and different shapes and sizes of fish, crustaceans and shellfish. But apart from the photo opportunities, we love seafood and it was fascinating for us to see the range of seafood in the market and the huge quantities available. Venice may only have a small population of some 60,000 inhabitants, but the Rialto markets also supply food to feed the millions of tourists that visit Venice each year.
As we strolled around the Mercato del Pesce, it was interesting to note the different names of seafood in Italian and to discover what we have been eating in the local trattorias and osterie. The night before we had some San Pietro and only discovered today that this is in fact John Dory. Cannoce was another seafood that we frequently saw on menus and had no idea what it was until this morning. On hindsight, we should have visited the Rialto Fish Market earlier in our Venice visit before hitting the restaurants. I was thrilled to see plentiful supplies of vongole and cozze in the market as spaghetti vongole is one of my favourite dishes.
Whilst taking snaps, I also watched the serious discussions between fishmongers and restaurant chefs as they decided what seafood to buy for their establishment for the day. One chef I followed around selected a few pieces of one fish and a few pieces of another and it was reassuring to see that they buy just enough for the day rather than purchasing a lot to stick in the freezer. Certainly if I were living in Venice, this is a place I will happily visit regularly to stock up on fresh supplies.
Visiting the Rialto Fish Market
When planning a visit to the fish market, note that it is not open on Monday. So it follows that if you’re planning a seafood restaurant meal, avoid Monday as the seafood will not be as fresh.
If you are catching the vaporetto, get off at the Rialto stop. Walk cross the Rialto Bridge and you will find yourself in the San Polo shopping area – at 8 am, most of the stalls were still closed. Walk a little to the right and you’ll find the fruit and vegetable market and a little further along is the Mercato del Pesce.