Category Archives: Venice

Celebrating Carnevale in Venice

Costumers on a bridge, Venice

Models on a Small Bridge, Venice

Venice during Carnevale (Carnival) is a magical, mysterious, place. Stunning architecture, hidden romantic corners, dreamy canals, and history around every corner provide the perfect backdrops for the hundreds of models who arrive from around the world to celebrate the ancient festival.

Solange posing on the steps

Solange on the Grand Stairway of a Venetian Palazzo

For two weeks the alleyways and piazzas, the churches and cloisters, the bridges and towers are enveloped in the most lavish, colorful costumes and masks that you will ever see. It is as if you have stepped through a portal into the Renaissance.

No one is quite sure where the practice of wearing costumes and face coverings originated. Some think it was a throwback to an ancient Celtic tradition of covering your face on All Hallows Eve to confound evil spirits who might be lurking. Others believe that it comes from ancient Roman pagan festivities. Perhaps because Venice was at the crossroads of East and West, the veils and turbans favored by travelers from the Orient may also have contributed to the tradition.

The first known instance of Carnevale was in 1162 when people spontaneously came out to celebrate the victory against the German Patriarch of Aquileia (an ancient Roman city on the edge of the lagoon), Ulrico di Treven. By the 1500s, it developed into a way of life, with Venetians authorized to wear masks for up to six months of the year. They covered a multitude of sins, including by providing a means to avoid the strict class structure imposed by society.

Eve rides a gondola through the canals of Venice

Eve posing in a gondola, Venice

Austria outlawed Carnevale when it conquered this part of Italy (in 1797). It was only in 1979 that the festival reignited the public imagination after the Italian Government decided that it would be a perfect way to showcase the history and culture of Venice, also known as La Serenissima.

Today’s Carnevale is one of Italy’s most important festivals with up to a million visitors traveling to Venice to take part. It lasts for two weeks before Lent, ending on Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the day before Ash Wednesday.

According to Catholic teachings, during the 40 days of Lent, practitioners are not allowed to eat meat or sugar. Celebrating beforehand was a way to use up whatever supplies might remain in the house. It may well be that the word “Carnevale” comes from the Latin words “Carne” and “Vale”, or “Farewell to Meat.”

Costumer outside a medieval church, Venice

Andrea with her leaf mask during Carnevale, Venice

The date of the festival changes with the calendar. This year Carnevale runs from 11 to 28 February. Generally, the second week is the most exciting. Countless parades take place, including a flotilla of gondolas on the Grand Canal. A multitude of parties and balls in some of the city’s most exquisite palaces fill the days and nights. The most extravagant and expensive of these is the Grand Masquerade Ball. Attending any of these events, especially if you want to rent fancy dress, will set you back thousands of dollars.

Betty Blu across from Piazza San Marco

Betty Blu on Punta della Dogana

However, there is plenty to see that won’t cost you a penny. Every day, starting just before dawn, costumed and masked models appear along the waterfront of St. Mark’s Square. They pose near the gondolas as the sun rises over Isola San Giorgio Maggiore; in front of the Bridge of Sighs; on the stone bridges spanning the minuscule canals; in the cloisters of the churches or in front of the doors; in La Fenice Opera House or in the Bovolo Staircase. You will also find them on the islands of Burano and Murano and in the ballrooms of the palazzi.

The costumers, who are a variety of ages (some even in their 70s), are mostly European, predominantly Italian, French, German, and Belgian. We do find one group of costumers who are American teachers in Europe.

Most models have 2-3 different outfits each year, traveling to Venice with several trunks and suitcases. The clothes are handmade by the participants over the course of the year. Some of the dresses are so heavy, small wheels are sewn into the hem so that the person inside can move around more effectively. The headdresses can weigh as much as 7 lbs. Most wear masks on with only the whites of their eyes and irises visible.

As you follow the models around Venice, you have to admire their imagination, spirit, and dedication. They are out every day from early in the morning to late at night. Most will tell you that it is both exhausting and exhilarating.

The Bovolo Staircase, also known as The Snail with Costumers during Venetian Carnival

Models Posing in the Bovolo Staircase, Venice

Crowds of more serious photographers follow them, looking for “the perfect shot,” while tourists surround them clamoring for selfies. Photographing them is addictive. Whether it is taking photos of them in context or close up, you keep coming back for more, looking for different venues or light.

There is a certain etiquette to photographing the costumers. They rarely, if ever, speak. Instead, they communicate with hand gestures. However, if you ask them, they will almost always agree to let you take their photo and will even oblige you by posing in specific ways. All they ask in exchange is for you to send them a copy of your photos by email. Unfortunately, most people never bother, which is a great disappointment for the models.

When you have finished shooting, thank them, and ask for a business card or “cartolino” or “carte de visite.” Or you can use gestures to show that you want their visiting card. Most models carry them tucked away in a pocket or a glove. Sometimes they will ask you to photograph the card as a means of obtaining their contact information.

In addition to the costumers, there are countless visitors who rent fancy dress to get into the spirit of the festival. Even if you choose not to dress up yourself, there is much to see and do in Venice that will make you feel as if you have been transported to another place and time.

Posing in front of the Bridge of Sighs, Venice

The American Contingent near the Bridge of Sighs

IF YOU GO 

If you decide to travel to Venice independently, make your hotel reservations for 2018 as soon as possible. If you would rather travel on a tour with a professional photographer who organizes specific shoots with the models, Jim Zuckerman is one of the best. He has been running photography tours to Carnevale in Venice for over ten years. His photo tours sell out almost instantly, so book early.

During the winter, Venice is often the victim of exceptionally high tides – L’Acqua Alta – that regularly flood the city. Remember to pack a pair of rubber boots or else pick up a pair of colorful clear plastic overshoes sold throughout the city. It is the only way to get around during the flooding.

For more photographs of Carnevale go to http://www.allegriaphotos.com/EUROPE/Italy/Venice-Carnival-2016/.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2017 Diana Russler

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice

 

A sign declares this to be the most beautiful bookshop in the world

The Most Beautiful bookshop in the world, Venice

Call me old-fashioned but like many other people, I love real books that I can hold in my hands and savor by a crackling fire or on the beach. So when we travel, our first port of call is usually the local bookstore to pick up something beyond the standard guidebooks and paperback novels. In Venice, it is the Libreria Acqua Alta (which means High Waters Bookstore in English).

A gondola full of books, Libreria Acqua Alta

Full-size gondola inside the bookshop

It is an appropriate name. Perched on the side of one of the city’s numerous canals, the Libreria Acqua Alta has been and could easily again be a victim of the floods that inundate the city’s streets and businesses every winter and spring. However, the owner, Luigi Frizzo, is prepared for anything.

Sitting behind his counter, surrounded by some of the four cats that also live here, Luigi (who is 72 and fluent in five languages) relates how 15 years ago, after traveling the world for most of his life, he opened the bookstore on the Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa. He describes it as “the Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World,” pointing to a handwritten, smudged notice outside, as evidence. It is definitely one of the quirkiest bookstores in the world.

Libreria Acqua Alta's steps made from encyclopedias

Climb the steps made of encyclopedias

I ask Luigi for a cookbook of Venetian cuisine, and he immediately points me towards the front of the store, at the same time welcoming visitors, trying to guess where they are from by how they speak, inviting them to look around, to spend some time exploring his collections. And explore you must.

A full-size, intricately decorated gondola fills the front room, crammed full of books. In multiple side rooms, shelves are made of bathtubs, basins, and containers. Presumably, they will float when the bookshop floods.

Cozy nooks and crannies abound including a wooden bench overlooking the “fire escape” to the canal.  In case of fire, you simply jump into the water. You can sit and read as you watch the gondoliers pole by. But keep an eye on the level of the water or you could find it lapping at your shoes.

Libreria Acqua Alta wall of books

Repurposed books form a wall

In another courtyard, Luigi has repurposed out-of-date encyclopedias to build a staircase to the top of the wall. A hand-painted sign invites you to climb up and peer into the nearby canal. Elsewhere a wall built from piles of old books lines a small area with a table and chairs.

Luigi’s collection of books in several languages can only be described as eclectic – new and used books on a wealth of subjects including food, sports, best-sellers, art, music; comic books; old maps and postcards; novelty gift ideas and much more.

Books are piled higgledy-piggledy on tables and chairs, in some cases touching the low ceiling of the ancient building. There does not appear to be any logical order but ask Luigi for a specific title, and he unfailingly points you to the correct shelf and even the right position on the shelf.

Besides being a treasure trove for bibliophiles, the Libreria Acqua Alta offers some interesting photographic opportunities, especially during Carnevale when many models will stop by for a visit with Luigi or simply to have themselves photographed.

Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice, Italy

Carnival time at Libreria Acqua Alta, Venice

Most tourists simply walk past without a second glance but, if you are in Venice, you should stop by and, even if you don’t want to buy a book, merely enjoy the originality of Venice’s Libreria Acqua Alta. Of course, if you aren’t careful you could find many treasures to add to the weight of your luggage.

IF YOU GO

The Libreria Acqua Alta is located down a small side alley off the Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa 5176/B in the Castello area of Venice. The easiest way to find it is to go to the Campo Santa Maria Formosa (about a five-minute walk from Piazza San Marco) and then follow the Calle Lunga Santa Maria Formosa until just before you reach a small bridge over the canal. The Libreria is on the left.
Tel +39-041-296-0841
Open 9 am to 8 pm weekdays.
No specific website.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016-2017 Diana Russler

Masks of Venice

 

Bottega dei Mascareri plague doctor mask

Mask worn by the Plague Doctor, Bottega dei Mascareri

Put on a mask and you can disguise your identity and even your personality. You can pretend to be anything you want. The Germans have a word for it – maskenfreiheit or the freedom given by the mask. While the tradition of wearing such face-coverings is as old as civilization itself, there is perhaps no place where this art form is as well-developed as Venice (or the Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia) during Carnevale (Carnival).

Why? Perhaps it is a throwback to Roman pagan celebrations or even to the old Celtic tradition of covering your face on All Hallows Eve to hide from evil spirits that might be lurking. Or perhaps Venice’s position at the crossroads of trade with the East, where turbans and veils are de rigueur, led to the Serenissima’s quirky fascination with “masquerade.” In any case, masks have been a Venetian tradition since at least 1268.

Masks made by Bottega dei Mascareri

Festa del Toro masks by Bottega dei Mascareri

Through the 16th century characters from the Italian Commedia dell’Arte (Harlequin, Pulcinella, The Doctor, among others) provided inspiration to Venetians for their masks. One of the favorites was (and still is) the plague doctor who wore a special white-beaked mask in which he could conceal perfume or medicinal herbs to avoid inhaling germs.

Another is the “Bauta”. Men wore the angular white mask with tricolored hat and black cape to political meetings to be able to express their views anonymously. In addition, black velvet masks were worn in brothels or gambling parlors to hide the identity of the owner.

By the 18th century Venetians were allowed to wear masks for almost six months of the year, from the first Sunday in October to Christmas, then again from Epiphany (January 6) until midnight on Fat Tuesday when a bell announced the end of festivities and the beginning of Lent.

Masquerade became a way to avoid the strict social order of the Serenissima. It you couldn’t identify the person behind the mask, you had no idea of his/her social status. However, it was not a complete free-for-all. Laws on the books forbade the wearing of masks after dark or when visiting Convents. But, by and large, the mask provided the anonymity for pagan debauchery.

Back room of the Ca' Macana mask workshop

The Ca’ Macana Mask Workshop

When the Republic of Venice fell to Austria in 1798, Carnevale was outlawed, although some adherents continued to celebrate surreptitiously. However, the festival disappeared entirely in the 1930s when Mussolini banned it.

It remained a forgotten festival until 1979 when a group of young Venetians decided to revive the history and culture of Venice, together with the long-forgotten art of mask-making.

Today, Carnevale is one of Italy’s most important festivals transporting you back in time as hundreds of extravagantly costumed and masked models wander the ancient streets, admired (and photographed) by visitors from all over the world.

You can join them in the age-old tradition of the masquerade. All you need is a mask (or a full costume if you are so inclined).

As with everything else in the world,  cheap, imitation masks made in China hang from the souvenir stands. However, the true Venetian mask is a work of art, and there are only a few shops in the city where they can be found. Even film director Stanley Kubrick selected masks from these studios for his cult classic, Eyes Wide Shut.

Mask painting workshop, Ca' Macana, Venice

Painting a mask, Ca’ Macana, Venice

The Bottega dei Mascareri, at the foot of the Rialto Bridge on the San Polo side, is one of our favorites. Started in 1984 by Sergio and Massimo Boldrin, the shop is a treasure trove of extravagant, whimsical creations, each more beautiful than the next. It is one of the places we return to every time we are in Venice.

On this trip we find Sergio busy making masks for participants in one of the many parades of Carnevale, this one involving a bull, pigs and the 12 Marias, a tradition dating back to Medieval times. He and his brother have made over 150 masks for the event.

Even though he is exceptionally busy, he still stops for a chat and to help us pick out another mask for our collection.

“A true Venetian mask,” he tells us, “has to be supple and pliable.”

He explains how it is done. Clay is used to make a shape for the mask (the negative); alabaster is poured in to make the mould (the positive). This mould is then filled with strips of special paper soaked in adhesive that dry to form the mask. The trick is to produce a clean white slate, devoid of folds or creases, a canvas for further decoration. In this case, Sergio is using gold and copper leaf to decorate his latest creation.

In another part of town, Guerrino Lovato presides over Ca’Macana. Located just across Campo San Barnaba (Dorsoduro), Ca’Macana has an enormous selection of masks that you can purchase, some for several hundred euros. Or for a unique Venetian experience, you can make your own under the watchful eye of one of the workshop’s resident artists. It is a way to experience Venice when the rain is pelting down, and the models have gone into hiding to avoid ruining their elaborate costumes.

In the corner of the workshop, tucked away down a tiny alley, are stacks of white masks in different shapes and sizes.

Having picked one each, we decide on our color schemes and types of decoration. Plastic aprons are provided, and we go to work, our efforts punctuated with exclamations of disgust (and dare I say it, even expletives) as our unsteady hands slip or drops of paint spatter where they are not intended to be.

A completed mask, Ca'Macana workshop

Gold mask, Ca’Macana workshop

First, we apply an acrylic base to the mask. When it is dry, detail is added to the eyes and cheeks with different colored paints . A coat of lacquer seals the paint. In between layers, a hair dryer dries the mask to prepare it for the next step. Then you can add sequins, feathers, ribbon — any detail you want.

Ecco! You have your own original mask. And while we certainly could not compete with the opulent masks and costumes worn by the hundreds of models in Venice, we have a disguise with which to mingle, free from any constraints! Maskenfreiheit!

IF YOU GO

Bottega dei Mascareri
San Polo 80 Ponte del Rialto
Tel. +39-041-522-3857
Open daily 0900-1800
www.mascarer.com

Ca’Macana
Sestiere Dorsoduro 3172
Tel. +39-041-277-6142
Call for hours and availability of mask-making classes. There are several options available. Our one-hour class cost 44 euros per person which included the cost of the mask and an illustrated book about this Venetian art form.
www.camacana.com

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Diana Russler

High Waters in Venice

 

Venice under Water, the Basilica San Marco

Basilica San Marco under High Waters

It rained heavily in Venice this weekend. Big deal! Rain is inevitable. Indeed! But combine the heavy rain with high tide and a strong Sirocco wind blowing off North Africa and Venice is quickly inundated under several feet of water – the infamous Acqua Alta or High Waters.

Yesterday’s flood was particularly intense, cresting at 1m40 or 4.5 feet before the waters began to recede. At that depth, you would need to swim to get through St. Mark’s Square.

The Venetians who still live in the city seem indifferent to it all. They have the appropriate barricades against the water on their doors and, when all else fails, they don their rubber boots and go about their business, cleaning up the ensuing mess as required.

Tourists, on the other hand, seem to think the flooding is an event to be experienced. They take off their shoes and wade through the salt water that covers Piazza San Marco. Some even go swimming when it is deep enough. You have to wonder what they are thinking. Apart from being very cold, the water is a maelström of garbage and debris not to mention having a high bacteria content. It may seem like a lark but this is deadly serious business.

Piazza San Marco underwater

Cafes on Piazza San Marco, High Waters

Built on Alder poles driven into the muddy lagoon, Venice is a collection of about 124 islands inhabited starting in the 7th century and gradually developing into the city we know today. Venetians have always had a number of strategies to defend their city from the sea either by building sea walls or even by diverting two major rivers.

They also developed a system of constructing their palazzos without fixed masonry (a feat of Medieval engineering) that allowed the buildings to move and adapt to the uneven settling of the ground beneath them. Or they built up the land to raise it above sea level. For example, there are at least five levels of stones beneath the existing Piazza San Marco.

A number of changes made to the lagoon in the 20th century, however, made the city more vulnerable to flooding. For example, until the practice was halted in the 1970s, industrial plants on the mainland removed groundwater from Venice to use in their production cycle, causing the city to sink at an accelerated rate.

Deep channels were dug into the lagoon so the cruise liners and oil tankers, so detested by the Venetians, could be accommodated – but that is another story.

However, the main cause of flooding today is not so much that Venice is sinking (it is) but that sea levels are rising – the result of climate change.

The net effect is that the city floods more frequently and more severely. Although there has not been a flood as devastating as the one that occurred in 1966 when the water level rose a record 76.4 inches, last year over 75 percent of the city flooded with saltwater, eating away at the canal walls and the foundations of buildings.

The lowest point in the city is Piazza San Marco, a mere 31-inches above sea level. It is the first to flood – over 200 times a year. Even when there is no Acqua Alta, it is common to see salt water gurgling up from the drains at high tide, leaving pools of water across the Piazza that Napoleon is said to have called “The Drawing Room of Europe.”

When the waters are high enough, city workers position long wooden walkways in the most “at risk” areas so that people can keep their feet dry. But the walkways are only two feet high and of limited use when the water is higher.

There seems only one hope for Venice – the construction of a series of underwater floodgates that are raised to keep out the high tides. Originally proposed in 1972, a Consortium of construction companies started construction of MOSE (Modulo Sperimentale Elettromecanico) in 1982. It is somewhat ironic that MOSE is the Italian name for Moses, of Red Sea-parting fame. It was supposed to be finished in 1995 at a cost of $2.1 billion. Thirty years later the costs have risen to $7.8 billion, and it is unlikely to be operational until 2018 or perhaps even 2020. Apart from the usual bureaucratic delays endemic to doing business in Italy, in 2014 an investigation into corruption led to the arrest of 35 individuals involved in the project, including members of the Venetian Government.

The premise of the project is similar to London’s Tidal Barrier. Seventy-eight steel gates, resting on the bottom of the lagoon at strategic locations fill with compressed air and rise to meet the incoming sea. Once the danger of flooding has passed, the gates refill with water and sink back down into the lagoon.

A central control center is already operational in a converted chapel in the Arsenale where staff members monitor charts and diagrams as well as cameras installed on the gates and determine when they should be opened and closed.

Multi colored flood boots, Venice

Visitors coping with High Waters

Environmentalists and Venetians are skeptical, but there doesn’t seem to be a better solution, bearing in mind that the MOSE will only protect the city from tides of up to 3 meters (about 10 feet) for about 100 years. Presumably, in that time humanity will have come up with a different, more permanent solution. As John Keats once wrote, “if the thought of Venice sinking captures the imagination, then it should be a wake-up call to save the city as an essential basis of the civilization we cherish.”

If you happen to visit Venice between November and April and hear a siren, find your way to higher ground since this is the signal that the Acqua Alta is about to engulf the city. Fortunately, it only lasts a few hours until the tide has peaked and then it seeps away until the next time.

IF YOU ARE IN VENICE DURING ACQUA ALTA

Venetians keep a close eye on the weather and the tide tables. Although most of the following websites are in Italian, it is possible to get the gist of the information. Check www.comune.venezia.it/maree/ for the 3-day forecast. You can also call 39-041-242-2996 for recorded information in Italian.

You don’t need to pack waterproof boots. The local merchants do a booming business selling multicolored knee-high plastic pull-on boots. Expect to pay anywhere from 6 to 10 euros depending on how close you are to St. Mark’s Square.

IF YOU WANT TO CONTRIBUTE

There are a number of organizations which accept contributions for the preservation of Venice. The UK based Venice in Peril is interesting because of the number of projects they sponsor. www.veniceinperil.org

 

 

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2016 Diana Russler

Burano’s Unique Art

The brightly colored houses in Burano, Venice, Italy

The brightly colored houses in Burano, Venice, Italy

One thing is certain. Many of the ‘arts and crafts’ considered of importance to our ancestors are fading into oblivion or slowly being forgotten in the age of modernity. Although small pockets of adherents still continue to practice their skills, by and large the general population may not even know that the ‘art’ (or craft) exists. Take lace making for instance. This is an ancient tradition dating back to the 14th century when noblewomen would sit for hours plying their needles to produce exquisite pieces of intertwined cotton or silk. It can still be found, on the Venetian Island of Burano.

An antique lace wedding dress in Burano, Italy

An antique lace wedding dress in Burano, Italy

Burano is a small collection of islands about 3 miles northeast of Venice, a 30-40 minute vaporetto (water taxi) trip from Saint Mark’s Square. The residents of Burano like color. Their houses are a rainbow of colorful hues — yellow, orange, lavender, pink, green, blue — giving the island a very cheerful appearance in the bright sunlight.

Historically, men on Burano fished; women made lace and have done so since the 14th century although the art itself has even more ancient roots. Legend has it that Leonardo da Vinci brought samples of handmade lace to Venice from the town of Lefkara in Greece. It quickly became the favorite of European royalty and the nobility.

The wife of the Venetian Doge, Morosina Morosini, was so fond of lace clothing that she established a workshop on Burano in the 1300s to ensure  a steady supply. Today it continues to be one of the few remaining places where lace is produced as it has been for generations. The lace is made in limited quantities by a group of older ladies who meet in a sewing circle. The design is etched onto a stack of five layers of thin tissue paper. It can take six women, each doing a different stitch, up to 20 days to finish a small piece of lace. When it is done, the paper is torn away leaving only a delicate cobweb of lace which is incorporated into a larger piece of work.

Sadly, much of the lace sold in Burano is imported and machine-made. To see (and buy) traditional handmade lace, visit the Museo del Merletto or Lace Museum, in the old lace-making school (Scuola di Merletti) which contains an impressive collection of Venetian and Burano lace, some it dating to the 16th century. It is here that the sewing circle meets, amongst the tools of lace-making to continue the tradition of generations.

Lace fans in Burano, Italy

Lace fans in Burano, Italy

IF YOU GO
To get to Burano from Venice, take the LN (Lagoon North) vaporetto line from the Fondamenta Nuova stop on the main island of Venice to Burano (www.venicewelcome.com/actv/vaportetto.htm), Museo del Merletto is at Piazza Garibaldi 1, Burano; www.museiciviciveneziani.it) Closed on Tuesdays.

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Under the Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

The Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

The Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

The Rialto Bridge, in the heart of Venice, is probably the most iconic image of this enchanting city.  With its 24-foot high arch designed to allow galleys to sail under it and its 12,000 wooden pilings, walking across it transports you to another age. Built in 1588, it spans the Grand Canal with three walkways that are always thronged with tourists and residents. But this area has been the center of commerce for an even longer time. The Open air market under the arches of the bridge has been here since the 11th century.

Produce arrives at the market on boards, Rialto, Venice

Produce arrives at the market on boards, Rialto, Venice

This colorful, unique market is the perfect place to feel the atmosphere and heart of Venice. Visit during Carnevale, and you are greeted by merchants attired in costume from Medieval times, vying with each other to attract customers amongst the pile of produce and fish. But even at other times the hustle and bustle, the colors and the aromas will fascinate you.

The activity starts before dawn when barges steam up the Grand Canal carrying the produce and goods for the market. They pull up along the walls of the market where men with hand carts wait to unload them and wheel the goods to the stalls where they are washed, polished, buffed and arranged artistically to tempt the discerning shopper.

The market is divided into two parts; the Erberia is the vegetable market and the Pescheria is the fish market. As you walk through the stalls of the Erberia, an enormous variety of brightly colored, neatly arranged produce (all grown in the neighboring areas or on one of Venice’s 117 islands) tempt you. Blood red oranges heaped carelessly, green and purple artichokes nestled side by side, mushrooms of every color and description in wooden boxes; colorful chili peppers overflowing from cones of white paper; bright orange melons; dark purple plums; juicy nectaries, the list goes on and on.

Piles of melons at the Venice market, Rialto

Piles of melons at the Venice market, Rialto

In the Pescheria, rows and rows of stands with freshly caught fish are arranged with their heads pointing to the bridge; crustaceans of every description are laid out symmetrically; squid and eels caught that morning in the Adriatic Sea or Lagoon look almost alive, their colors accentuated by the reflections in the crushed ice on which they are laid.

Beyond the produce and fish, you will find butchers, bakers, cheese shops with an enormous variety of creamy, yellow fresh cheeses; and wine shops filled with bottles of the local wine as well as colorful bottles of exotic liqueurs.  The air is filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread, aromatic basil and the briny scent of the sea. As you walk through the stalls, vendors will offer you a sample of deep purple figs or bright red tomatoes (you may never want to eat a supermarket tomato again after tasting these). At the cheese counter take a sliver of fresh Parmiggiano (Parmesan) cheese to savor with a handful of grapes. Everywhere you turn you will be tempted. But don’t tarry. By noon the produce is sold and the market is closed for another day.

Piles of eels for sale at the Pescheria Rialto market, Venice

Piles of eels for sale at the Pescheria Rialto market, Venice

The Rialto market is the only place to shop for food if you are renting an apartment in Venice. But even if you are staying in a hotel, enjoy the spectacle and the samples and who knows? Your supper may be in the eye of those Venetian chefs who buy at this market too

IF YOU GO
To get to the Rialto Bridge and the market, take the No 1 Vaporetto (water bus) and get off at the Rialto stop. Cross the bridge and go to the right on the opposite bank where you will find the Market. It is open from Monday to Saturday, 0800 to 1200 except for the Pescheria which is open Tuesday to Saturday from 0800 to 1200.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2014 Diana Russler