The Rialto market is an experience that will change your way of seeing Venice. You will be in its belly, you’ll grasp its deepest and truest spirit.
6.30 am, still the dark of night. Preparations start that within an hour will show off stalls laden with the best retail fish. At ittica Zane, Matteo is in charge of a team of seven people, each with their own tasks, perfect gearing, concentration and plenty of high spirits, despite the effort. Matteo’s day began at 2.30 am, the wholesale market, auction and buying of fish until six, then loading the boat and unloading it at Rialto, which he will leave in the early afternoon. It’s all a frenzy of calling out, going crazy, moving ice, filling, overturning, weighing. In exactly an hour the magic is done: from the steel of the empty stall to a rainbow of shapes and bright colours, order and cleanliness. Six hundred kilos of soft-shelled crab, turbot, sardines, wild salmon, mantis, shrimps, swordfish, octopus, sea bass and more. It will virtually all go. Venetians of various ages come here to do their shopping, along with tourists, passers-by and the best restaurants in town. And the reason is in front of everyone’s eyes.
After buying the fish, the other essential stop is the fruit and vegetable stall of the fratelli Moro. All kinds of first season’s produce, artfully arranged, for more than 40 years. Clementines, oranges, artichokes, cauliflower and local cabbages, aromatic herbs, leaf vegetables and dried fruit, to give a really restricted list. Quantity and variety, but primarily quality and freshness: the food seems to have been picked from the field a minute ago. During the summer Simone and his brother sell the best products from the lagoon, primarily from Sant’Erasmo. The assault will last all morning, people buy direct, or leave a list, let themselves be advised, chat, confide, go past and say hello. The story of the Moro brothers is a story of generations, of lifestyle choices, first a modest stall outside, then finally the shop, under cover. Buying and selling, certainly, seasoned with plenty of humanity.
At Rialto every stall is a family, often in name and always in fact. Here we have discovered the value of sacrifice, of passion, of friendship. Happy and generous people.
Gino Mascari’s grocery-museum has been a symbol of quality in Venice for 70 years, originally selling almost only dried fruit and chestnut cake. It is the classic corner shop that you mustn’t miss with its incredible spices, a palette of colours in the window, and its selection of wines, studied and always with an eye on the quality price ratio.
Carry on and stop at the Casa del Parmigiano, the chosen place of cheese lovers with a really astonishing range.
Leave the food market area and allow yourselves a pause at The Arco. This is now the fourth generation of an Apulian family whose relationship with Venice started with a wine cellar and shop. Now freshness, seasonal products and tradition have made it the best cicchetteria in Rialto. Friuli, Veneto and Apulian wines and an accurate selection of Italian and European beers. Taste the baccala?, the sardines, the anchovies, the baby Caorle octopus, the meat balls; in winter the boiled meats, the veal spleen and chin are not to be missed. Matteo and Francesco open from Monday to Saturday, from 8 am to 2.30 pm and until 7 in summer.
For some refined and authentic shopping go back towards the Rialto Bridge and into Pied a? terre to buy some ‘gondolier’s shoes’ Alessandra’s Furlane here are still sewn by hand, made in the traditional way, with the sole made from old bicycle tyres, along with the new generation of slippers, inspired by eighteenth-century splendours, embellished with velvet, oriental silks and linen for summer. The window is a delight; inside the shelves have an infinite variety of colours and splendid fabrics, including Rubelli, Bevilacqua and Fortuny. A typical example of an object that enfolds history, culture and tradition, but also future.
A few paces further on Stefano and Daniele Attombri’s studio offers original and elegant artist’s jewels. The craftsmanship is typically Venetian, the creations range from Baroque to ethnic and minimal accessories. Earrings, pendants, necklaces and rings are a blend of contemporary elements and varied geographical and aesthetic influences. It’s good to find yourself in a place suspended between art gallery and workshop, with tools of the trade, beads, wires and metals scattered all over the place. A great success in Venice, in the US and Japan, and lots of work with the fashion world.
To best end the day, dine at the Antiche Carampane, an excellent restaurant you will never forget with its premium seafood, bought by Francesco a few hours earlier from Ittica Zane.
C?a va sans dire.