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Italy in Three Bites: Venice & Markets

July 23, 2011

We have a tendency, when we travel, to go to farmers’ markets.  Just like others who can’t be away from their Blackberry or laptop on vacation, we find ourselves drawn to markets in whatever city we visit.  We have been to some amazing ones, the Green Market in New York’s Union Square, the Ferry Building on Saturday mornings in San Francisco, Pike’s Market in Seattle.  But none of those come close to the colors, diversity and oddities we found at the Rialto Market in Venice.

This area in Venice has had merchants selling their wares for over a thousand years.  It is said that the Rialto Market is where Marco Polo first brought spices back from this travels to the Orient to introduce to Europe.  The market still has that mystic of old and new worlds coming together over a vibrant mix of just caught fish, fresh fruits, vegetables and wonderful weird food items.  (Horse meat anyone?  I passed.)

The Mercato del Pesce, or fish market, smelled of sea water and had fish was so fresh that much of it was still alive, having been caught just hours before.  There was everything from cuddlefish and octopus to sardines and scallops still in their shells.  There were many exotic choices, the likes of which we had never seen before.

Right next to the fish, were produce vendors with beautiful displays of every kind of fresh vegetable and fruit you can imagine, and several we had never imagined. Sean, of course, marveled at the logistics of bringing everything in and out by boat, as we watched the barges crowd along side the market while men loaded and unloaded with handcarts.  It makes figuring out how to park our trucks seem much easier in comparison.

What I liked most about the market was the existence of true Venetians.  Our whole time in the city we found ourselves trying to navigate away from the crowds and into the quieter parts, finding Venetian life much more fascinating than the overpopulated tourist areas.  At the market, these two populations of Venice collided, but while much of Venice is for show to its visitors, at the market the tourists were kept at bay while Venetians carried out their business of finding what they needed for their homes or restaurants.

Sean loved the market so much that he went twice.  Although, we learned that some things stay true, whether you sell at a farmer’s market in the middle of the desert or one along the Grand Canal.  The first time we went we got there just as they were packing it up for the day.  It was 1:30pm on a Wednesday, the exact time that Sean would be doing the same at Town & Country.  The irony was not lost on us.

We did also enjoy the floating produce stands that we found throughout the city.  Just the thought of doing a farmers’ market on a floating barge had Sean dreaming.  I guess like anyone, you can’t help but think of work a little while on vacation.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jeri Ann permalink
    July 27, 2011 7:07 pm

    I wondered, Kate, as I was reading your blog, what month did you go to Venice? Just curious about the selection of produce during the season. Thanks for sharing.

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