The commercial hub of Venice, centred on the Rialto Bridge, is as bustling today as it has always been – records tell of markets here since 1097. The area is also the city’s historical heart and took its name from Rivoaltus, the high consolidated terrain that guaranteed early settlers flood-free premises. Most buildings, however, date from the 16th century, because a fire swept through Rialto in 1514. During Carnival the stall-holders don medieval costume to vie with each other for custom and only the new awnings and electronic cash registers hint at the modern world.


prac_info San Polo • Fresh produce market: 7:30am–1pm Mon–Sat; Pescheria: 7:30am–1pm Tue–Sat

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  • In addition to fresh fruit from the market, picnic supplies can be bought at the delicatessens and bakeries in the neighbourhood.

1. Fresh Produce Market

The market here is a treat for the senses, with artistic piles of luscious peaches and cherries, thorny artichokes and red chicory from Treviso. Fruit, vegetables and fish are strictly seasonal.


Fresh produce at Rialto’s market

2. Pescheria

Writhing eels, huge swordfish, soft-shelled crabs and crimson-fleshed fresh tuna are among the stars of the 1907 Neo-Gothic fish market hall, barely out of reach of the scavenging seagulls.


The Neo-Gothic fish market hall

3. San Giacomo di Rialto

The oldest church in Venice claims to have a foundation set by a pious carpenter in the 5th century, although the present building is medieval. The Gothic portico and 24-hour clock are well worth a look.

4. Public Rostrum

New laws and names of criminals were announced atop this porphyry column, supported by a stone figure known as il gobbo (hunchback).


Porphyry column supported by a hunchback

5. Palazzo dei Camerlenghi

This lopsided 1525 palace once imprisoned debtors on the ground floor, while the top floors served as offices for the city camerlenghi (treasurers).

6. Gondola Ferry

A must for every visitor is a trip on the traghetto ferry across the Grand Canal – one of only eight still in operation. Custom dictates that passengers should remain standing.


Passengers rowing a gondola ferry on the Grand Canal

7. Banco Giro Arcade

Merchants from the East and the West gathered to exchange a variety of goods, including silks and spices, outside the city’s first bank set up in 1157, which is now a wine bar.

8. Ruga degli Orefici

This lovely covered passageway decorated with frescoes has been home to silversmiths, goldsmiths and silk traders since the 1300s.

9. Fabbriche Nuove

Uniformed carabinieri (police) patrol the elongated law courts along the Grand Canal. Designed in 1552–5 by Sansovino they are recognizable by their 25 plain arcades.


Rialto market alongside the Grand Canal

10. Grand Canal Views

The Erberia, right on the Grand Canal, makes a wonderful spot for boat-watching. Alternatively, wander on to the Rialto Bridge for a different vantage point.


The Erberia offers beautiful scenes of the Grand Canal


Rialto market’s narrow alleyways carry names such as Orefici (gold-smiths), Pescaria (fishmongers) and Erberia (vegetables), because the same type of shops once stood together. Local eateries for market traders also had evocative names such as Scimia (Monkey) and Do Mori (Two Moors).

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