The Rialto Market, with its famous Venice fish market, is the most historic and extensive of the food markets in Venice. You will definitely want to visit, whether it is to grab a snack, dinner ingredients, or just a feast for your camera.
Looking for more items to add to your Must See list? Check out this self-guided Venice walking tour to get you started!
Rialto Market History:
History of Rialto Area
Ok, bear with a little distant Venice, Italy history (it really is kind of cool)…
In 402AD, the first of the major barbarian invaders of the Roman Empire, the Goths, descended on the Veneto region. The people fled to the safety of the nearby lagoon and watched their homes burn in the distance. When the Goths departed, most returned to the mainland. But some who had fled stayed and started rebuilding their homes right in the lagoon. Maybe it just became easier to stay, since those living on the mainland were forced to flee to the lagoon repeatedly. During the first half of the 5th century, conflict between the crumbling Roman Empire and the invading barbarians erupted time after time. Soon, there was a collection of settlements on this spattering of islands. This was the beginning of Venice, and soon the Venice Rialto Market.
There are a number of variations on the story and the details became fuzzy or embellished over the centuries. However, it is said that Padua sent the first representatives to Rivoalto (or high bank) to set up a trading post in this prime spot. The “Rivoalto” was located on high ground and was more immune to the tides. Being located at a bend in the major channel through the islands also made it a strong choice for commerce. So, the founding of Venice is dated to 421AD, and Rivoalto is the future location of Rialto Market Venice.
History of Rialto Market
A particularly momentous moment in history for the Rialto area was (relatively speaking) soon after the 1079 inception of the Rialto market, in 1177AD.
Pope Alexander III and the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa came to Venice to negotiate a peace between them. While the official ceremony of forgiveness and peace was carried out on July 24th in San Marco, the actual months of brokering between the diplomats on both sides – as well as the diplomats of various power who sought influence in the event – spent their days negotiating the peace in Rialto.
Later, in the mid-13th century, the Rialto area became the end point for Venetian voyages from Eastern ports. This brought great wealth to the Venetians who were able to operate trade with the world without ever leaving Rialto if they so choose.
Rialto Market Almost Lost
After standing for nearly 1000 years, The Venice Rialto Market was nearly closed down in 2011. There were plans to expand docks for the enormous cruise ships that visit the city. The plan would have meant moving the fish market to the mainland. Thankfully, the city pulled together and fought the measure, preserving the Rialto Market.
Rialto Market Today
Rialto Market Produce
Today, you can still stroll the stalls of the Venice Rialto Market. Within site of the historic and photogenic Rialto bridge and the Grand Canal, the produce market bustles Monday through Saturday. Stalls are filled with gorgeous fruit and vegetables that I clearly couldn’t stop photographing. (I have tons of photos not included here!) Those running the stalls are ready to help you, but be sure to not touch the produce. Instead, allow them to choose and bag your choices for you. Traditionally this is a point of pride for the vendor, as no respectable vendor would sell or choose for you anything but excellent product. I highly recommend picking up something, even if it’s just a bag of cherries and a few other fruit items to keep in your hotel room to enjoy with a bottle of wine one evening – like we did.
It’s not just a fruit and vegetable market though. You can also pick up bags of dried seasoning or soup mixes from some vendors – and there were some gorgeous flower stalls.
My biggest tip is to get there early. The activity and bustle as the shops stock up and open can be very entertaining. Seeing the stalls fully stocked and at their freshest is definitely a positive also.
Rialto Market Pescheria: Venice Fish Market
If you have a kitchen available to you during your stay, it’s pretty much a rule that you have to buy some fresh fish from the Venice fish market, for at least one meal. The Pescheria is located in a distinctive covered stone hall, and is still worth a wander through, even if you aren’t purchasing. All the fish is fresh, local catch, and even restaurants come to buy right here.
Find the Venice Fish Market Plaque!
Be sure to take a moment and locate the marble plaque on the outer wall of the Pescheria. This notes the required length of different types of fish in order to be legally sold in the Venice fish market. These lengths were, and still are, strictly enforced to protect from over-fishing.
Rialto Fish Market Opening Hours:
- 7:00am-2:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday
If you like to see markets from around the world, check out my other posts:
- Mercado San Miguel Madrid
- La Boqueria Food Market in Barcelona
- San Francisco Ferry Building Market
- Asiatique Night Market Bangkok
Visiting Rialto Market
Rialto Market Opening Hours:
The two Rialto markets (produce and fish markets) actually have slightly different opening hours. Note that if you go Monday, the fish market will not be open. I recommend getting there early rather than later, shops may start closing up earlier as they start to empty out.
Rialto Produce Market Opening Hours:
- 7:00am-8:00pm, Monday through Saturday
Walking Directions from Piazza San Marco
This map shows how to get to Rialto Market & Venice Fish Market from Piazza San Marco, the main square of Venice. Most tours and cruises will make sure you can get to Piazza San Marco, so it’s a good starting point. when you are out and about Venice, be sure to check it out. Enjoy!
The Vaporetto along the Grand Canal also stops right near the Rialto Bridge.
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Note: This post was originally published in November 2017, but has been updated.