3 good reasons Why You Should Visit Chioggia
Almost everybody in the world knows about Venice. But Chioggia, sometimes called little Venice, is almost unknown. Still, it is an excellent alternative to her buzzing and somewhat artificial big sister. Chioggia has a lot in common with Venice, but at a lower cost, with much more genuineness, and more accessibility. Here are three reasons to visit Chioggia:
1. Unspoiled authenticity
Well, maybe not completely unspoiled, but much more authentic than Venice. Chioggia today (2022) has around 1.4 million overnight stays and 200,000 arrives. That would mean that every arriving tourist stays 1 week. The figures for Venice are 4,6 million arrives, and around 15 million overnight stays. To that comes another 10 to 15 million day visitors. Chioggia is smaller than Venice, but it’s easy to see that you have much more space in the southern lagoon city. It is a very different experience, as it is, contrary to Venice, a normal functional city with normal working people.
2. Chioggia at a fraction of the cost of Venice
The less touristic environment makes prices lower. Although if you follow my advice, you should be able to save a few bucks on restaurants and souvenirs in Venice too, the price level is definitely lower in Chioggia. And you will face fewer tourist traps. Chioggia as a destination just isn’t that focused on stripping tourists of their money.
3. Sottomarina – Chioggia’s Copacabana, right there next to the city.
If you come in summer, you will suffer the heat in Venice. In Chioggia, you will suffer the same heat, but right next to the historic center, there is a 3-mile-long sandy beach. Sottomarina is a wonderful place to spend the hottest summer days. So, staying in Chioggia for a week means you can spend the morning chasing attractions in the old town, and the afternoons on the beach before getting ready to dine out again in the awesome environment of the historic center.
Chioggia – A short history
Well, Chioggia actually has a very long history, much longer than that of Venice. From the 9th century, her history was very much connected to the history of Venice. Just like her bigger sister, Chioggia was an important center of trade and commerce, especially in salt and fish. During the 9th, 10th, and 11th centuries, she was a part of the Republic and competed with Venice for control of the trade routes in the Adriatic Sea.
The rivalry culminated in the mid-1300 when Chioggia was drawn into the persistent conflict between Venice and Genoa. In 1378-1381 she was the scene of what is known as the War of Chioggia. Chioggia fell in the hands of Genoa, but when Venice succeeded in blocking the Genoan fleet inside the port of Chioggia, the Ligurian city-state had to surrender and Chioggia fell into the hands of Venice. After that, she was a part of Venice until 1797 when Napoleon conquered La Serenissima.
Chioggia – The beginning 4000 years ago.
But before all that, Chioggia had her modest beginning far, far back in the 3 millennia BCE. It was probably founded by the Antique Greeks, or Pelasgians as they are generally called. Archeologists have found traces of settlements from around 2000 BCE.
During the Roman Empire, Chioggia was an important urban center. The squared outline is from this period. As mentioned, she was a part of the Venetian Republic, from the 7th century, but as Choggia, unlike Venice, has no lagoon to protect her, she fell in the hands of almost all of the various Barbaric invasions, as well as suffered the capture by the Franks, and the Hungarians. Still, in times of peace, she could profit from good fishing, salt production, and the huge trading network of the Republic.
What to see in Chioggia
The World’s Oldest Clock
The clock is located in the bell tower of the Church of Sant’Andrea. It was probably built in the first half of the 14th century, by Jacopo Dondi. He and his son, Giovanni Dondi, who later got the nickname Giovanni Dondi dell’Orologio, meaning of the clock, were prominent astronomers, practitioners, and clockmakers. Giovanni built the, at the time, world-famous Astrarium. Both originated from Chioggia but were active at the University of Padua.
The clock in Chioggia isn’t dated. Today, the single clock hand is driven by an electronic clockwork. The original mechanism is functional though and is displayed in the museum. It has been carefully restored and maintained by clock makers of the rich Chioggian tradition. If the old clockwork had been connected, the clock in Chioggia would be the oldest clock in the world by far.
A boat in any color
The boat types in Chioggia have a history that dates back to the Middle Ages when the town was an important naval base and trade center. They have very distinctive features, such as flat bottoms, pointed bows, and bright colors. But the most strange and peculiar attribute is the colored sails. The tradition is said to have started in the 1800s, as a way to distinguish the origin of the fishing boat, and if said boat was allowed or not to fish in that particular area. The association Vela al Terzo keeps this tradition alive, and if you’re around in April, you have a chance to see the southern lagoon fill up with sails in every possible color.
To the Chioggians, the boats are a symbol of the town’s culture and identity. They represent the connection between Chioggia and the Sea.
The fish market
The famous fish market dates back all the way to the Middle Ages. The market is held every morning from Monday to Saturday, on the banks of the Vena canal, near the bridge of San Domenico. Here you can buy a variety of fish, shellfish, crustaceans, and mollusks, caught by local fishermen. It is a lively and colorful spectacle. As visitors, you can admire the richness of the marine life in the northern Adriatic. The market is also a source of inspiration for many chefs and restaurants in Chioggia and other cities in the neighborhood.
Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta (Chioggia cathedral)
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is a magnificent example of Baroque architecture. It was built by the renowned architect Baldassare Longhena, who also designed the Basilica of Santa Maria della Salute in Venice. The Chioggian Cathedral was built on the site of an older church, destroyed by fire in 1623. It has a majestic facade with two statues of the patron saints of Chioggia, Felice, and Fortunato, and a bell tower from the 14th century. The interior is decorated with marble, stucco, and paintings by various artists. The cathedral is the main place of worship and the seat of the diocese since 1110.
Chioggia’s Refugium Peccatorum
Refugium Peccatorum is a monument right next to the cathedral. It depicts the Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus under a golden dome. The name means “Refuge of Sinners” and refers to the role of Mary as a mediator and intercessor for humanity. The statue was originally part of the staircase of the previous cathedral, which was demolished in 1623. It was then moved to its current position and restored several times over the centuries. The dome was added in 1737 by the architect Giorgio Massari. It is made of white marble and has a height of about 4 meters. Every year on September 8th, All of Chioggia celebrates the feast of the Nativity of Mary.
You find Piazzetta Vigo at the end of the main street, Corso del Popolo, and it overlooks the lagoon and the port. The square is named after Sebastiano Venier, the Doge of Venice who defeated the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The statue stands on a column in the middle of the square, and it is surrounded by four lions. The Piazzetta is a particularly lively spot, where locals and tourists stop to enjoy the view of the boats and the colorful houses, have a beer, or in the evening, have dinner with an extraordinary view of the southern lagoon.
Famous People from Chioggia
Also known as John Cabot, an explorer, and navigator who is credited with the discovery of North America. He was born in Chioggia around 1450 and moved to England in 1484, where he obtained a royal patent to explore the western Atlantic. Not much is documented about his voyages, but it seems he discovered Newfoundland in 1497 and possibly parted for a second voyage in 1498. This second time he probably continued from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia and maybe even further. In that case, Giovanni Caboto was the man who discovered North America. At that time Columbus had reached Central- and South America but the Spanish hadn’t yet reached North America.
Bruno Maderna was an Italian composer and conductor. He was important in the development of Italian avant-garde and electronic music after WW2. He studied with prominent teachers such as Malipiero and Scherchen and collaborated with Luciano Berio on founding the Studio di fonologia musicale di Radio Milano. He also taught at various institutions and conducted many works by contemporary composers. Maderna’s own compositions explored new techniques and sonorities, ranging from serialism to aleatory and from orchestral to electronic.
Giovanni Dondi dell’Orologio
Yes, back to Giovanni Dondi. His most famous creation, the Astrarium, was a sophisticated astronomical clock. It not only showed time, but also the motions of the planets, the moon’s phases, the zodiac signs, and other celestial phenomena. It was regarded as one of the most remarkable mechanical devices of the Middle Ages.
Dondi spent 16 years designing and building the Astrarium, which he completed in 1364. He wrote a detailed treatise describing its construction and operation, which is one of the earliest sources of medieval clockwork. The fate of this masterpiece is unknown, but in 1960 a copy made according to the written documentation by Dondi was displayed at the London Science Museum. In 1963 a second copy was made by Luigi Pippa at Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci.
What to eat in Chioggia
Here are some of the best places to eat in Chioggia:
- Ristorante El Gato: This elegant restaurant is located on the main canal and serves creative dishes with high-quality ingredients. The menu changes according to the season and the catch of the day, but you can always expect to find delicacies such as tuna tartare, scallops with truffles, or sea bass with artichokes. The wine list is also impressive, featuring local and international labels.
- Osteria Penzo: This cozy osteria is a family-run business that has been serving traditional cuisine for over 40 years. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, and the portions are generous. You can enjoy classic dishes such as spaghetti with clams, grilled sardines, or fried calamari, as well as some specialties such as cuttlefish with polenta or eel with onions.
- Trattoria al Capitello: This trattoria is located in a historic building near the cathedral and offers a refined dining experience. The chef prepares dishes with a modern twist, using seasonal and organic products. You can taste dishes such as risotto with radicchio and gorgonzola, seabream with fennel and orange, or lamb chops with mint sauce.
- Ghebo Ristorante: The very young former fisherman Federico Penzo opened this small eatery in 2019. It is situated very close to the fish market, and the chef with his knowledge of fish and the sea creates traditional and innovative dishes. It’s small so you should book ahead.
Close by run by the same team is Do Lire. It’s a bacaro right at the canal side, where you can enjoy a light lunch, a sandwish, or just a spritz.
Fresh Seafood around the fish market
Apart from these, there are lots of choices around the fish market. You can find a variety of seafood, from fresh fish to shellfish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. If you are fortunate to have an apartment with a kitchen, you should definitely purchase the ingredients for your Boulabaise there. If you still haven’t found your favorite eatery, here are more to choose from:
- Ostaria da Nicola: a family-run restaurant that serves traditional recipes with fresh and seasonal ingredients. Try their spaghetti with clams, grilled sea bass, or fried calamari.
- Ristorante Garibaldi: Over the bridge to Sottomarina, there is this traditional Restaurant. Sea bass, tagliatelle, and calamari are the specialties of the place. You should also try the cantucci, and maybe the creme brulee.
- Osteria Gustò: Apart from a small but innovative menu mainly based on fresh fish, they also have the possibility to dine outdoors, with a wonderful view of the canal, the Vigo bridge, and the lagoon in the distance. You should definitely try something with Squid or Octopus.
Where to stay in Chioggia
Chioggia has some real advantages compared to Venice. It is more difficult to pick a really bad accommodation. Almost all hotels and B&Bs are decent, and some are awesome. And the service should be generally better as the smaller town and the less pressure from tourism lets the personnel and management keep a more laid back attitude.
Here are a few of the best picks for a wonderful weekend, a week, or more in Chioggia, Venice’s little cousin.
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Sepa Chioggia Calle Larga Bersaglio – Calle Moretti
Two apartments on the northern side of the city (Piazzetta Vigo), one to the east and the other to the west. Both are newly refurbished in a modern and classy style. Each sleeps 4 adults and comes with all services, a kitchen, free wifi, air conditioning, and more. This is the choice if you want to take advantage of the offers from the fantastic fish market and cook yourself.
Hotels 4 star
Hotel Grande Italia
This is an elegant four-star hotel, located on the waterfront, right on Piazzetta Vigo. The rooms are spacious and comfortable, with every modern amenities and classic decor. The hotel also has a good restaurant, a bar, and a terrace where you can enjoy your breakfast or a drink while watching the sunset.
This is a choice for those who prefer traditional class.
Casa di Carlo Goldoni – Dimora Storica
This unique accommodation is located in the former residence of Carlo Goldoni, a famous Italian playwright who was born in Chioggia in 1707. The house has been restored and converted into a museum and a guesthouse. You can book one of the four rooms that are decorated with period furniture and objects of historical interest. You can also visit the museum and learn more about Goldoni’s life and works.
Refurbished in a modern and functional style. The air-conditioned rooms include a flat-screen TV, a minibar, a safe, a wardrobe, a coffee maker, and a private bathroom with a bidet. All lodgings come with a kettle, and some of them even have a kitchen with a refrigerator, microwave, and dishwasher.
The position is very central and close to everything, right on the main street Corso del Popolo opposite the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta.
There is also an apartment for rent with the same name, Al Sagraeto White Apartment. It has nothing to do with the B&B, though. The name Sagraeto is a popular name for the Madonna, Refugium Peccatorum, in front of the two structures. I have no inside information about it, but it seems like a nice place.
B&B La Caneva
This cozy bed and breakfast is situated in a renovated 18th-century building in the heart of Chioggia. The rooms are bright and airy, with wooden beams, exposed brick walls, and colorful accents. The B&B also has a lovely garden where you can relax and enjoy the homemade cakes and jams that are served for breakfast.
How to get to Chioggia
Chioggia sits about 25 kilometers south of Venice, in the southern outpost of the Venice lagoon. This is how you get there:
You have to arrive at Venice Santa Lucia or Mestre. From there, you take the bus to Chioggia. This route can be a little tricky as you could end up with three or four changes is you just go for what Google suggests. The best bet is to use Arriva by Deutsche Bahn.
Another option is to go by sea. In that case, you will have to take a water bus to Lido, then a bus that turns into a boat and then turns into another bus, and lastly the ferry to Chioggia. It’s slow, complicated, and expensive. But if you are the adventurous type it’s definitely more interesting than a highway bus.
Another option is to simply drive to Chioggia. That is very easy and straightforward. The town is connected to the mainland by a bridge and has several parking areas if your hotel should be equipped with parking. It’s also an almost straight line from Mestre. Just remember that the undivided highway called La Romea is one of the most ill-fated and dangerous roads in Italy.
A third option is to fly to Venice Marco Polo Airport or Treviso Airport. From there, you have the same options as the Train passengers.