Between land, sea and wind, the small Italian coastal town of Chioggia topped The New York Times annual ranking of 52 destinations to visit in 2022, which this year focuses on sustainable destinations, away from mass tourism.
Chiogga, aka 'Little Venice', is an Italian town with all the potential to relieve the pressure on the world-famous lagoon city of Venice. It's located some 16 miles south, yet offers equally picturesque views and canals.
Chioggia boasts even more ancient origins than Venice and is by no means an inferior relative. The fishing village still retains an authentic spirit and preserves its cultural heritage with the great architecture of its historic centre. It's a 'green' destination, worth visiting on two wheels or by foot with plenty of walks offered in the countryside. There are also plenty of lidos and Blue Flag beaches in the hamlet of Sottomarina.
The best news is that foodies won't go thirsty or hungry here either. Discover these remarkable gastronomic highlights in Chioggia.
Unmissable food and drink experiences in Chioggia
From fish to vegetables: local flavours
Photo Instagram / chioggia.venezia
Chioggia's gastronomic heritage revolves around two important resources: fishing and vegetable farming. The most important fish market in the Adriatic is found here, due to the historical vocation of the city, but also for its strategic location, between the lagoon and the sea.
As well as fresh seafood, the city also excels in vegetables, producing the famous 'rosa' red chicory of Chioggia PGI, a crunchy winter salad, pumpkins and the tasty and digestible white onions of Chioggia, grown in the sandy salt and iodine-rich land reclaimed from the sea. All the vegetables here are affected by the salty air and soil, where they are grown in lagoons or coastal gardens, resulting in vegetables with a unique and intense flavour.
Fish shopping: a trip to the fish market
A tour of the retail fish market, in the historic centre, is an unmissable experience for anyone visiting Chioggia - lively, rich, colourful: a fresco where you can see the live fish leaping before your very eyes and the coming and going of the fishermen who enter with crates full of fresh fish delicacies.
It's a great place for shopping for fish and seafood, not only for the excellent value for money but for its large offering: eels, mantis shrimp, clams, mussels, turbot, sanpieri... You can find everything here. It's open every day except Monday (because the fishermen rightly do not go out on Sundays).
Fishing tourism: go by boat with the Vongolari Cooperative of Sottomarina Lido
Clams are among the most sought-after seafood in the area. During the summer you can book a fishing tour at the Cooperativa Vongolari boat moored on the shore in Sottomarina Lido and take a tour of the lagoon, passing by Pellestrina, then mooring up and having lunch on board with specialities ranging from the inevitable spaghetti with clams, to dishes based on mussels and sardines, or, mixed fried fish, baked scallops au gratin, sea bream, sea bass and fried baby squid.
Eat on a fish farm: the La Dosana Cooperative
Photo courtesy Cooperativa La Dosana
Fishing tourism at La Dosana Cooperative is located in the South Dam - Bocca di Porto di Chioggia. In a characteristic stilt house, you can taste fresh fish dishes, caught only with specialist nets. The specialities? The simple and genuine bounty of lagoon fishing: ranging from mixed grills to mullet with lemon, from peoci in cassopipa (mussels cooked in earthenware pans), to local sardines in saor (fried with onion and vinegar), from bigoi in sauce (pasta with anchovies and onions) to a plate of mixed fried fish from Chioggia.
Stop at the temple of seafood: El Gato restaurant
Photo Instagram / Ristorante El Gato Chioggia
Centrally located El Gato is the only restaurant recommended by the Michelin Guide in Chioggia, and offers an authentic (and refined) experience of Chioggia cuisine, with a contemporary twist. Fish is the star of the menu, served in a variety of ways: from raw Catalan, to the unmissable bollitone, with steamed fish. There are also examples of local cuisine, from cuttlefish to black with polenta and cod.
Savour the dishes of young talent from Chioggia: Ghebo Ristorante
Photo courtesy Ghebo
Federico Penzo is the youngest chef-patron of Chioggia and a previous MasterChef Italy competitor. The 25-year-old former fisherman opened his 20 seater Ghebo Restaurant in the historic centre of the lagoon town in April 2019 with a menu that reinterprets local flavours with personality. Among the dishes to try are risotto with prawns, bay leaves and fried almonds, and the excellent raw seafood. "Here the focus is on raw materials of the highest quality, as well as making the guest feel good," he says. The young chef tells us that not far away, in Fondamenta Riva Vena, the Do Lire cicchetteria will open by March, where it will be possible to try the typical Venetian tradition of 'cicchetti', as well as simple pasta and main dishes.
Eat on the beach: Le Tegnùe Beach Restaurant
Photo Instagram / Le tegnùe Beach Restaurant
The bathing establishment that hosts Le Tegnùe Beach Restaurant, managed by the Tiozzo Cainazzo family for 8 years, opens its doors from the first Sunday in March to those who want to eat on one of the many sandy beaches in Sottomarina.
Here you'll find a large fish restaurant on the beach, where you can taste specialities prepared with local products, from clams to radicchio. The vegetables used here are homegrown. What to try? Potatoes (gnocchetti) with radicchio and scallops, tagliolini with spider crab and home-grown datterini, trio of saor with Chioggia onion (with sardines, but also scampi, prawns, clams depending on the fish), as well as mantis shrimp (cicadas) arriving from the north of the Adriatic.
Try one of the best panettone in Italy: Nelly's Patisserie
Photo courtesy Nelly’s
At Caffè Pasticceria Nelly's, Daniele Scarpa goes all out serving excellent desserts. Among these are some great leavened goods, which he also offers in original versions such a his 'Cuba', based on rum, chocolate and tobacco infusion. His artisanal panettone was awarded first prize by the Richemont Club this year, a prestigious association of bakers. In summer, however, Scarpa proposes "panettone under the umbrella", with sunny variations for 2022 including a Mojito flavour, with the scent of mint and lime. Among the traditional desserts, try the Ciosota, a kind of plum cake prepared with local radicchio and carrots. It's a must-visit address for those with a sweet tooth.
Snack on a typical Bossolà: brilliant baked goods at Manfredi & Bullo Bakery
In Chioggia, you can also try some classic baked goods. Among them are 'bossolà ciosoti', a typical oval-shaped biscuit bread that goes well with both sweet and savoury foods, from fish and cold cuts, to desserts dipped in chocolate or jam: it's a versatile snack.
Bossolà ciosoti are the workhorses of the Manfredi & Bullo Bakery, a historic bakery founded in 1863, now in its fourth generation, helmed by the young Nicola Bullo. There are three stores between Chioggia and Sottomarina where you can also buy baked goods like papini (another typical biscuit from Chioggia), donut biscuits, and smegiassa (a cake made with molasses and raisins).