A Guide to Chioggia in Italy – An Exquisite Island in the Adriatic Ocean

Like many locations in the Venetian lagoon, Chioggia is a town with its own island which is visited aboard hotel barge La Bella Vita. This ancient travel destination is as rich in history and culture as it is abundant in seafood cuisine. The sound of seagulls fills the air and the colourful Chioggian buildings shine in the sun’s warm rays. With heritage, architecture and canals that rival Venice, visitors to Chioggia, Italy, will find plenty of things to see and do.

Small boats along the canal in the Italian city of Chioggia

Where in Italy is Chioggia?

Chioggia is situated in the North of Italy on the Adriatic Sea, about 25 kilometres from Venice as the crow flies. This pretty, little fishing town is along the coast from Venice and is situated on its own island in the most southern part of the Venetian lagoon. Chioggia is linked to the other islands in the lagoon via a bridge, and can be reached by car, bus, or boat.

What is special about Chioggia, Italy?

A finalist contender for the Capital of Culture 2024, and ranking in the New York Times’ top 52 travel destinations of 2022, Chioggia is a must-see locality in Northern Italy. Known as ‘little Venice’, the island of Chioggia enjoys many of the advantages of Venice, without the hustle and bustle. For travellers who prefer visiting destinations that are off the beaten track, Chioggia is the perfect choice for Italian culture, cuisine, and traditions.

The town of Chioggia is home to picturesque canals, colourful buildings, and traditional markets. Founded as long ago as the 2nd century BC, Chioggia is older than Venice. Once a main location for salt mining, it is remembered as having been the ‘salt capital of the Mediterranean’. Since the salt pans of the lagoon were exhausted, Chioggia has become famous for its fishing industry. Chioggia became especially famous for its fishing markets in the eighteenth century, having grown one of the biggest fishing fleets in all of Italy!

Chioggia is home to one of the oldest ports in Italy and centuries of fishermen have passed through it to bring their catches back to the fish markets of the town. Known as Mercato Itico, the largest fish market on Chioggia is the wholesale market, where boats pull up alongside the 11,000 square metre area and unload their catches to be weighed. Thousands of kilograms of both local and imported fish are sold to retailers and businesses here every day.

Chioggia, Italy, is famed for its stunning turquoise waters and Mediterranean climate. Floating atop the Venetian lagoon, the island benefits from the tropical seabed of the Adriatic Ocean and boasts a tremendous number of species, including fish, birds and other wildlife. Situated in such a unique of position, Chioggia has its own micro-environment with flora and fauna that changes with the seasons.

Hotel barge La Bella Vita cruising in Mantua, Venice
La Bella Vita cruising in Venice

What are the Best Things to do in Chioggia, Italy?

Pizzaetta Vigo

In the heart of the historical centre of Chioggia, is Piazzetta Vigo. This square is located on the northernmost shore of Chioggia and provides beautiful views of the Venetian lagoon. Visitors to this piazza should make sure they see the stone hewn bridge, Ponte de Vigo. Rising above the moored boats on Canal Vena, the imposing bridge was constructed in 1675. Bearing a statue of St Mark’s Lion, ‘el gato de Chiosa’, which translates as ‘Chioggia’s Cat’, Ponte de Vigo has many stories surrounding it!

The Town

Visitors to Chioggia should take a stroll around the historic town, which they will find to be much quieter than Venice. The best time to experience Chioggian culture is from around 5pm until 7pm, when the residents take a passeggiata. This fashionable walk to see and be seen takes place around the town’s cafes, restaurants, and shops as people socialise. In the town, you’ll find an abundance of stores selling artisan souvenirs from Chioggia, and eateries serving local delicacies.

The Fish Markets and Festival

You won’t taste the true culture of Chioggia until you visit the fish markets, where your senses will be sharpened by the buzz of activity. For the full experience, head to the Pescheria, the retail fish market, where the biggest transactions happen. Until midday you can experience the smell of crustaceans, the sound of sales being made, the sight of the colourful catches, the touch of slick scales and the taste of fresh fish. With so many varieties of fish on offer, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

A smaller market popular with locals is the Thursday market which is held in the Corso. Run since 1852, this market is a calmer and less intimidating stop than the Pescheria. Summer travellers to Chioggia may also experience the Chioggia Fish Festival. Known in the town as Sagra del Pesce di Chioggia, the festival has been run in July for 80 years and celebrates the fishing industry. For ten days only, the city centre turns into an enormous outdoor dining arena, where the best food that Chioggia has to offer is served.

Barge chef Andrea at a fish market in Chioggia
La Bella Vita Chef Andrea at the Chioggia fish market

The Church of Saint Domenico

Art lovers will find a visit to Saint Domenico Church essential when travelling to Chioggia. Built on its own island by Dominican Friars, the Church of Saint Domenico was founded in the thirteenth century and is reachable via bridge. The present church was built in 1745, though the bell tower is original to the earlier building. The church has a single-vaulted nave with chapels to the sides, adorned with old master paintings by the likes of Tintoretto, Bassano and other elite Italian artists.

Suspended above the high-altar, visitors will see the rather grotesque-looking wooden sculpture of Christ. Known as ‘Christ Crucified’, the legends of Chioggia say that the head of the sculpture is Byzantine and that it was found at sea by local fishermen. Supposedly, the Fishermen adapted the cross and body of Christ themselves, to create a grisly four-metre-high sculpture that depicts Christ’s suffering at the crucifixion.

The Beaches

When travelling to Chioggia, don’t miss the magnificent dark sand beaches that overlook the waters of the Adriatic Sea. Reachable via bridge, Sottomarina is one of the best beaches near Chioggia and it brags ten splendid kilometres of fine, dark sand. Relax after a day of exploring and sink your toes into the high mineral content sand, which is said to provide health benefits!

Cruise to Chioggia aboard La Bella Vita

If you love the idea of travelling to Chioggia and want to experience some of its best bits, then why not do so in style, cruising the canals with European Waterways? Visiting San Domenico Church, Pizzaetta Vigo and the Pescheria, you can enjoy the colours and culture of Chioggia without needing to arrange anything!

La Bella Vita offers a different perspective of Chioggia, Venice, Ferrera and Mantua in a luxury setting, with a maximum of 20 passengers onboard.

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