Venice is the indisputable queen of the Adriatic, no doubts about that. However, if we want to get a little further, and maybe avoid the crowds, then Chioggia (pronounced: ˈkjɔddʒa); is a good destination.
Chioggia is a small island at the southern entrance to the Lagoon of Venice about 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of Venice.
Like almost every other italian cities, Chioggia also has a very old story to tell. Raided by Attila (yes, him again); in 442 AD, right after he was done ravaging Aquileia, Padua, Verona and numerous other lands in his path.
Chioggia most important role, however, was in the War of Chioggia between Genoa and Venice, conquered by Genoa in 1378 and finally by Venice in June 1380, it was thereafter always subordinate to Venice.
And it shows clearly by the Venetian-style buildings overlooking the canals, the characteristic Chioggia boats called “Bragozzi” with their colorful sails, the fish market, the Corso del Popolo, Churches, Museums and Monuments, Piazza Vigo with its beautiful bridge seems to go back over the centuries, to the time of the Doges and the Serenissima Republic.
It is in fact called the “Little Venice,” and today is a lively seaside town. There are numerous caffes and restaurants, many that claim to be the best fish and seafood restaurants of the area.
«Chiozza is a beautiful and rich city twenty five miles away from Venice, also planted in the lagoons, isolated but made a peninsula by a very long wooden bridge, which communicates with the mainland. It has a Governor with the title of Podestà, who is always one of the first Patrician Houses of the Republic of Venice, to which he belongs. It has a Bishop there transported from the ancient seat of Malamocco. It has a lively and comfortable and well fortified port. Hence the noble class, the civil and the merchant. There are people of merit and distinction. The Knight of the city has the title of Cancellier Grande, and has the privilege of wearing the robe with long and wide sleeves, like the Procurators of San Marco. In short, it is a respectable city. “(Le baruffe chiozzotte [The Quarrels of Chioggia]. A play by the Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni, first performed at the Teatro San Luca in Venice in January 1762.)
Chioggia is also affected by particularly pronounced tide peaks (known throughout the world with the term Acqua Alta) which occur with particular intensity in the Venice lagoon, causing flooding in urban areas. Generally when the phenomenon of high water affects Venice, Chioggia follows the same fate, without however giving rise to a significant media impact, but with identical negative consequences for houses, buildings and commercial activities.
A hidden corner of the lagoon, a refuge for lovers of secluded places.
I used to go to Pellestrina in the summer of many, many moons ago with a friend. We drove to Chioggia, took the ferry, and then sunbathing on the big reef next to the ”Murazzi.” (A stone wall built to protect the Island from the sea storms).
An long strip of an island–like the more famous Lido–that stretches from south to north for 11 km, but is much narrower, the width goes from a minimum of only 23 m (905 inches), to a maximum of 1.2 km (0.746 miles). A real joy when there is a storm, I was caught in one at some point of my summer days there. There was only one way to walk; on “all four!” But I was younger then, and daring!
Pellestrina now is a strip of small villages with colorful houses, flower gardens and vegetable gardens, a couple of restaurants where you can taste the true lagoon cuisine, [now] sandy beaches frequented only by the islanders, a peaceful promenade for walks in the protected nature reserve.
It can be explored on foot, by bus or bicycle: it is impossible to get lost, just follow the road that runs alongside the Murazzi—the fortifications that protect Pellestrina from the sea–and which connects the small fishing and lace-making villages to each other, where time seems to have stopped.
Here everyone knows each other, the house doors are almost always open, the air smells of the sea and often grilled fish because the islanders use to roast the fish outdoors, in front of the doorstep, on an improvised stove.
Back then there was [only] a restaurant/osteria with just a few tables overlooking the sea. I used to love to dine there, looking at the lights of Venice in the distance. There were just few customers besides us. Occasionally a speed boat would arrive from Lido or Venice and stop there for a quiet and lovely dinner.
Today, there is Da Celeste. Same location (more or less), many more tables, overlooking the sea, many more people, but wonderful food. Reservations are strongly suggested.
Although much has changed, Pellestrina still has a charm of long-gone days, quiet life, and simple pleasures.