Let’s take a trip to Chioggia
At the southern end of the Venetian Lagoon, between the Po River delta and the mouth of the Adige River, there it is, Chioggia, a populous and lively seafaring city, also known as the “Little Venice”.
With its Venetian-style buildings overlooking the canals, the characteristic Chioggia boats called “Bragozzi” with their colorful sails, an antique fish market, the ancient churches, small alleyways and monuments, as well as Piazza Vigo with its beautiful bridge, it seems to step back in time, in the periods of the Doges and the Serenissima.
Chioggia, pronounced Keeohja (Cióxa in Venetian – pronounced Chosah) occupies a unique geographical position: between the sea and the lagoon, almost suspended between different shades of blue from the sky and the water. Its structure has always intrigued scholars, travelers and writers, to the point of considering it a classic and highly cited example of an urban plan, thanks to the “Corso del Popolo”, the true heart of the city, which crosses the historic center of Chioggia from north to south.
The city center is located on a group of islands connected to the mainland by a few roads: canals, bridges and buildings, a picturesque urban nucleus in its physiognomy where you can breathe a welcoming atmosphere in every corner. Carlo Goldoni lived here for a few years and it was here that he set the famous comedy “Le baruffe chiozzotte”.
Today Chioggia is a maritime and tourist city, famous for its fish market and for its red radicchio in the shape of a rose, as well as for the popular seaside resorts of Sottomarina and Isola Verde. The city’s bond with the sea is strong: fishing is in fact the main economic resource and source of development and its port is one of the main fishing ports in Italy, with an important wholesale market.
History of Chioggia
The legend about the origins of Chioggia is connected to that of Aeneas, the mythical Trojan hero who, after fleeing the destruction of Troy, sailed for the Mediterranean and then settled in Latium (Lazio, Rome).
Antenore, Aquilio and Clodius also left with Aeneas but, halfway through the journey, separated from their fellow citizen to head towards the Venetian lagoon, founding Padua, Aquileia and Clodia respectively. As proof of this mythical foundation, there is the symbol of the city, a rampant red lion on silver, chosen by Clodius himself in memory of his hometown and the name of the city itself.
In truth, the town rises around 2000 BC when the Pelasgians, a people of navigators from Thessaly, took possession of various cities in the upper Adriatic. The etymology of the name of “Chioggia” derives from the term cluza, meaning “artificially built”, as the first settlements were built thanks to human intervention, otherwise the original village would have been submerged by the sea at every high tide.
The city underwent a major mark, from the urban point of view, in Roman times, as evidenced by the structure formed by a cardo (cardinal point), the current Corso del Popolo, and a decumanus. Furthermore, it was renowned, above all, for its salt pans and its production center, called “Sal Clugiae”, was considered one of the most valuable by Cassiodorus and Pliny himself. The salt produced was indispensable for trade and its value allowed the inhabitants to be able to buy any other goods difficult to find in the lagoon lands. The “Sal Clugiae”, salt of Chioggia, was considered a State asset, which lead the Venetian confederation to fight numerous times against the people from Padua, Ferrara, Romagna and Bologna, as it was imposed as the only bargaining chip for trade, to the detriment of other types of less renowned salt.
With the collapse of the Roman Empire, the first Nordic populations also began to arrive, but with regards to Chioggia and the other lagoon cities, even if they were conquered by the Barbarian peoples, they still maintained a certain independence for centuries deriving from the Empire of Constantinople.
In 568 the first Venetian state was formed, made up by the largest cities of the Adriatic coast governed by tribunes. The most conspicuous islands were: Grado, Bibione, Caorle, Eraclea, Equilio, Torcello, Murano, Rialto, Malamocco, Poveglia, Chioggia Maggiore and Chioggia Minore. Chioggia Maggiore corresponded to the current Chioggia inside the lagoon, while the Minore corresponded roughly to the current old Sottomarina overlooking the sea. After the Lombard domination, the region was conquered by the Franks whose king, Charlemagne, did not like the autonomy of the Venetian Republic, so much so that, in 809 AD he moved his army against the confederation of the municipalities that overlooked the sea, including the two Chioggia. However, his intent failed and, at the end of the harsh hostilities, the Venetian Republic was finally saved.
In the following years there was a period of prosperity for Chioggia, interspersed with some small war with the rivals Padua and Treviso people and the arrival of Barbarossa who signed the “Clodiano treaty” in the city in 1177, a preliminary to that one of Venice which sanctioned a short period of peace between the Empire and the Venetian municipalities. From the political and administrative point of view, Chioggia passed from the tribunes to the podestà, a messenger of the city of Venice, representative of the Republic in the most important cities, which marked the beginning of the supremacy of Venice over the internal policies of the other Venetian cities. An important page in the history of the city occurred during the so-called war of Chioggia (recalled in the Palio della Marciliana), the last clash between the Republic of Genoa and the Serenissima Republic of Venice.
The war of Chioggia
With this name we usually indicate the third and last great Venetian-Genoese war of XIV century, which began in 1378 and ended in 1381 with the Treaty of Turin, because the decisive action took place in Chioggia, which transformed the almost inevitable ruin of Venice into a sensational defeat of her enemies.
Genoa was always an ancient rival of Venice since, being both rulers of the sea, they both wanted to expand their domains to the East.
Venice wanted to conquer the territories to the east and it was this area that offered ground for competition with Genoa.
Genoa had also extended her dominion to the island of Cyprus, where Venice had many interests. The conflict broke out in 1373 in Farmagosta during the coronation of king of Cyprus Peter III of Luxembourg. Genoa occupied Cyprus. The conflict began in 1378 together with the birth of an anti-Venetian league formed by the King of Hungary, the Duke of Austria, the patriarch of Aquileia and Genoa. At the same time, however, Venice was allied with Cyprus and the Visconti of Milan.
In the first battle, the Venetians, led by Vettor Pisani, defeated the Genoese. In the spring Genoa attacked from the sea and the Venetians were defeated in Caorle and Grado. At the end of the battle, Commander Vettor Pisani was tried and imprisoned on charges of lack of energy in the commando action.
On 16th August 1379 Chioggia was stormed by Genoa. On 13th September, the Arengo assembly met in San Marco and asked for the release of Vettor Pisani. The Senate agreed and Vettor Pisani became captain general.
Venice experienced an atmosphere of exaltation: 40 ships were armed, many volunteers were enlisted and, on 1st January, 1380 18 ships arrived at the port of Venice loaded with Genoese prisoners. On January 21st of the same year Pisani and Carlo Zen take Loreo back. On the death of the Genoese commander Pietro Doria, the Venetians also took over Sottomarina.
In 1381 the Peace of Turin was stipulated (negotiated by Amedeo di Savoia), Venice was forced to leave Treviso to the Duke of Austria, Dalmatia to the King of Hungary and to suspend trade on the Black Sea.
The events of this war – which led to the complete destruction of Clugia minor, the current Sottomarina – are still recalled in the Palio della Marciliana which is held annually in the lagoon city of Chioggia.
Chioggia historically belonged to the Republic of Venice until 1797, the year in which Napoleon Bonaparte extended his long hand to the Adriatic coast.
Subsequently, it passed under Austrian sovereignty following the Treaty of Campoformio of 1798 and remained so, except for a short period in which the French were replaced again, until 1866, when the nascent Italian state definitively annexed the city.
During the Second World War it managed to foil a carpet bombing by the allied air force, as the Nazis, who occupied the city, absolutely did not want to surrender. Only thanks to the rebellion of the Chioggiotti, the Germans laid down their arms and on 27th April 1945 Chioggia was definitively liberated by the Allies.
In Chioggia – a sort of island connected to the mainland by a few roads – there are therefore, like in Venice, calli (small alleyways), campi (squares) and canals. The main one – from a tourist point of view, due to the typicality of the palaces and churches that overlook it – is the Canal Vena, crossed by nine bridges, in many ways similar to those in Venice. The most imposing is the Ponte Vigo which closes the canal close to the lagoon leading to the homonymous square overlooking the station of the boats to Pellestrina and in which stands a high column surmounted by the lion of St. Mark, a symbol of Venetian pride but ironically called by the Venetians “el gato” (the cat) because of its much smaller size compared to the one of the lion of Venice, the cause of strong quarrels, the famous “baruffe”, between Venetians and Chioggiotti, the latter considering themselves offended by the contempt that this name precludes.
The main economic resource of Chioggia is fishing, so much so that the port is one of most important seaports in the Adriatic and, thanks to the Verona-Rovigo-Adria-Chioggia railway junction, it manages to have a fast outlet for freight traffic in all directions.
Another source of income for Chioggia is given by the agricultural production of radicchio, the pink of Chioggia.
In summer, the largest source of income for the Chioggia economy is certainly marine tourism, which pours thousands of tourists onto the beaches.
The seaside tourism of Chioggia has developed considerably thanks to the presence of the beach in the hamlets of Sottomarina and Isola Verde. The beach can be reached via the Adriatic Seafront where there are renowned hotels and bathing establishments, which represent a significant economic lever for the entire city.
The town also offers cultural tourism, including places of interest and attractions. It is no coincidence that Chioggia is called the Little Venice due to the urban characteristics of the ancient area very similar to that of Venice, the Venetian capital to which the city is connected.
What to see in Chioggia
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is the main place of worship in the city. The original Cathedral was destroyed by a fire in 1623 and the following year work began on the construction of the current building.
In the small square next to the church are the bell tower of the cathedral and the church of San Martino, built by the faithful of Sottomarina after the war of Chioggia (1393-1394), which had caused the decay of the seaside town.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is located on the intersection of Corso del Popolo and Calle Campanile Duomo. Admission is free.
The Civic Museum of the South Lagoon, also known as the “San Francesco Fuori le Mura” Civic Museum, is the demonstration of the link between the city of Chioggia and the sea. It is arranged on three floors and the rooms have been set up by displaying the objects in chronological order.
The Campanile di Sant’Andrea is 30 meters high and contains the oldest tower clock in the world, dated 1386. Inside there is a vertical museum on seven floors, which deals with history and religion. On the ground floor there are documents relating to the tower, some maps are placed on the first and second floors, the religious finds begin from the third floor and on the fifth floor you can admire the absolute protagonist, the clock.
Piazza Vigo, from here you can admire the lagoon in all its majesty, in all its grandeur.
In the same square you can admire the Column of Vigo, one of the symbols of the lagoon city: on its top there is the lion of Saint Mark’s which I mentioned before.
Ponte Vigo, the most majestic of all Chioggia. The current masonry structure dates back to 1685, while the original version was made of wood. Below it flows the most important watercourse in the city, the Canal Vena.
The Museum of Adriatic Zoology “Giuseppe Olivi” houses the most important collection of marine animals of the Adriatic and is housed within the walls of Palazzo Grassi, built between 1703 and 1714 on commission of an important family of Chioggiotti merchants .
The retail fish market, an ancient institution of the city. Its peculiarity is the characteristic red tent: here 30 fishmongers (called mògnoli) offer fish of all types. The main entrance to the market is the Portal in Prisca by Amleto Sartori.
The cuisine of Chioggia is renowned not only in Italy, but also internationally. The typical local products of the earth such as radicchio, onion and pumpkin and fresh sea fish give life to unique dishes with a mix of flavor and quality; some chefs who have tried their hand at preparing local dishes have won important world awards. However, what can never be missing on the tables of local restaurants is Chioggia bread, a fragrant and crunchy ring shape called “bossolà di Chioggia”.
A single dose biscuit bread, very fragile, with a characteristic rolled shape. The term “bosso- là” derives from its round shape, imbossolare in Venetian means to roll up, to wrap. It can be consumed both with sweets (jams, chocolates, etc.) and with savoury products (cured meats, cheeses, etc.). It is also used as a breakfast bread, instead of biscuits, with coffee, milk or tea.
Curiosity about Chioggia
A curiosity links Chioggia to a unique demographic case in Italy: the very high degree of homonymy between the two most common surnames, Boscolo and Tiozzo, which forced the Registry to formalize nicknames in the register, i.e. nicknames are used to distinguish the branches of the same family. These nicknames thus accompany the interested party for all legal purposes on every official document, driving license and identity card included.
A unique case in Italy.