ABOVE: Despar, in the renovated
movie theater, may be the most beautiful supermarket you'll ever visit. If
you stop to take pictures, as many visitors do, try not to get in the way of
Not so many years ago, Venice was a city of neighborhood alimentari or grocery
stores, cheese shops, meat markets, and produce vendors. Supermarkets were few
and far between.
Times have changed, and today you'll supermarkets in most of
Venice's sestieri or districts. That's bad news for traditionalists, but
it's good news if you're a foreign tourist who's intimidated by unfamiliar
shopping customs and language barriers.
Shopping at a supermarket
can be a time-saver when you're stocking the refrigerator of your vacation
apartment or browsing for snacks to keep in your hotel room. It also lets you
mingle with the locals in an everyday, real-life environment.
ABOVE: The Despar Teatro Italia resembles an ancient
palazzo. It's located on the Campiello dell'Anconeta, along the main
walking route between Venice's railroad station and the Piazza San
Of the grocery chains in Venice,
our favorite may be
Despar, which has
increased its Venice footprint in recent years. Its Teatro Italia, a former
cinema, is a fake Venetian Gothic architectural masterpiece with a great
selection of foods.
Despar is the only supermarket in Venice with consistently good breads,
rolls, and pastries, which you can buy from plexiglass bins. (You'll need to
use plastic gloves when selecting items from the bulk bins.)
ABOVE: Coop has stores
all over central Venice. You'll pass this large Coop Alleanza branch in the Strada Nova if
you walk from the Venezia Santa Lucia railroad station to the Piazza San Marco.
Another popular chain is Coop, which has
more supermarkets in Venice than any of its competitors. The largest stores
are located just off the Piazzale Roma (facing vaporetto platform "D") and
on the Strada Nova, which is one of Venice's main pedestrian thoroughfares.
Small and medium-size Coop or InCoop stores are scattered around
the city center and on Lagoon islands such as
Coop, pronounced "Cope," is notable for its high-quality and
competitively-priced store brands. (I'm a big fan of its special coffee for Moka
pots, which are the coffeemakers you're most likely to find in Venice
ABOVE: This Conad City branch faces the Giudecca Canal
on the Fondamenta delle Zattere, next to the San
Basilio vaporetto station. It looks small from the outside, but its modest
entrance hides a large supermarket.
has a growing number of stores in the centro storico and on the Lido di Venezia.
Two of our favorites are on the Fondamenta delle Zattere (facing the Giudecca
Canal) and in the far northwestern reaches of Cannaregio, where you'll find
what may be the biggest and least crowded supermarket in Venice.
The latter (shown below) is a convenient place to stock up on groceries for
your vacation apartment, thanks to its wide aisles and large selection of
ABOVE: The largest supermarket in central Venice
is probably this modern Conad City store, which is tucked away in a residential
neighborhood near the northwestern tip of Cannaregio.
ABOVE: This small, traditional-looking Crai
supermarket in Venice's Castello district used to be a latteria or dairy shop.
Additional supermarket brands in
central Venice include
Prix (a discount chain with
a handful of neighborhood stores), and Bailo
(which had three small stores in central Venice the last time we checked).
ABOVE: Many supermarkets have waiting areas
where you can leave your dog when you shop. (Often, the locals just let
their unleashed dogs wait outside in the car-free street.)
You'll find supermarkets in most Venetian neighborhoods, including the
islands of the Lido, Giudecca, Murano, and Burano.
Supermarket shopping hours vary, although nearly all stores are open
every day of the week. Neighborhood stores may close at 8:30 or 9 p.m.,
while stores in busy locations such as the Zattere or Strada Nova are
usually open until 9:30 or 10 p.m.
If you dislike crowds and get frazzled by long supermarket
lines, try to avoid shopping during the evening rush.
When buying produce, you'll often need to put on a disposable plastic
glove, fill a plastic bag, and weigh the bag on an electronic scale that has
icons representing various fruits and vegetables or--in some cases--product
numbers. Select the icon or enter the product number, click "OK, wait for the scale to
print a price label, then stick the label on the plastic bag.
Some stores have a similar system for unpackaged rolls, breads, and pastries. If the product is sold by the
item, rather than by weight, a secondary virtual keypad will pop up on the
screen. Just enter the number of items and click "OK" to print a label.
At deli counters (or in
independent meat and dairy shops), you buy cold cuts and cheeses by the etto or 100 grams,
which is just under a quarter of a pound. For example, if you want 200 grams of prosciutto,
point at the ham and ask for "due etti."
It's usually simpler to pay by credit card than with cash. (Italian store
clerks often have a fetish for exact change, and it's easier to just present
your credit card than to rummage around looking for one- or two-cent coins.)
Larger supermarkets have self-service checkouts in addition to the usual
checkout lines. When a store is busy and you're buying just a few items, it
may be quicker to use the automated checkout. You can pay with a credit
card, banknotes, or coins, and the machines issue change.
Pets are supposed to be left outside the store or in the store lobby, but
don't be surprised if you see the occasional shopper with a small dog in a
basket or tucked into a jacket.
If you have a tote or shopping bag, take it with you to the supermarket. (Bags
are usually available at the cashier for a small fee.)
Finally, a handful of supermarkets (such as Despar) require you to scan
your register receipt to leave the store. Keep your receipt handy after
you've paid, and hold the receipt's barcode against the infrared
scanner at the exit gate. The gate will then open to let you out.
ABOVE: A small Coop supermarket overlooks
the pretty Campo San Giacomo dall'Orio in Venice's district of San Polo.
Venice has so many supermarkets that you really don't need a map
to find one. However, the following Google Maps links will be useful if you want
to reach the city's largest or most distinctive supermercati:
Please note: The precision of Google Maps can vary by
device, so if you don't see a large red marker, drag the map until you do.
ABOVE: The Coop Querini Castello supermarket on
the right (behind the arched doorway) is in a boatyard just east of the Fondamente Nove,
beyond the Ospedale Civile or municipal hospital. Look for a door in the
boatyard's brick wall, which is open during business hours.
ABOVE: You'll find another Coop around the corner from the Piazzale
Roma, next to a vaporetto stop. (Look for platform "D.") It occupies several converted warehouses and
is next door to a DM health & beauty aids shop.
ABOVE: Some of Conad's smaller stores have been relabeled with the "Tuday"
ABOVE: Supermarket brands come and go, but the stores stay put. This large
Despar (formerly Crai, and before that Punto) reflects a church's façade in
Venice's San Marco district.
ABOVE: A truck on a barge delivers groceries to the Conad City supermercato on the
Fondamenta della Zattere.
ABOVE: Venetians can be brazen about shopping
with their dogs.