You don’t have to eat in a fancy restaurant to enjoy good food in Venice. Prepare a picnic, and while you eat alfresco, you can observe the life in the city’s campi or the aquatic parade on its main thoroughfare, the Grand Canal.

Mercato Rialto -- Venice’s principal open-air market has two parts, beginning with the produce section, whose many stalls unfold north on the San Polo side of the Rialto Bridge. Vendors are here Monday to Saturday 7am to 1pm, with some staying on in the afternoon. Behind these stalls are a few permanent food stores that sell cheese, cold cuts, and bread. At the market’s farthest point, you’ll find the covered fish market, still redolent of the days when it was one of the Mediterranean’s great fish bazaars. The fish merchants take Monday off and work mornings only.

Campo Santa Margherita -- On this spacious campo in Dorsoduro, Tuesday through Saturday from 8:30am to 1pm, a number of open-air stalls set up shop, selling fresh fruit and vegetables. A conventional supermarket, Punto Simply (Mon–Sat 8:30am–8pm, Sun 9am–2pm), is just off the campo in the direction of the quasi-adjacent campo San Barnaba, at no. 3019.

San Barnaba -- This is where you’ll find Venice’s heavily photographed floating market (mostly fruit and vegetables), operating from a boat moored just off San Barnaba at the Ponte dei Pugni in Dorsoduro. This market is open daily from 8am to 1pm and 3:30 to 7:30pm, except Wednesday afternoon and Sunday.

The Best Picnic Spots

Given its aquatic roots, you won’t find much in the way of green space in Venice (if you are really desperate for green, you can walk 30 minutes past San Marco along the water to the Giardini Pubblici, Venice’s only green park). A much more enjoyable alternative is to find one of the larger campi that have park benches, such as Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio (in the quiet sestiere of Santa Croce). The two most central are Campo Santa Margherita (sestiere of Dorsoduro) and Campo San Polo (sestiere of San Polo).

The Punta della Dogana (Customs House), near La Salute Church, is a prime viewing site at the mouth of the Grand Canal. Pull up on a piece of the embankment here and watch the flutter of water activity against a backdrop deserving of the Accademia Museum. In this same area, another superb spot is the small Campo San Vio, near the Guggenheim, which is directly on the Grand Canal (not many campi are) and even boasts two benches and the chance to sit on an untrafficked small bridge.

A bit farther afield, you can take the vaporetto out to Burano and then no. 9 for the 5-minute ride to the near-deserted island of Torcello. If you bring a basketful of bread, cheese, and wine you can do your best to reenact the romantic scene between Katharine Hepburn and Rossano Brazzi from the 1955 film Summertime.

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