2.4 Between Palaces and Streets

Home Ondine Between Palaces and Streets

Female Fish Peddlers and female fishmongers in the markets

Between the 18th and 19th centuries, the location of the Trieste fish market changed several times. Thinking of a cathedral, in 1913 the architect Giorgio Polli built what the people of Trieste knows as “Santa Maria del Guato” (trans: Saint Mary of the Gobies). Until 2006, it was the centre of retail, wholesale and fish auctions in the city and in the North-eastern Adriatic region.  

However, in Trieste, fish products were not only sold in the sumptuous mansion built by Polli; in the years straddling the First World War, it was also possible to buy fish, crustaceans and molluscs and dried cod in the green markets populated by the characteristic vendors (venderigole).

Furthermore, between the 19th and 20th centuries, numerous women from the Trieste seaboard dedicated themselves to peddling fish. In some Slovenian dialects, they were called peškadorke. Around five in the morning, these women came down from their villages on the Karst (Carso) to the coast and bought fish from fishermen.

Each one took the fish they thought of selling (usually about ten kilos), placed them in crates or baskets that were carried on their heads, and began their daily itinerary: the districts of the Slovenian hinterland, or the taverns and families of Trieste.

Erica Mezzoli
WeCanIt – University of Ljubljana

Jasna Simoneta
Ribiški Muzej Tržaškega Primorja
Museo della pesca del Litorale triestino


The Old Fish Market

mercato pesce fine 800 trieste
Fig. 2.4.a – The second to last building of Trieste’s fish market (its location changed six or seven times in all) was built at the entrance of the port in 1878. In the image, the exteriors. (Fototeca CMSA, Trieste – Archivio Storico, inv. F1222)


Saint Mary of the Gobies

esterno pescheria anni 50 trieste
Fig. 2.4.b – An image of the “cathedral” after Second World War.
(NŠK, Magajna, 1953)


Fish Market Regulation

regolamento mercato pesce trieste anni 20
Fig. 2.4.c – The first regulation of the fish market after the First World War dates back to 1921.
(ASTs, Capitaneria di Porto di Trieste, 312)


Female Fishmongers in Trieste, 1913–1921

numero pescivendole primi anni 900
Fig. 2.4.d – Number of female fishmongers present in the Trieste fish market between 1913 and 1921.
(AGCT, Igiene – Registri dei posteggi, anni 1913-1921)


Female Street Vendors (venderigole)

Trieste’s green markets and their sellers (venderigole) were truly a spectacle. The best-known market was the one in Ponterosso Square, near the Catholic church of Sant’Antonio and the Serbian-Orthodox one of San Spiridione, not far from the Greek-Orthodox church of San Nicolò. This served as a reference point for the daily shopping of the people of Trieste and a well-known attraction throughout the Adriatic basin.

venderigole trieste
Fig. 2.4.e.1 – Female street vendors (venderigole) in Ponterosso Square in Trieste.
(Fototeca CMSA, Trieste – Mottola, inv. F247928)
Video 2.4.e.2 – The venderigole had also been an inspiration for some songs. Edoardo Borghi’s “La venderigola” was composed in 1895.
venderigole san giovanni trieste
Fig. 2.4.e.3 – On St. John’s Day (24 June), it was customary for the venderigole to decorate their “Giovanin” (trans. “Johnny”), the little cherub of the Mazzoleni fountain (mid-18th century) in Piazza Ponterosso with flowers.
(NŠK, Magajna, Rusi most – Sv. Ivan, 1998)
numero venderigole 1913-1921
Fig. 2.4.e.4 – Number of venderigole who sold fish products in the open-air markets between 1913 and 1921
(AGCT, Igiene – Registri dei posteggi, anni 1913-1921)


Peškadorke (Bruno Volpi Lisjak)

Video 2.4.f – Bruno Volpi Lisjak tells us about peškadorke.
(Interview with Bruno Volpi Lisjak – Križ (Slovenia), 18 September 2021. Interviewer: Erica Mezzoli)


Peškadorke (Franco Cossutta)

Video 2.2.g – The Director of the Ribiški muzej Tržaškega Primorja – Museo della pesca del Litorale triestino (Santa Croce, Trieste, Italy), Franco Cossutta tells us about peškadorke.
(Interview with Franco Cossutta – Santa Croce (Trieste, Italy), 18 October 2021. Interviewer: Erica Mezzoli)


Street Food

An important part of the relationship between women and fishery in the popular culture of the North-eastern Adriatic concerned street food. In Trieste, the women who cooked and served Noah’s Ark shells (mussoli<(em>) were known as mussolere. Their carts, usually positioned on street corners, were important landmarks in people’s “daily topography”.

Fig. 2.4.h.1 – A female fishmonger weighs some Noah’s Ark shells.
(Fototeca CMSA, Trieste – Giornalfoto, F55609)
Fig. 2.4.h.2 – Gigia, the female Noah’s Ark shells seller (mussolera)
(NŠK, Magajna, Gigia prodaja mušlje / Gigia la mussolera, Trieste 1947)
Fig. 2.4.h.3 – A young man enjoys his portion of Noah’s Ark shells.
(NŠK, Magajna, 1947)
Fig. 2.4.h.4 – Another female Noah’s Ark shells seller (mussolera) with some customers.
(NŠK, Magajna, 1947)