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Venice Shopping Guide

Annie Atwell (AnnieNC)

Venice is one of the world's great walking cities and on previous trips, I'd been much more interested in exploring the great labyrinth than in shopping. My most recent trip was different since it was right before Christmas, and my friend and I wanted to find a few gifts to bring home. I was somewhat limited by the fact that I was traveling VERY light (carry-on luggage only), so I was looking for small, easy to transport gifts. We found some great things and I was happy to learn that there's more to shopping in Venice than Prada and Gucci.

Riflessi Veneziani (glass beads and jewelry)
Santa Croce 1834-1867

My friend was shopping for loose Venetian glass beads for her daughter who makes jewelry. We looked in some expensive and unexciting glass stores in the San Marco/Rialto area, then we stumbled across this place. The lady was sitting there making jewelry – she explained that it was both a factory/studio and a shop. There were many jars of loose beads (and once she realized we were interested in beads, she began pulling boxes of them from behind the counter). They were beautiful, and she had some vintage/antique ones too.

Her jewelry was for sale and also some cool masks made of beads. But my favorite things were the flowers – they are like silk flowers on wire stems covered with green fabric, but instead of silk, the flowers and leaves are made of hundreds of tiny glass beads. I bought several of these – prices ranged from 8 to 20 Euro, depending on the size and the number of blossoms. They would have made great gifts except that when I got home, I kept them for myself!

The lady explained to us that because this place is a factory, there was a minimum purchase of 20 Euro. We had no trouble spending that much! To find this place, walk straight down from the San Stae vaporetto stop, and you will eventually see it on the right.

Vizio Virtu (chocolate shop)
San Polo 2898a, Calle del Campaniel, close to San Toma
www.viziovirtu.com

It's worth going into this shop just for the pure endorphin rush you get from breathing the air. There's chocolate in many shapes and forms – hot chocolate to drink, tons of pieces behind the counter, and desserts in a glass-front refrigerator. Heaven. There is also chocolate gift-boxed – I bought some dark chocolate bars with whole toasted hazelnuts on top (the people who received these as gifts loved them).

Libreria "Acqua Alta" (bookstore)
Castello 5176b, Calle Longa Santa Maria Formosa

Another place that we stumbled across. We had spent a couple of hours at the Miracoli flea market and were walking to campo Santa Maria Formosa when we saw this bookstore. There's a sign outside that says (in English) – "Welcome to the Most Beautiful Bookshop in the World." It's certainly a charming place – positively rambling with a number of rooms and lots of books in all languages. There are many books, prints, and cards about Venice; I bought some nice black-and-white cards with vintage Venetian scenes. The owner of this shop is very sweet.

A note about the Miracoli flea market: the market that we attended was held on the weekend and seemed to be a Christmas market, though I've heard that this flea market happens one weekend a month throughout the year. Well worth a visit – it was great fun to browse though I didn't buy anything.

Arca (ceramics)
Santa Croce 1811, Calle Tentor
www.bochaleri.it/galleria/arca/

Teresa della Valentina is a ceramic artist, and this is both a store and her studio. We walked by this place everyday (since it's on the path between Rialto and San Giacomo dall'Orio, the campo where our apartment was), and she was always sitting there working. The walls are covered with her ceramic tiles – they are beautiful and funky, very colorful and reasonably priced. I bought a mid-sized one with a night-time, full moon scene of Venetian canals with gothic windows. I love it. She bubble-wrapped it for safe transport, and it made it home just fine. Another gift for myself! She has lots of different Venice scenes and also tiles with flowers, cats, and fish. Her pottery is nice too.

Coop Supermarket
Campo San Giacomo dall 'Orio, Santa Croce (and other locations)

There are a number of Coop supermarkets in Venice; I shopped in the one in my campo. I love to go to supermarkets in other countries; it's great fun to look and compare with the ones at home. This Coop is small – I like the fact that you have a choice of 10 breakfast cereals instead of an aisle with hundreds.

Here's a tip for great gifts from Coop. In the tourist shops in San Marco, they sell these pretty yellow boxes of cookies called baicoli or "Famous Venetian Biscuits." They are similar to biscotti but very thin and shaped more like a cracker. The exact same boxes are available at Coop and cost about two-thirds less. I bought these for my nephews, who loved them.

Drogheria Mascari
San Polo 381, Ruga del Spezier

This is an awesome shop close to the Rialto market – foodstuffs, candy, preserves, spices, coffee, tea, wine – if you love to cook, you'll love this place. Nice staff too. I bought a box of bigoli (whole grain pasta, like very thick spaghetti). I could have bought a lot more in this store if I'd had more room, but it was fun to browse in here.

Coin
Cannaregio 5790, Salizzada San Giovanni Grisostomo

This is the Venetian department store. Nice things but not too high-end (probably closer to Macy's than to Saks). There were some cool kitchen gadgets in the Home store on the third floor. And on the first floor, there were all these beautiful, natural fiber socks with unique and colorful designs – all made in Italy, very soft, and not too expensive. A perfect, lightweight, and easy-to-haul home gift! I bought a bunch of socks here.

Legatoria Piazzesi
San Marco 2511, Campiello della Feltrina, close to the Santa Maria del Giglio vaporetto stop
www.legatoriapiazzesi.it

I read about this paper store before my trip and wrote down the address. I went twice, and it wasn't open either time. I'll try again next time because the collages in the window were very beautiful. They are made with all kinds of patterned paper and are very cool looking – evidently, the artist says that they are portraits of the tourists she sees walking by her shop! I have no idea how expensive they are, but I'd love to have one. The website says that this is the oldest paper store in Venice.

Venice Tourist Pavillion
San Marco, near the Giardini Reali

A great place to go when you arrive in Venice to pick up free monthly publications that tell you what's happening (concerts, art exhibits etc). This place also has a small but interesting bookstore – all the books are about Venice, in many different languages – not only guidebooks, but fiction, history, and art books as well as a nice selection of cards. I bought a pocket-sized book, "The Churches of Venice," and "Venice Botteghe", Michela Scilibia's very informative shopping guide.

Banco N. 10 (clothes and handbags)
Castello 3478, Salizada Sant'Antonin

I read about this shop in "Venice Botteghe." It's rather off the beaten track in Castello, but thanks to the maps in the back of the book, I was able to find it easily. The shop has one-of-a-kind clothing and handbags made by inmates at the women's prison on Guidecca, which intrigued me. The stuff was interesting and not very expensive; the handbags are made of brocade and various other fabrics. If I had found one that I loved, I would have bought it for sure; but on this particular day, I didn't see one that I had to have. I'll go back here again next trip.

Gas (clothing and Internet point)
San Polo, Calle dei Boteri

This is a hip clothing store that appears to cater to teens and early 20's. But the best thing about this place is their Internet Point, which is really inexpensive compared to others in Venice. You stop at the counter and get a laminated tag (and they log the time), then you walk through a door in the back of the shop and down this rather dingy alley to a room with the computers. It's not fancy and the computers are rather beat up, but the Internet connection is plenty fast. This place also has some inexpensive, cool/tacky gag gifts (think Spencer gifts) if you are shopping for someone who likes that type of thing. This store is in the Rialto area, next door to Osteria al Garanghelo, a nice little restaurant.

Christmas Market in Campo San Stefano

This outdoor market began on December 2 and ran until Xmas Eve. There were about 30 or so little chalet-looking booths along with a stage for free concerts. Lots of activities for kids (we saw a great Italian clown/juggler/comedian perform). Some nice gift possibilities here – a few booths with Xmas ornaments and decorations, but most of the booths were selling food and/or wine (and almost every booth was giving away free samples!). We tried some wonderful wine and bought beautiful marzipan candy as well as some bright green pistachio pastries. I also had some excellent cheese from Fruili. On the evening of the free rock concert, a couple of the booths were selling hot spiced wine for two Euro, and it was delicious. Another highlight of this market was seeing Babbo Natale (aka Santa Claus) walking around on stilts (it was the first female Santa I have ever seen!).


Read Anne's blog Churches in Venice Mosaics, Marble, and Miracle-Working Madonnas.

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