As in every developed tourist destination, shopping in Venice accounts for one of the most beloved leisure activities. The ‘Queen of the Adriatic’ combines, in unrivalled way, a cosy and romantic atmosphere with countless shopping opportunities for every taste and pocket, from hearty family-owned souvenir shops to large modern shopping malls and classy boutiques. Looking for souvenirs, antiques, clothes, fashionable accessories or fresh food? Venice promises that none of your wishes will remain unsatisfied.
Gifts and Souvenirs
Given the uniqueness of the ‘City of Water' as a tourist destination, it is not surprising that souvenir production has long ago turned into the leading industry in the area. The most appealing local specialties are the world-famous masks and costumes, and also glassware and model gondolas. The best place to visit is the district north of Campo Santo Stefano, as well as the San Barnaba area, where tiny art-and-craft shops are at every corner. Prices vary drastically, as does the originality of the souvenirs. Most of the ‘typically Venetian’ goods are made in China, but you can still find some authentic merchandise at reasonable prices. Here are a couple of ideas for what to haul back home from Venice:
- Masks and Costumes – the spectacular Venetian carnival masks and costumes can be found throughout the city and are really the most characteristic objects of Venice. Hundreds of mask makers offer their products with an immense diversity in design and colour. Especially popular and prestigious is the manufacturer of Laboratorio Artigiano Maschere in Castello.
- Murano Glass – the Venetian district of Murano is famed for its glassware production. The district, which started more than 700 years ago, still uses the same, unchanged technology. The assortment varies from practical objects, such as elegantly decorated bowls and cups, to Christmas ornaments and funny knick-knacks. Along the main canal on the island of Murano you will find plenty of shops with attractive showrooms. However, beware of the fakes that have flooded the area. The easiest and safest way to tell an original Murano glass from a fake is to look at the price tag – authentic glassware made in Murano usually costs a fortune.
- Jewellery – a nice souvenir that suits every taste and budget. The most prestigious ateliers are Nardi and Missiaglia at Piazza San Marco. If you have several thousand euros to spend, you can take home unique pieces of jewellery as a souvenir from Venice. If you don’t, near the Rialto Bridge there are plenty of necklaces, Venetian pearls, chains, earrings and other ornaments at much lower prices.
- Gondolier Hats – for those who wish to take a small piece of Venetian atmosphere home, the numberless gondolier hats that flood the streets are a good choice. Besides, the large straw hats can prove quite practical on sunny days.
Fashion freaks won’t be bored in Venice with its tremendous choice of boutiques and outlets, which keep in-step with the latest trends in the fashion industry. Chic clothes, shoes and accessories can be purchased in several locations throughout the city. Undoubtedly, the San Marco area is the fashion Mecca in Vencie, with copious pathways, canals and squares lined with outlets of prestigious designers like Armani, Prada, Valentino, Versace, Laura Biagiotti and many others. The second area with a great variety of fashion boutiques is Campo Santo Stefano, as well as Calle della Mandola (if you are keen on leather goods of the highest quality). Traditional Venetian silk and velvet, plus delicate lingerie, are to be found in several stores around San Polo and Canal Grande.
Book lovers will be satisfied with the wide selection of books, maps, posters and postcards available in all parts of the city. Most materials have an understandable tourist theme, but classic novels, bestsellers and contemporary literature can also be easily found in good bookstores. Quite possibly the richest store is Goldoni on Calle dei Fabbri, which provides a wide assortment of books, maps and even specialised literature. As you might expect, postcards, maps and tourist guides are available at hundreds of stalls, especially in the main tourist districts.
Food and Beverage
Supermarkets have become abundant in Venice in recent years. Chains with the biggest market here are Billa and Coop. Another large store with a huge assortment can be found at Campo Santa Margherita. Traditionalists that want to feel the intimate atmosphere of buying food in a small Italian shop will be delighted with the numerous grocery stores, bakeries, meat and cheese shops. For gourmet food, the extremely up-scale market shop ‘I Tre Mercanti’ is a true must. The classy venue boasts an incredible selection of unique wines and delicacies.
Collectors will not be disappointed with the wide variety and supply of antiques in the ‘City of Water’. Objects and artifacts from different epochs can be purchased from any of the specialised merchants, concentrated mainly around San Maurizio and Santa Maria Zobenigo. Wonderful opportunities arise at the traditional annual antique fairs organised at various locations within the city.
1. Most shops in Venice are generally open from 9am to 8pm.
2. Lunch breaks, from 1pm to 3pm, are typical for local stores, especially smaller ones.
3. Only sporadic shops, mainly supermarkets, are open on Sunday.
4. Try to avoid the evening rush hour if you don’t like crowded stores and long queues.
5. Never buy anything before you know at least the approximate value of the desired good because most merchants tend to charge tourists much higher prices – bargain!