Shopping In Venice: You Need To Know These 6 Fantastic Souvenirs

Venice is an amazing city to visit. It is completely unique and breathtakingly beautiful. 

View from the Dogane

The city is full to bursting with fascinating history, unbelievable old palaces that seemingly rise up out of the water, churches filled with breathtaking artwork, stunning museums, and gorgeous old calli to walk along and explore. There is something spectacular around every corner in Venice. And oh good Lord – the food! Venetian cuisine is divine!

So it stands to reason that during any visit to the city you will want to pick up some souvenirs or gifts to bring home.

The problem is, most of the kiosks and storefronts are selling crappy Made-In-China junk. Furthermore, these products are typically made in sweatshops on the other side of the world and have a negative impact on the Venetian economy.

Rather than waste your hard earned money on rubbish, I want to guide you toward some of the fabulous artisan wares you can buy in Venice. All of these are made by real Venetians, living in Venice, using the same methods used for over 1000  years.

By shopping with authentic Venetian merchants you help keep the craft alive and come home with something authentic to remember your trip by.

You already know about Murano glass and Burano lace, so let’s look at 6 other types of Venetian goods you’ll love to bring home.

1. Venetian Chocolate

I learned about this absolute treasure form my Cicchetti tour guide Monica. This place is known as the finest chocolatier in the city.

Vizio Virtu is an artisan chocolate workshop run by two completely fabulous women who clearly have their priorities straight. Chocolate above all else.

They only use the highest quality ingredients, from Sicilian pistachios to Piedmontese hazelnuts. Their chocolates and truffles make incredible delectable gifts and souvenirs, their handmade gelato is divine (eat a cone while you’re there buying your gifts) and they even offer chocolate workshops.

Vizio Virtu is fantastic and not to be missed.

Address: Castello 5988 (3 minutes from Rialto Bridge)

Website www.viziovirtu.com

RELATED POST: 5 Amazing Ways To Escape The Crowds In Venice

2. Paper Goods

Did you know that Venice was a pioneer in printing? In fact the Italic script was invented right here in Venice? It was first used in 1501 by Francesco Griffo, the typesetter for Venetian printer Aldus Manutius. Venice was also the home of modern music printing – in the 16th century Ottaviano Petrucci was able to secure a 20 year monopoly on printing sheet music. Prior to this sheet music was written out by hand.

Venetians discovered that using leather covers for books damaged the paper within, so started using beautifully marbled paper covers instead. Venetians became masters at the ancient art of marbling paper. You can still find marbled paper shops around Venice, many offering classes and demonstrations of this really ancient art form. Marbled paper is sold by the sheet, and artisans making these papers have travel sized cardboard tubes for you to bring them home in.

One of my absolute favorite paper stores in Venice is Plum Plum Creations, in the Cannaregio neighborhood. Arianna Sautariello is a young Venetian artist who amongst other things designs really cool, modern images of classic Venetian scenes, makes etching plates of them, then prints these etching in the old school way. Each etching is hand painted.

Plum Plum Creations

Did I mention they are incredibly cool?? These art the type of fresh artwork you can imagine framed and hanging in your home or office. Image via venezia.net

She also makes bookmarks and postcards and all manner of really special paper products. My Glam Italia Tour travelers always end up buying lots of pieces here. Arianna’s artworks are affordable, easy to pack in your suitcase, and make incredible souvenirs. Be sure to check out her website: www.plumplumcreations.com

Conveniently, Plum Plum is very close to one of my all time favorite Cicchetti bars, Vino Vero, one of my favorite Venetian coffee shops, Torrefazione Cannaregio, and is just around the corner from the Jewish Ghetto. Add this to your must see list.

Address: Fondamenta dei Ormesini
Cannaregio 2681

3. Masks

Carnevale masks are an intrinsic part of Venetian history. They were first documented back in 1094, and were a part of Venetian life for the next 7 centuries until the fall of the Republic in 1797. Mask makers had their own guild or union and were recognized as artisans.

Handmade Venetian mask at Kartaruga, Venice

Along with the Carnevale masks they also made Commedia dell’Arte masks for actors. You can still buy both types of masks and they make amazing souvenirs.

They also are incredibly ripped off – a loophole in the law states that even if the smallest piece is added by hand in Italy, it can have both a handmade label and a Made In Italy label. Consequently crappy plastic masks are shipped in from China, some sweatshop worker glues on a feather or a piece of ribbon, and they can legally label the knock off mask as Made In Italy and Handmade.

Rather than buying a $10 knock off mask that was made in a sweatshop in China, support local Venetian mask makers who still make their masks authentically. Look for mask shops that either have a full workshop on the premises or at least a partial workshop.

My favorite mask shop, and the one I take all my Glam Italia Tour groups to is Kartaruga. This is a family owned and operated business. They used to have 2 locations in Venice but unfortunately their main workshop got severely damaged in the November 2019 floods and then once Covid hit they were no longer able to keep both open. The main workshop is now on the mainland, but they have a partial workshop in the remaining store, where you can take classes or watch the master mask makers in action. On top of that, Francesca Cecamore who owns and runs the store is also the president of the Mask Makers Association in Venice.

Although you will see masks for sale around every corner in Venice, there are only a handful of authentic mask makers still in business. You can visit Kartaruga, just 4 minutes walk from Piazza San Marco, or find more authentic make shops on the Venezia Autentica website.

Kartaruga

Address: Calle delle Bande, Castello 5369

Website: www.kartaruga.com

RELATED POST: 10 Fabulous Books To Read Before Going To Venice

4. Coffee

Did you know that Venice introduced coffee to Europe and the western world??

For centuries Venice was the merchant trade capital of the world. All trade between east and west went through the port of Venice.

Coffee was considered the drink of the Muslims, so the church tried to get Pope Clement VIII to ban the drink. He decided to try a cup before banning it, and liked it so much, he famously said:

Why, this Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”

Breakfast at Rosa Salva in Castello

The first coffee houses (in the western world) were in Venice. The oldest coffeehouse in the world that is still running now is Caffe Florian in Piazza San Marco.

Suffice to say Venetians are absolute masters at making coffee. From their bean selection to the roast, to the grind, Venetian coffee is off the charts brilliant.

Unfortunately, because there is such a massive cruise ship population wandering through the center of town, a lot of coffee houses and hotels don’t bother making fabulous Venetian blends. There’s no point going to the time and effort for a mass market, Starbucks palette. However, Venetians don’t drink the mass market swill, they go for the good stuff, and if you know where to go it will rock your world!

As much as I am in Venice I always, always, always bring home coffee. The following are all artisan coffee roasteries. This is definitely not mass market coffee! Here are my three all time favorite places to get coffee in Venice:

Girani

image via eBottega.it

This is the oldest artiginal coffee rotary in Venice, and supplies most of the best 5 star hotels in the city.

You simply cannot get better coffee than at Girani, and this is the first choice for coffee snobs and aficionados alike.

They have multiple varieties but my favorite is Fassina.

Coffee from Girani is an amazing gift or souvenir to bring home.

The business is just a roastery, but if you want to try a cup first, whip into the bar next door – they serve Girani. It’s also really cool to visit the roastery and have them explain it all to you while you watch.

Address: Campo Bandiera e Moro o de la Bragora, 3727, (5 minutes walk from Piazza San Marco)

Website:www.caffegirani.it

Caffe del Doge

Caffe del Doge – I come here on the daily when I’m in Venice

Just around the corner from the Rialto Bridge you’ll find one of Venice’s best kept secrets, caffe del Doge. It is literally 2 minutes away from the worst of the tourist crowds, yet the only people you’ll see here are locals and travelers in the know.

Grab a cappuccino and a pastry and sit outside at one of the few tables, then rinse and repeat.

They have an extensive coffee menu, but if you’re there when they’re not busy they will walk you through it. If it is busy just order from the blackboard. You cannot go wrong!

After a couple of cups you’ll understand why you need to bring some home!

Address:Rialto, Calle dei Cinque, 609,

Website: www.caffedeldoge.com

Torrefazione Cannaregio

image via AllAboutVenice.com (Excellent article about coffee in Venice here)

This is another of Venice’s really fantastic coffee shops and roasters. This time we’re in Cannaregio, not far from the Jewish Ghetto. The coffee bar is wonderful, with a really cool interior, and the coffee is tremendous. Torrefazione is a favorite with locals and also travelers who’ve been clued in (like you!)

You will totally get hooked, but that’s ok because Italians drink coffee all day, so you can drop in for another cup every time you’re in the area. (Venice is really small, so you’re technically always in the area!)

Address: Fondamenta dei Ormesini, 2804,

Website: www.TorrefazioneCannaregio.it

RELATED POST: 15 Things You MUST Do In Venice

5. Gondola Goods

Did you know it take more than 10 different types of craftspeople to make a gondola? Every part of the gondola is made by hand right here in Venice – none of it happens in a factory somewhere on the mainland

From the squero where they make the wooden boat, to the remeri where they make the oars and the oarlock (the forcola) to the metal workers who make the fero at the front of the boat, every step of the process is fascinating. All of the workers involved in making everything from the gondola itself, to the cushions you sit on, to the gondolier uniforms, all belong to an association called El Felze. This association regulates the trades and protects the workers.

Gondola related products have to be one of the most iconic souvenirs you can bring home, but unfortunately they are also hot sellers for the rip off merchants. So let’s look at two types of gondola related souvenirs you can buy, and where you can buy them.

Gondolier Shirts

Gondolier killing time outside Santa Maria die Miracoli in Venice

There is only one place in all of Venice that sells real gondolier shirts. Any gondolier style shirt not bought from here is a rip off knock off.

The Emilio Ceccato shop is a one minute walk from the Rialto Bridge, so right in the heart of where you are going to be anyway. Royalties from all sales of gondolier clothing go directly to the El Felze association and are used to safeguard gondoliers and the different types of artisans that make gondolas.

Address: Campo San Polo 16/17

What’s Nearby: the Rialto Bridge

Website: EmilioCeccato.com

WOODEN THINGS

The gondoliers’ oars and oarlocks are hand crafted by the remeri. There are only 4 remeri in Venice, and every forcola and oar you see on every gondola in town has been handcrafted by one of them. Each forcola has been custom built for that particular gondolier.

The Forcola is the wiggly piece of wood on the left, where the oar sits. Image via Craftsmanship.net

Each remero has his own work shop and store where you can buy handcrafted wooden souvenirs, including scaled down versions of the focola, or even full sized sculptures to ship back. These are tremendous to visit, and even if you only buy something as small as a key ring, you get a wonderful souvenir and your travel dollars have made a difference.

Paolo Brandolisio

Address: 4725, Calle Corte Rota, Castello

Piero Dri

Il Forcolaio Matto (the mad forcolier)

Address: Ramo dell’Oca, Cannaregio 4231

Saverio Pastor

Address: Fondamenta Soranzo detta de la Fornasa, 341 Dorsoduro

Franco Furlanetto

Address: Rio Tera dei Nomboli, San Polo 2768b

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Glass Beads And Jewelry

We know about Murano glass chandeliers and vases, but did you know there is fabulous handcrafted glass jewelry in Venice? 

There are two jewelry makers I want to draw your attention to:

The Impiraressa

For hundreds of years, tiny ‘seed beads’ were used around the world as trade beads. They were also used to adorn clothing of wealthy European women.

Marisa Convento, the Impiraressa, image via VeniceFashionWeek.com

These colorful, tiny glass beads were made on Murano and hand threaded onto skeins by women called the Impiraressa. 

Venice has a modern day impiraressa, Marisa Convento. World famous and written up in every major travel publication, Marisa makes beautiful jewelry, coral branches, flowers and embroidery pieces. Every piece is made by hand in the traditional fashion, and all of it is sensational. She has pieces at every price point too.

Marisa Convento, image by Nicoletta Fornaro

You can find Marisa’s shop inside the Bottega Cini, a cooperative store for high end artisans in Dorsoduro. Check out her website at www.MarisaConvento.com

Alessia Fuga

On Murano, just a 2 minute walk from the Basilica Santi Maria e Donato you’ll find another fantastic artisan workshop, this time belonging to jewelry maker Alessia Fuga.

image via Live In Venice

Alessia makes glass jewelry like you’ve never seen before. Her pieces are beautiful and are available at all price points. Be sure to check out her website www.AlessiaFuga.com and visit her workshop while on Murano.

I hope this blog post will encourage you to seek out some of Venice’s amazing artisans, and spend your souvenir dollars with them. When you buy from a local craftsperson your dollars stay right here in Venice, and contribute to the local economy. When you buy knock off, Made In China tourist junk your tourist dollars bypass Venice and head over to Asia or wherever the sweatshop is that made it.

Venice By Numbers: Fabulous, Fascinating Facts To Add Magic To Your Trip

Happy Birthday Venice! Or maybe I should say tantissimi auguri! March 25th is the official birth date of Venice, although there is no documentation for when the city on the water actually started. This date was chosen because at noon on the 25th of March in 421 A.D the first church of Venice was dedicated. This was the Church of San Giacomo on what was then the tiny islet of Rialto.

How Venice Started

Do you know how Venice got started? After the fall of the Roman Empire the Barbarians (Huns and Longobards) invaded Italy, looting and pillaging and destroying everything in their path. Some of the Veneti (people from the Veneto) escaped by hiding out in the marshy lagoon that lay between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers, and the Adriatic Sea. This swamp was full of raised mud mounds or mini islands (islets)

The island of Torcello was first settled in 452 and has the oldest of Venice’s treasures.

They couldn’t build their town on the silt and mud so they had to come up with a clever idea. The end result was an engineering marvel that not only built the floating city but has kept it going for 1600 years! Those original buildings are mostly gone but there are buildings in Venice still standing after 1000 years.

They devised a system where they took huge wooden poles – essentially tree trunks, up to 10 meters long, and drove them down through the silt and mud of the marshy islands until they hit the hard clay way down below. The put these poles or pilings side by side so they were touching, then filled any space between with rocks and stones. The pilings were of water resistant wood like oak and larch, and they didn’t rot because in order for rot to set in you need both water and oxygen. Not only was there no oxygen below the water level, but the lagoon was full of silt and mud that absorbed into the wood and then over time became petrified and hard as stone.

Two layers of wood went over the pilings, then a layer of stone or marble upon which the houses and then palaces were built. Brilliant, no?

Venice By The Numbers

Venice is full of secrets along with some pretty fascinating facts and figures. So let’s look at some of the numbers.

The Sestieri

Map of Venice via Wandering Italy

Venice is a really small city, broken up into 6 neighborhoods or sestieri. There are 3 neighborhoods on either side of the Grand Canal. The first three are: Cannaregio (by the train station)which is also the most populated one, San Marco, in the middle and where perhaps the most famous tourist sites are, and Castello, the largest of the six.

On the far side of the Grand Canal there is the Dorsoduro at the top, roughly opposite San Marco. This is where the huge white church, Santa Maria della Salute watches over the canal. Next is the smallest sestiere, San Polo, amongst other things home to the Rialto fish market. Lastly curving around the bottom is beautiful Santa Croce.

Three islands immediately off of Venice each belong to a different sestiere. Giudecca is considered part of Dorsoduro, San Giorgio Maggiore is part of San Marco and the cemetery island of San Michele is part of Cannaregio.

RELATED POST: 10 Fabulous Books To Read Before You Go To Venice

The Canals

grand Canal Venice
The Grand Canal in Venice

Venice has 3 canals, the most famous of which is the Grand Canal. The two other canals are the Cannaregio Canal which until the train line was built was the main route to Venice from the mainland, and the Giudecca Canal which is also the throroughfare for the cruise ships.

A rio in Venice

The little waterways throughout the city are not actually canals, they are called rii. (One rio, two rii). There are 150 rios or rii in Venice. As Venice needed more terra firma some of the rii were filled in and became rio tera’. Which essentially means earth filled rio. There are 53 rio tera’ in Venice. There are two types of rio tera’, the rio terra tombati which are completely filled in and the rio tera’ con volti, which still have water flowing beneath them.

Gondolas and Gondoliers

You will fall in love with the gentle swish (not even a spash) sound of the gondola in Venice. A ride on a gondola should be on your list of things to do while there, just stay away from the main tourist areas. Ask your gondolier to take you down some side canals/rios to get away from the traffic and the tourists, and get him to tell you about the things you are seeing. Most tourists seem to try and squash as many people as possible onto their gondola to try and save some money, then spend the whole time taking selfies and getting instagram fodder. Your best experience is to only have a couple of you on board, relax back into the cushions and let your gondolier tell you his story.

There are currently only 400 gondolas in Venice. At the height of the 17th and 18th centuries it is estimated there were as many as 10,000 gondolas! Custom made for the shallow lagoon, each gondola is made from 8 types of wood: lime, larch, oak, fir, cherry, walnut, elm and mahogany. Or 9 if you count the oar which is made from beech. Gondolas have been around for nearly 1000 years, with the first documentation of them dating back to 1094.

The gondola’s S shaped iron prow represents the bends in the Grand Canal, the 6 teeth represent the sestieri or districts of Venice, the curved top is the doge’s cap and the 1 ‘tooth’ sticking out the back represents the island of Giudecca. If you look closely you will notice that gondolas are lopsided. This is to balance out the gondolier’s weight.

Gondoliers have incredible posture. Watch them and you’ll see that along with their oar they are maneuvering the boat with their feet, hips and shoulders. It’s not easy to become a gondolier. The training alone takes more than 400 hours, the exam is difficult and even if you pass it there are only 3 or 4 new licenses issued per year!

My favorite gondolier move? Watch the way they slip a leg out and gently push off from any wall they come too close to. It’s almost like a ballet.

RELATED POST: 15 Thing You MUST Do In Venice

Streets and Such

That’s Santa Maria dei Miracoli peeping out at you from behind the bridge.

Venice only has 1 strada (street), the Strada Nuova in Cannaregio. Those other streets and walkways? These are called calli (one calle/two calli) and there are roughly 3000 of them. Then there are 367 rami, the small streets or ‘branches’ connecting the bigger ones. There are 10 rughe, streets lined with shops and named after the French rue, and 42 salizade, the first paved streets in Venice. These were important streets and were paved with a stone specific to Venice called masegni.

Islands, Bridges and Wells

Venice is actually a series of 118 mini islands, connected by 435 bridges. There are only 4 bridges crossing the Grand Canal. From the top down they are the Accademia Bridge, the Rialto Bridge, The Scalzi Bridge and the new guy, the Constitution Bridge, also known as the Calatrava. (Calatrava is the Spanish architect who built it.) There is only 1 bridge that has no railings, the Ponte Chiodo in Cannaregio. This bridge is also interesting because it dead ends into a house. Which by the way is now a bed and breakfast. (There is another railing free bridge on the island of Torcello, known as the devil’s bridge.)

The Ponte Chiodo in Cannaregio

Ever wonder how they got fresh water in Venice before it was eventually piped in, in 1884? If you keep an eye out you will notice that in every campo (piazza) except for Piazza San Marco, and in all the courtyards there is a well. Look a little closer and you’ll see the ground isn’t quite flat – it dips toward the well. This is because through another completely genius feat of engineering the (very) early Venetians devised a plan to capture rainwater, filter it and keep it in these wells. This blog post from Venezia Autentica explains how they did it. It’s worth checking out because did I mention – it’s brilliant!

In 1858 a census of Venice’s wells found there were 180 public wells, 6046 private wells and 556 wells that had been closed or removed. Although no longer a source of water, an estimated 600 of these beautiful and decorative wells are still scattered in the campi of Venice.

The Pilings

Photo of pilings below Venice via Venice by Venetians. Post linked here

I always think of them as poles or tree trunks, but the pilings have their own story to tell. If you look around you’ll notice there are no forests around Venice. The wood for the pilings mostly came from 3 places: Croatia, Slovenia and Montenegro. And of course they came across the Adriatic on boat and barges, centuries before boat motors were invented. Lots of them. There are more than 10 million pilings below the city of Venice. The Rialto bridge sits on 30,000 of them and the church of Santa Maria della Salute has more than 1 million pilings underneath it!

Want more information about Venice? Get a free PDF of my 10 Favorite Secret Places In Venice These are fantastic places to escape the tourist crowds and see something different in the floating city. You will also automatically get any other secret Venice information I release over the next 6 months. Get your PDF here

The Churches

Santa Maria della Salute, Venice
The church of Santa Maria della Salute in the Dorsoduro sestiere, Venice

There are 159 churches in Venice, which basically means there is one every few meters. 27 are desconsecrated, there is 1 Anglican church and 1 Greek Orthodox.

Mass Tourism and Cruise Statistics

Seriously, why are these stupid boats even allowed inside the lagoon??

Little Venice (it really is small) has the hideous ranking of being the 7th busiest cruise port in Europe and the 22nd busiest cruise port in the world. Had covid not shut down the travel industry a minimum of 56 ships would have made 518 port calls in 2020, each dumping an average of 3360 passengers. The estimated number of cruise ship passengers in 2020 that were expected to disembark in Venice (a very small, very fragile city) was 1.23 million. Despite news reports that cruise ships would no longer be allowed into the lagoon in reality the cruise ship traffic growth for Venice for 2020 was projected at 18%.

The MSC Magnifica cruise ship is seen in the Venice Lagoon on June 9, 2019, as people take to the water in the annual Vogalonga rowing regatta in Venice. – Thousands of people took to the streets in Venice on June 8, 2019, calling for a ban on large cruise ships in the city following last week’s collision between a massive vessel and a tourist boat. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP) (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

Cruise ships not only destroy the view for anyone trying to enjoy Venice and make life a nightmare for local Venetians, they also cause catastrophic damage to the environment and the city.

RELATED POST: Sustainable Travel – How To Be Part Of The Solution In 10 Simple Steps

The average depth of the Venice lagoon is 10.5 meters (34 feet) with a maximum depth of 21 meters (74 feet). The displacement of a the cruise ship pictured above is 154,000 tons according to the MSC website, and the gross tonnage is 95, 128 GT. These ships cause damage not only in wave damage but also with their wake and undertow eroding and destroying the city’s wooden piling foundations. On top of that the Venetian Port Authority had to dredge a 10 meter (33 feet) deep canal across the lagoon to accommodate the below water depth of them. This in turn allows the Adriatic to pour more water into the lagoon at high tide, causing even more flooding. Although not the sole source of the increased flooding in Venice it is a huge contributor. You can read more about it here and in this 2011 article from the Telegraph.

How is this even considered to be ok??

Venice’s Population Counter

Mass tourism is destructive on many levels but one of the worst (along with the staggering environmental damage it causes) is the effect it has on the local population. It makes living in that place almost untenable. Imagine your neighborhood suddenly getting 5 cruise ships worth of people (as many as 20,000) dumped on it each day ~ it would be a nightmare. As such between the impossibility of functioning in daily life (think doing groceries, taking kids to school, going to and from work, going to the dentist etc) and their home city being turned into a cruise ship Disneyland, local Venetians started being forced to move to the mainland.

A pharmacy on Strada Nova has a digital counter that keeps details of the locla population count. In 1973 the population of Venice was roughly 148,000. This is the count of Venetians born and bred living in their home city. As of February 6th 2021 it was down to just over 52,000.

image via Cecilia Staiano

You can read Cecilia Staiano’s article about the depopulation of Venice here. The photo above is hers taken from her Feb 6th 2021 article.

Venice’s main income source is tourism. The city needs you to come and visit, stay a few nights and enjoy her beauty, her artisans, her cuisine. Fall in love with her buildings, the magic quality of light and her gorgeous ambience. Just please don’t come on a cruise….

Sustainable Travel: How To Be Part Of The Solution In 10 Simple Steps

Mass tourism is completely untenable.

Beautiful cities like Venice are being destroyed by mass tourism.

If one good thing comes from the world being shut down due to the pandemic it could be the realigning of how we travel so that when the world does reopen, maybe this time we can get it right.

Mass tourism causes irreparable damage on many levels but the three most pervasive are: environmental damage, social and cultural damage and economic damage. As much as you may think several thousand people dismbarking from a cruise ship boosts a local economy, guess what – it doesn’t. In fact it does the exact opposite.

This post is the final in a series about sustainable travel, what it is and why we need to be part of the solution.

What Is Sustainable Travel?

Before you start thinking Sustainable tourism is about driving a Prius and eating vegan food let’s look at what it really means. Sustainable travel means developing ways to travel that don’t harm the natural and cultural environments, that minimize the negative impact of tourism and ideally are beneficial to the places we are traveling to. The idea is to keep everything in good condition for future generations to enjoy.

10 Ways You Can Become A Sustainable Traveler

We can make a huge difference by just making a few simple changes in the way we travel. Here are 10 simple things you can do that will make you part of the solution rather thn part of the problem.

1. DON’T Book A Cruise!

The cruise industry is one of the worst offenders in the mass tourism game. Cruises have a massive negative impact on the oceans and the ports they arrive into.

Cruise ship leaving Venice. During the tourist season there will be 5 ships per day in port in Venice. That’s 20,000 extra people decending into a very small town that is extremely environmentally fragile.

The influx of multiple thousands of passengers is bad for the environment, bad for local culture and bad for the local economy.

Here are eight places being completely ruined by the cruise industry:

  • Venice
  • Barcelona
  • Dubrovnik
  • Santorini
  • Mallorca
  • The Great Barrier Reef
  • The Galapagos Islands
  • Bali

You can read more about cruise ships damaging impact on the environment here

RELATED POST: 15 Things You MUST Do In Venice

2. Be Aware Of The Trash You Create

When thinking about the impact you have on any place you travel to, any city, town, village, beach, national park, at all times be aware of the amount of trash you are generating and leaving behind. Even if you are putting it in a trash can or dumpster.

The worst offenders are single use plastics, like bottles of water. Choosing to use refillable bottles or refilling the one bottle can make a huge difference.

Crowds on Barcelona’s Las Ramblas. Imagine if each of these people purchased 2 or 3 bottles of water. Where does all that single use plastic go?

Also think about the amount of trash your food choices create. Making an effort to only eat sitting down in a restaurant/café/food bar can eliminate the trash created by the packaging for fast foods. Try keeping all your trash for two days – you will be amazed at how much you generate! Try imagining that volume of refuse multiplied out by the number of tourists in that town that day. For example if you are in Venice and buy 3 bottles of water you may not think that’s much waste created, but multiply that out by the 20,000 passengers from the 5 cruise ships in port that day and you start seeing what a huge deal that really is.

Beach litter in Hawaii.

3. Avoid Major Chains

Outside of your home country or traveling to the U.S or U.K avoid staying at major chain hotels. When you book with a major international chain approximately 16% of your nightly hotel fee won’t go to the local economy, it will go to the conglomerate. Booking a local hotel keeps the money in that specific town.

The same applies to your dining choices. Avoid the major U.S fast food chains – you didn’t travel across the world to eat McDonald’s and drink Starbucks. Eat at local cafes and restaurants where the food is locally sourced and prepared by locals and where all your dollars are going back into the local economy.

4. Book Direct

When you book a hotel reservation (or any reservation) through a third party booking service like Booking.com or Hotels.com 25% of the value of your booking doesn’t make it to the local economy. Find out what the price is with the consolidator then call the hotel and ask them to match it. 9 times out of 10 they will, and now once again you are putting all the money back into the local economy.

5. Choose Less Traveled Locations.

The Greek island of Paros is much less touristed than islands such as Santorini and Mykonos.

Rather than choosing the most touristed places for your vacation, choose a place less traveled. Rather than Santorini choose one of the hundreds of equally beautiful Greek islands that don’t get cruise ships. Instead of Barcelona venture to one of Catalonia’s equally magical smaller coastal towns. Seeking out smaller, less touristy locations helps dilute mass tourism.

If you must go to (a.k.a. don’t want to miss) the most touristed cities and islands try to go during the off season when then are fewer people around. I love Barcelona but only go between November and March when the cruise ships aren’t running.

6. Get Off The Beaten Path

Florence streets
Florence on a super crowded day. There were literally thousands of people about 500 meters away, yet we had the city to ourselves.

This goes with number 5. Even in the big cities you can still get off the beaten path. Avoid the areas that are full of tourists and explore some of the lesser known sights. You’ll have a much more enriching and fulfilling experience. My rule is spend 25% of your time at the big sites and the other 75% at lesser known, lesser visited places, or “off the beaten track”. Of course you have to see the Colosseum in Rome – it would be madness to miss it. But then go explore the less visited sites and you will fall in love with the Eternal City.

RELATED POST: 18 Things You MUST Do In Florence

7. Support Local Artisans

Rather than shop in high street stores which you have at home anyway, or buying junky trinkets in made in China souvenir shops, support local artisans.

In a random little town in Tuscany we found this local artisan with her loom, making beautiful hand designed pashminas, scarves and knitwear.

Apart from helping keep the crafts and cultures alive shopping from local artisans significantly impacts the local economy.

We bought pieces both for ourselves and for gifts to take home. There were six of us and we equalled her entire month in sales. Always support the local economy.

8. Check Your Sunscreen

Believe it or not something as simple as your choice of sunscreen can have an environmental impact. Sunscreen gets into the ocean and other waterways when you swim or shower it off. You don’t need to be vacationing near the coral reefs for your sunscreen to have an impact.

In 2015 scientists estimated that annually 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash into the world’s coral reefs.

Coral reefs are being destroyed by pollutants.

Some of the most common sunscreen ingredients, oxybenzone, octinoxate, nano zinc oxide and nano titanium dioxide can harm both sea creatures and coral reefs. The damage is significant enough that some places are banning sun tan lotions containing them. In 2018 Hawaii banned the sale of sun tan lotions, sunblocks and suncreens with oxybenzone and octinoxate.

For a list of easily available and affordable reef safe sunscreens click here

9. Travel By Train

italo train Naples

Trains have been shown to be the most environmentally friendly mode of travel. Where possible use trains to travel through Europe rather than cars or planes. Using car only on the days you can’t get places by train has a significant impact on the environment.

RELATED POST: 21 Books That Will Inspire Wanderlust

10. Choose Your Animal Experiences Carefully

Animals shouldn’t be used for entertainment and should be able to live with as little human interference as possible. If you need to see animals in the wild take your tourism dollars to wildlife sanctuaries and refuges and marine conservation projects.

Kim Kardashian with elephant
Kim Kardashian said this was at an elephant sanctuary but sanctuaries don’t ride elephants and don’t use ropes on them. This poor animal was being abused.

Be aware that animals are mistreated and abused in the name of tourism. Don’t take an elephant ride – riding elephants can be extremely harmful to them and the process for getting an elephant ready to be ridden is inhumane. (Rescued elephants go to sanctuaries to escape a life of being ridden and abused.)

Avoid all experiences where animals are not behaving naturally. Also be aware that animals are being torn from the wild to be made available for tourists to take selfies with.

Want to know more? Listen to the Any Given Runway Podcast episode where we talk about sustainable travel and how you can make a huge difference by doing very small things. You can check out the webpage here

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