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

Join The Newsletter! Do you belong to my newsletter yet? If not, join the thousands of readers who each month get to discover my favorite secret towns and villages, the ones the tour buses don’t go to. You can join the newsletter here

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.

15 Things You MUST Do In Venice

15 Things
You Must Do In Venice

venice-carnival-mask

To visit Venice for just one day is a crime. To visit Italy and not see Venice is a bigger crime. But sometimes all you have is a day, so you need to know how to use that day wisely and not miss out on the best of
Venice by just hanging out where the tourists are. Here are 15 things that you absolutely must do when you are in Venice.

***Scroll to the bottom of this post to get my Top 10 Secret Places To Go In Venice PDF!

Santa-Maria Della-Salute

Walk (And Walk, And Walk)

Everybody walks in Venice. Walking is an integral part of the social structure of this most unique city in the world. Sit on a bench or a wall anywhere in Venice and watch life happen all around you as the Venetians walk on by, stopping to chat to friends and neighbors.

Your entire experience of Venice is begins and ends with walking. Even if it’s the only thing you do here, just walk and walk and walk.

“The only way to get around Venice, whether you are a countess or a shopkeeper is to walk” ~ John Berendt

Get Lost In Venice

venice-backstreets

Venice is actually really small, and is also the safest city in Europe, so don’t be scared – get lost! Put your map away and just roam the back streets (where the Venetians live). The bulk of the tourists will all be standing in line outside
the basilica and the Campanile, or buying 15 euro caffe in the Piazza San Marco, so you can finally breathe as you wander and explore little canals that lead to nowhere, footbridges and magical little streets with crumbling plaster
and rusting metal, secret little community squares, private gardens, hidden little coffee shops. It’s wonderful!

venice-backstreets

Make it your goal to get hopelessly, madly, completely, lost.

Hit Piazza San Marco Early

Technically, if you are going to Venice you really do have to go to St Mark’s Square. The problem is that that is all most people go see. By the time the cruise ships have disgorged their visitors for the day, and the day trippers have arrived, St Marks square / Piazza san Marco turns into a human crush surrounded by vendors selling Made In China cheap Venice knock offs. It gets awful.

So the key is to get there before the crowds descend on the piazza. It is definitely beautiful and magnificent, especially during the off-season!

Take A Tour Of The Doge’s Palace

st-marks-square-venice

Either have a local tour guide take you through, or rent an audio tour. You miss far too much and far too many interesting things if you try to freestyle your way through this palace. Walk across the enclosed Bridge Of Sighs, and look out at the last view prisoners had as they were ushered from the court in the Doge’s Palace to the prison on the other side. The prison is well worth walking through as well.

Discover Boutique Hotels In Venice

Walk The Dorsoduro

The Dorsoduro is my favorite of the siesteri. I can walk it for hours and never get bored.

Venice-Italy
Dorsoduro Venice, June 2016

You will find fewer tourists there and endless magnificent things to see. Some of the big attractions include Salute, the Guggenheim Museum (Peggy Guggenheim lived there and is buried in the garden with her dogs) and incredible palazzi including the stupendous Ca’ Rezzonico.

 Read moreabout the Dorsoduro here

 Visit Ca’Rezzonico

Venice is full of grand old palaces, but one of my absolute favorites to visit is Ca’ Rezzonico. To understand Venice you really need to understand the level of opulence, decadence and the staggering displays of wealth that make up it’s history.

 Read moreabout Ca’ Rezzonico here

 Go Deep And Go High

Two keys to understanding and experiencing Venice are to get up high to see the view and then to go deep. Wherever the tourists are, walk in the opposite direction! Wandering through the little streets and alleyways away from the kodak-moment-crowd is the way to see the best of Venice.

 Go Bacari Hopping

If you are spending evenings in Venice, and I hope you are, the way to experience the nightlife, or after work life, is to go bacari hopping. Bacari are little bars where you grab a glass of wine, or an ombre (little glass of wine) and some
finger foods akin to tapas. You chat for a while with friends, then move on to another bar. It’s a super social, fun way to spend your early evening.

Related Post: How To Use The Train System In Italy

 Eat The Local Cuisine

I wrote a blogpost on what to eat in Venice, read it here.

Venice-Cicchetti-Bacari

The key to eating in Venice is to only eat local cuisine. Don’t be ordering pizzas and panini, as big wood burning ovens are prohibited in Venice. The local foods are wonderful, especially if you are a seafood lover. Or a pastries and cookies lover.

 Take A Ride On The Vaporetto

view-from-vaporetto-venice
view from the vaporetto

Riding around on the vaporetto is a must when you’re in Venice.  (The vaporetto is basically a water bus)

It can be congested on the routes taking tourists to St Marks, but everywhere else it is a fabulous way to see the city on the water, from the water.

 Drink A Spritz

spritz-venice

The spritz is the local drink in Venice. Sit at an outdoor wine bar at the end of the day and watch the world go by, or chat with the locals while sipping on this light and fizzy concoction. A real spritz is made with Aperol and Prosecco, but in some of the touristy joints you will find them made with white wine and sprite. Regardless, have one.

Related Post: How To Order Coffee In Italy

Visit Santa Maria Dal Salute

I am so in love with this church.

Venice-Church
Santa Maria Dal Salute

It stands proudly on the Grand Canal in the Dorsoduro, and is one of the most recognized and most loved views of Venice. The dome of Santa Maria della Salute is the symbol of the magical Venice skyline, seen by millions of tourists each year – on their way to Piazza San Marco.

Walk all around the outside of the church, the architecture is magnificent! Beware of falling angels – there used to
be a sign posted outside the church warning that the angels up on high, (which still appear to be teetering, but are in fact tethered to the dome) may fall.

 Where To Stay In Venice

Visit The Little Church Santa Maria Dei Miracoli

This magnificent little marble church was built between 1481 and 1489 in the siestere of Cannaregio. In 1987 the
organization Save Venice began what they thought would be a 2 year, 1 million dollar restoration, which turned into 10 years and 4 million dollars. The marble cladding of the church contained 14% salts, and was on the verge of
bursting. The restoration involved removing the marble and cleaning it in stainless steel tanks in a solution of distilled water.

Image result for santa maria dei miracoli venice
image via Italy 2 Wed

The interior art, which is spectacular, was blackened, and had to be cleaned and restored.

When the lines at the Basilica are 3 hours long you can normally walk right on in to Santa Maria dei Miracoli, and often be the only people there.

 Read more about the falling angels and the Santa Maria dei Miracoli in John Berendt’s fabulous book The City of Falling Angels Berendt wrote Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. And then moved to Venice.

Plan For The Blue Hour

Hopefully you will still be in Venice for the Blue Hour – that magical hour at the end of the day (well, more like 30 minutes actually) just after sunset, when natural light and artificial light mix and with a high sense of drama, turn the world blue. There is no better place in the world to photograph the blue hour.

Okay, so maybe there is. But Venice is breathtaking. Check out Jeff Bell’s fantastic blogpost on the Blue Hour In Venice to get inspired!

Make sure you know where you want to be at sunset to get your perfect shot.

Jeff-Bell-Venice-Night
The Blue Hour in Venice – image via Planet Bell

Walk The City In The Wee Hours

If you are lucky enough to be in Venice overnight go walking in the wee hours. Everyone will be tucked in bed and you will have the city to yourself.

It’s moody and mystical, the mist rolls in and makes it ghostly, when the moon is out the lighting is ethereal. Walking Venice in the wee hours is one of life’s truly sensational experiences. Venice is rated the safest city in all of Europe, with negligible violent crime, so you can safely go for  3 AM stroll and pretend the city belongs to you and you alone.

Read more about visiting Venice here

Read about visiting the lagoon islands here

Want to know my Top 10 Secret Places in Venice? These are the restaurants I eat at, my favorite place to have a glass of prosecco at the end of the day (it is so fabulous – even the Clooneys go there!), and some other wonderful places that most tourists never even hear about. I made a free, downloadable PDF to help you experience a different and less crowded Venice. Get your copy HERE