One of the best parts of travelling is coming home not just with great memories but also with luggage full of presents either for yourself or your loved ones. And if you’re travelling during the weeks leading up to Christmas, it’s the best time shop for the perfect gift for that person on your list. Forget the cheeky magnets and lousy t-shirts, and instead go for something unique and locally made. In need of some ideas? Here is our list of the best shops, markets and artisans in Venice, where you can go wild with your shopping without breaking the bank.
After all, we’re Italian and food is what we’re known for! It is a tradition here to give baskets of food and wine to our loved ones, and is considered a good omen on Christmas and New Year’s Eve. So why not follow this tradition, too? At Christmastime, some of the biggest campos here in Venice become the perfect backdrop to delicious food markets. This year, for the entire month of December, you can taste and buy delicious local food from the temporary market in Campo San Vio, Dorsoduro. Organised by MCV (My Christmas Venice), it is the perfect spot to get your taste buds drooling. Grab a glass of hot mulled wine and browse the small stalls filled with local delicacies and artisanal products. Yum!
Are you more at ease with a one stop-store? One of our old favourites is Pantagruelica (Campo San Barnaba), a small family-run shop that sells delicious food from all over Italy. While in the area, stop by Dal Nono Colussi, a bakery known for its unforgettable cookies and cakes. The place is run by just three people — three generations all working together in true Italian style, as Mr. Colussi shares his secrets and knowledge of Venetian culinary traditions with his daughter and granddaughter. Their biscotti are to die for, so step into their delicious heaven and bring home a sweet piece of Venice.
Get lost in the small alleys and discover the most extraordinary artisans in town. Forget the big names; shop small and you will even befriend some local artists. From lamp-working to wood-carving to the art of sculpting steel, you are sure to find quirky and unique pieces.
Where to start? Cannaregio district is not only well-known for its food scene, but also for the excellency of its many artisans. Our favourite is by a young man, Piero, also known as Il Forcolaio Matto (the name of his shop). A forcola is nothing more than a gondola rowlock, and he converts these beautifully decorated pieces of wood into stunning sculptures. A former astronomy student, Piero followed his passion for the Venice lagoon and, in particular, Venetian boats. He believes that presenting people with authentic artisanal products is the way to generate slower and more sustainable tourism here in Vencie — and we can only but root for such young and passionate artists!
If you are looking for some edgy and colourful jewels, then look no further than the small PerlaMadre Design lab in Calle delle Botteghe, Dorsoduro. Simona, the owner, is an adopted Venetian with devotion to the art of glass and uses the old and fascinating lamp-working technique. All her hard work pays off once you see the colourful and feather-light glass pearls coming to life through her expert hands. Pop in her shop and if you’re lucky, you’ll see her working on one of her masterpieces. Simply stunning!
Another workshop you cannot miss is the bottega of Materialmente in Palanca, Giudecca Island. This old metal workshop has been turned into a laboratory where the creative genius of Maddalena and Alessandro give life to extraordinary pieces of steel, like elegant jewels, imaginative sculptures and lamps. This place keeps up the old-shop tradition in which the artisan can show his craft directly to customers. A first-hand experience that will show you this art like the old days but with a modern creative twist.
The best-known Christmas markets here in Venice are those held in Campo S. Stefano and Campo S. Polo; the latter is much loved by kids for its ice-skaing rink. In our opinion though, the best markets, where you can hunt for cool presents or even some treasures, are the antique markets, especially the one held in Campo S. Maurizio. Many antiques experts start browsing early morning, hunting the stalls for a bargain. Carb yourself with a good Italian breakfast (espresso is a must!) and get ready to find your perfect Christmas present.
If the cold is too much and the mulled wine is not enough to keep you warm, head over to the Christmas markets held inside some of the most stunning Venetian palaces. Just behind the famous university square, Campo Santa Margherita, you will find Palazzo Zenobio every weekend until Christmas, as well as a craftsmen and artisans market. You can put your hands on some exclusive pieces, while also visiting a palace that it is not usually open to the public. Their small garden is lovely, even in winter.