Alberto Valese Ebru
Tucked in a corner of one of the busier squares in Venice, Alberto Valese has one of the top paper shops in the city. The owner has been using an ancient Persian technique of marbleizing papers for decades and sells some of the prettiest handmade paper goods.
Venice is full of glass, but after discovering Bruno Amadi’s beautiful flame-worked glass miniatures, nothing else will compare. Consulting National Geographic Magazine to create the most lifelike creatures, Amadi presides over a zoological garden of exquisitely decorative plants, fish, birds and frogs in his tiny glass atelier.
Antica Legatoria Piazzesi
Venice’s oldest paper shop occupies a small piazza between the Campo Gritti and Campo San Maurizio. Through one set of windows you can view a workroom with stacks of papers and art in progress just as it may have looked when the company was founded in 1900. Next door, in the showroom are shelves of hand-printed sheets of paper and desk accessories and books. Signs warn that anything you touch you own, so this is more for the serious shopper than the browser, but it does feel more authentic than the Il Papiro shops around town, as though the ink has just dried on the goods.
When Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley discovered Venetian jeweler Antonia Miletto, she fell so in love with Miletto’s special creations—link bracelets of ebony wood and gold; coral carved and diamond encrusted fish; alligator cufflinks—that she invited Miletto to display her treasures at Indagare souks. “Her pieces are fashionable and truly original,” says Bradley. “Very special finds that are all made in Venice.”
Arnoldo & Battois
Arnoldo & Battois offers bold and innovative handbags, clothing, and accessories designed to balance traditional elegance and contemporary vision. These handmade bags reflect a high level of craftsmanship and employ rich materials such as python leather, Japanese silks, and utilize steel accouterments to create dynamic and fashion-forward pieces.
Attilo has worked on pieces in St. Mark’s basilica as well as for such legendary style setters as Elizabeth Taylor, Diaghliev, Coco Chanel and Jackie O. His innovative creations—Diana Vreeland once commissioned a cocktail ring and versions of it are still sold today—continue to draw a high-profile clientele, including Nicole Kidman and Miuccia Prada. If you see passersby ogling the pieces in the window, you will notice the snake bracelet, one of which was given to Liz by Richard Burton, getting the most attention. If you enter, you will see framed letters from fans behind the counter, and if you speak Italian, you may get to hear stories about some of the more unusual requests they have filled. Ah, if rings and bracelets could talk, the stories they would tell, especially those made here.
In a gem of a shop near the Rialto, on the street where goldsmiths have labored for centuries, incredibly interesting jewelry and housewares are being designed by brothers Daniele and Stefano Attombri. Their wares are no longer a secret, since designers such as Romeo Gigli and Dolce and Gabbana have dressed up their runway shows with their pieces and tastemakers from around the world collect their lamps, but a visit here still feels like a special discovery. You will find a great range of price and styles, including delicate candlesticks, metal lamps and copper necklaces, which incorporate Murano glass and crystals.
This the place to find great cloaks, whether you want one for Carnival or just because they are classic shapes that work well in the evening in black velvet or in winter in wool, which is so tightly woven that it’s waterproof. Owned by Silvana Martin, Balocoloc sources papier maché masks from a number of local artists and does sell over the internet. It’s also the place to find fancy period costumes for men and women if you need one for a Carnival ball. By appointment only.
You can place orders for custom pillowcases and tapestries at the well-known fabric house’s boutique. As insider Francesca Bortolotto Possati notes in her insider tips, “one of the oldest tapestry and silk makers in Venice is the place to go for extraordinary brocades, damasks and velvets. Arrange an appointment with the owner to visit the original 18th-century treadle looms that are still used to craft some of the exclusive, elaborate fabrics.” There’s a second branch at Fondamenta Canonica (337 B San Marco; 39-041-528-7581).
Casa del Parmigiano
Stock up for a picnic at what many consider the city’s best cheese shop. It doesn’t have the polished look of a stylish gourmet shop but the parmesan and mozzarella are unbeatable.
Consorzio delle Botteghe della Solidarietà
Amongst the tourists stalls of the Rialto bridge is an international co-op that sells attractive goods from third world craftsmen at extremely reasonable prices. So if you need to pick up a lightweight linen bag in bright lemon yellow or electric green to carry home purchases or as a reusable shopping bag, you can find it here and know that you are helping support a struggling community.
Lace-making schools may no longer be found in Venice as they once were, but the tradition of crafting exquisite linens for beds, baths and tables is still preserved at this lovely shop. Venetian Cristina represents the third generation of her family to devote themselves to designing beautiful textiles, and she is equally known for her lovely, lace-adorned lingerie lines as for her custom bed and table linens. As a collector of antique lace and textiles, she understands heritage, but her designs have a modern aesthetic, combining the best of old and new.
This artisanal wine and chocolate also sells beautifully packaged olive oils, honeys, marmalades and other delicious gift products.
Truffle oils, dried mushrooms, licorice, fresh-ground coffee and teas are for sale at this upscale food shop near the Rialto. Writes chef and cookbook author Marcella Hazan in City Secrets: Florence & Venice: “Finest quality dried porcini; true pine nuts; whole candied citron; saffron; dried lamon beans, the best for making pasta e fagioli. Mascari also carries a fine variety of condiments produced with white truffles. If you are going in the fall, you must take home at least one jar of mostarda veneta by Lazzari. This quince mustard is a specialty from Vicenza. Use it on meats, but most sublimely, mix it with mascarpone.” Closed Sundays.
Purchase a copy of City Secrets here.
The island of Burano is famous for its lace and the premier shop to find exquisite lace-trimmed lingerie and linens is Emilia Burano. They also have an outpost at the Hotel Cipriani.
A favorite boutique of stylish locals, Fabio Gatto carries many Italian labels as well as its own leather goods.
Located on the Grand Canal next to the Ca’ Rezzonico Museum, Leslie Genninger’s shop displays her passion and dedication to the work of Venice’s glassmakers. A transplanted American, Genninger designs and commissions beads to craft into her one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry. Many of the hand-blown beads are lined with twenty-four-karat gold, and their intense colors make them glow like stained-glass windows.
Make your way to this traditional shop in Cannaregio for bookplates, business cards and stationery printed on antique printing presses. On your way to see the antique press in the back of the shop, you will pass rows of samples. The owner would never boast about his clients, but many have allowed him to display his work for them and you can spot famous poets, musicians, designers and celebrities who have all had their personal marks made here, from Scott Turow and Joseph Brodsky to Pierre Bergé and the owner of Venice’s legendary Al Covo, whose design bears a knife and fork. Make sure to ask Basso, who began apprenticing to Armenian monks at only 14, to show you the engravings from the first edition of Pinocchio, which hangs in the back room.
In the true tradition of Venetian artistry, Giavanna Zanella apprenticed under a legendary shoe master before she opened this shop. She sold bags and belts originally but now focuses full-time on exquisite hand-made leather shoes, which she crafts right at her work table in a corner of the boutique. (Often an apprentice sits at her right hand, literally, watching and working alongside her.) Shelves display examples of her talent and creativity. One pair resembles a bare foot with painted toenails. Another is embellished with pop-up flower petals. Each pair can be custom ordered (takes about two months) but only after a client has had their foot measured in the shop, so only repeat customers can place orders over the phone or by internet.
One of the most appealing paper shops in the city, Il Prato sells gorgeous hand-printed paper goods with a slight twist. For instance, there is a design in lilac of dogs as well as the more traditional library colors of deep reds and greens. A second room displays more library accessories in leather such as stitched coasters, umbrella stands and standing lamps. (The goods are no longer found only in Venice, though; the company now has international outposts as well.)
Gorgeous leather gloves in mouth-watering colors for men and women with decorative details, cashmere linings and trims that are memorable. You can also order online.
Founded in 1870, Jesurum still sells the city’s finest lacework. And given the examples of incredible handmade lace that you see all over the city, you may suddenly find that you want to bring some home. Accurate reproductions of patterns first created by founder Michelangelo Jesurum are still painstakingly turned out by faithful craftsmen. The bedspreads, table runners and towels at this well-stocked branch, not far from St. Mark’s, have gorgeous lace detailing. The colors tend to be muted with many choices in ivory and beige.