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.
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.
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.
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.
This San Polo boutique (the name means “migration”) showcases the works of some 60 Iranian artisans, from ceramicists and textile makers to glassblowers and painters. “Iran and Venice used to have this lively trade,” explains owner Yasra Pouyeshman who can speak passionately about every piece in the store and the craftsperson who made it.
“Between our destinations, there was always a through-line of creativity.” For example, she says, Murano mirrors were exported to Iran in the 17th and 18th centuries, but by the time they arrived, many were often broken. Seeing as they were precious commodities, the Iranian craftspeople came up with a beautiful way to reuse them. As any traveler who has visited the country’s rich palaces and marveled at their mosaic-studded mirror rooms can attest: sometimes what appears broken is just waiting to be reborn as something else.
While Kooch carries some gorgeous larger pieces for the home, including mirrors, paintings and furniture, it’s also a great spot for snapping up smaller, luggage-fitting crafts, including embroidered handbags and hammered-silver bowls.
A booklover’s paradise, Linea d’Acqua is the city’s finest antique bookshop with leather-bound editions as well as exquisite engravings and maps.
This concept boutique, located on the scenic Campo San Barnaba, is powered by three international designers who offer minimalist design homeware, jewelry and accessories. The emphasis is on handmade and harder-to-find objects, like hand-carved olive wood spoons, geometric serving trays and glass pendants.
Founded by Angelo Missiaglo in 1846, this showroom (viewable by appointment only) produces fine jewelry and silver pieces. The store is not only famous for its use of traditional techniques in jewelry making but also for its tenured experience, which goes back six generations. Particularly beloved are the sterling silver salt and pepper shakers fashioned in the form of fruits and vegetables.
Guerrino Lovato’s carnival masks, for sale here, are true works of art. Stanley Kubrick used Lovato’s masks in his film Eyes Wide Shut. Unquestionably, the best place in Venice to invest in one worthy of Carnival.
The largest of Italy’s last three mosaic foundries, Orsoni was founded in 1888 and makes all of its glass tiles the old-fashioned way. Down a small lane in the ghetto district is a collection of buildings that house the ovens, the storerooms, cutting rooms, offices and gallery as well as a classroom and five bedrooms. (When the one- or two-week mosaic making classes are in session they are reserved for students.)
After viewing the incredible mosaic work of St. Mark’s Basilica, it’s illuminating to see how much labor goes into crafting each square. You can buy bags of mosaics in thousands of colors; those with gold or silver leaf being the most expensive. Orsoni tiles have been used in restoration work all over Italy, including St. Mark’s, and across the world on landmarks such as Sacré-Coeur in Paris and the Sagrada Família in Barcelona. “Macedonia is rebuilding many of its churches,” our tour guide informed us, “so that is where lots of these tiles will be shipped.”
One of Venice’s great contemporary craftsmen, jeweler Alessandro de Angelis designs one-of-a-kind pieces that are all handmade in Venice. He also works on custom requests.
Beautiful Italian leather notebooks, album boxes, frames and other library accessories can be found here.
Beautiful, high-quality leather gloves in many colors and designs can be found in this boutique on one of Venice’s main shopping thoroughfares near Piazza San Marco. They are great for gifts and pack easily.
Original Fortuny fabrics can be found at this boutique located in La Serenissima. The shop is a marvel in itself, with paneled ceilings, Venetian lacquered furniture and ceramics from the 15th to the late 18th centuries. The textiles, masks and accessories can be had at cheaper prices than in the UK and U.S.
On a narrow alley in the working class area of the Cannaregio district is a small shop and workroom where one of the city’s great glassmakers works. Vittorio Costantini, who was born on Burano to a lace maker and a fisherman, began his glass apprenticeship in a factory on Murano at the age of 11. Before he was 20, though, he knew the he wanted to craft glass objects in a more precise fashion and began creating creatures that are now collected by institutions like Corning and displayed in museums as far away as Japan. His display cases reveal insects, fish and birds, from miniscule black ants to elaborate jelly fish and rainbow trout, which glisten as though under water.
You will usually find Vittorio laboring over a new specimen behind a row of field guides, which he consults for accuracy. He will not ship his treasures, so buyers must pick up in person and some come a few times a year to do so. There are glass pendants and earrings for less than €20 and elaborate beetles or sea scenes that may cost thousands. Come with kids old enough not to touch break anything and one of our recommended guides, who can translate.