Nine Luxury Gifts You Can Only Find in Venice

In Venice, the line between art and craftsmanship blurs. The delicacy of a Murano goblet, the fluidity of a Fortuny silk gown speak to an exquisite sensibility and a matchless quality that is the legacy of guilds formed in medieval times to uphold standards and train artists to preserve the tradition of excellence. Despite the tidal wave of mass-produced copies, artisanal craft survives—if you know where to go. 

Items compiled by Antonietta Poduie in Venice.

Pillow

A Byzantine-style motif is woven on 18th-century looms by the weavers of Bevilacqua. A winged lion is the symbol of St. Mark, the city’s patron saint, and of the city. Mario e Paola Bevilacqua, 337/b, San Marco, Fondamenta della Canonica.

Eyeglasses

Eyeglasses were reportedly invented in Italy, but bragging rights as the city of origin are a contested squabble among Pisa, Florence and Venice. The stylishness of these locally handmade eyeglasses is uncontested. Ottica Carraro, Calle della Mandola 3706, San Marco.

Slippers

Tread softly and sustainably in these furlane—slippers of soft velvet. Traditionally favored by gondoliers, these slippers, with soles made of old bicycle tires, don’t mar the finish of the boat and provide good footing. Massimo Dittura, Accademia-Dorsoduro, San Vio 871.  

Doorknob

Glassmaking was moved to the island of Murano in 1291 to minimize risk of fire to the city. The craft was so guarded a secret, it was forbidden to take materials or tools outside the lagoon. This doorknob has no such travel restrictions. Arcobaleno di Nube Massimo, San Marco 3457.  

Paper Folder

“We can never equal the perfection of Venice paper,” lamented the 17th-century English church historian Thomas Fuller. This accordion folder will make the task of putting papers in order an elegant enterprise. Legatoria Polliero, Campo dei Frari 2995.  

Biscuits

Because the biscuits last a long time, ships carried them on long voyages. The name baicoli comes from their shape, which recalls a small fish of the lagoon. Venetian children consider them a breakfast favorite, and adults enjoy them dunked in a glass of wine. Available in many stores. 

Cape

To present la bella figura is a social obligation in Italy. For dramatic panache, nothing matches the swirl of a tabarro, or cloak, a favorite of 18th-century nobles wishing to move anonymously through the streets during Carnival. Tabarro San Marco di Monica Daniele, Calle del Scaleter 2235, San Polo.

Mask

The unwanted cargo landing in Venice in 1347 was the contagion of plagueThe plague doctor wore a mask, its beak stuffed with herbs to repel the putrid air of disease. Still, doctors and patients dropped like flies. Today the mask is more happily associated with Carnival. Ca’Macana Dorsoduro 3172, Venezia.

Bookmark

A gondola’s distinctive prow, the ferro, is said to represent a doge’s cap. The teeth allude to the sestieri, or city districts. This bookmark comes from the shop of Saverio Pastor, one of few remaining craftsmen who can sculpt a fórcola, a gondola’s oarlock. Le fórcole di Saverio Pastor, Dorsoduro 341, Fondamenta Soranzo.

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This Story Is a Selection from the Venice Issue of the Smithsonian Journeys Travel Quarterly

Discover Venice anew, from its rich history and many cultural quirks to its delightful, present-day customs and excursions.