Fruit and vegetable stalls laden down with fresh and local produce are a great place to shop: anything from bruscandoli (wild hops) to heaps of garden lemons. I love watching the market stall holders sitting and trimming artichokes, which they sell fresh and ready-prepared so all you need to do is toss them in a pan with a little oil and parsley. Just next to the fruit and veg market at the foot of the bridge is the old fish market with stalls selling local catches: eels, turbot, sea snails and so forth. Bustling, manic, bursting with atmosphere. If you love food, this is a must. Open every morning except Sundays (Sundays and Mondays for the fish market) and starts to wind down around midday.
Campo San Barnaba
A barge selling fresh fruit and vegetables. Mostly seasonal and local – all excellent quality. There can be a bit of a queue here, as it is a popular shop with locals, but it is well worth the wait. In winter they sell a beautiful pink radicchio called Radicchio Rosa di Verona which can be tricky to source elsewhere but, served just as is with a pinch of salt and oil, makes for a stunning salad.
The Strada Nuova is a long shopping street that leads all the way from the centre of the city to the train station. There are a number of fruit and vegetable market stalls at the far end of the street, near the station. In the winter they sell chestnuts freshly roasted on a drum of coals.
At the heart of the Castello quarter: butchers, bakers, an organic health food store, as well as market stalls selling everything from linens to fresh fruit and vegetables are to be found here. There are also some lovely coffee shops and gelaterie.
There are so many mask shops in Venice, that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Ca’Macana crafts and paints papier maché masks in the back of the shop to make unique pieces and small works of art. This is where Stanley Kubrick sourced the masks for his last film, Eyes Wide Shut. They will also arrange mask-making courses for small groups.
A textile designer who makes delicate and colourful linens, in classic designs often with a playful twist. Her cushions with iconic animals are particularly gorgeous.
One of Venice’s best jewellers. A family run business -they create extravagant and unique pieces, often crafting snakes and skulls into classic pieces of jewellery to give them a contemporary edge. The shop is a rococo gem in itself.
Campo San Vio, Dorsoduro 662, Venezia 30100; Tel +39 041 520 7779. A small workshop run by a father, son and daughter team. They make beautiful gilded frames, many with pearl, mirror and glass inlay. They will create custom pieces on request and can arrange for international shipping.
This is one of my favourite spots at the Rialto Market: a family run spice shop that has barely changed since it first opened fifty plus years ago. They sell a fabulous array of loose teas, spices, nuts and candied fruits, as well as old fashioned sweets and chocolates in big glass jars. Everything is weighed out to the gram and then carefully wrapped in pretty printed paper.
Hidden away in the Castello quarter, just by Campo San Giovanni e Paolo, this bookbinding workshop belongs to an enthusiastic and talented craftsman, Andrea, who takes an inspiring amount of pride in his work and is happy to give guided tours and answer any questions that you might have. He will take on bespoke commissions – such as photo albums, notebooks or boxes – for a very reasonable fee. He also sells some beautiful printed paper in the shop.
A tiny family run shop that sells handstiched leather gloves in all colours and a number of different chic designs. You can have the gloves with a cashmere, wool, silk or even fur lining.
Farmacia Erboristica Dr Buratti
Part medieval apothecary, part modern day pharmacy in Campo San Polo. Think dark wooden shelves, bottles full of potions and golden mosaics – worth a visit just to see the shop’s interior. Beyond the day to day essentials that you would expect to buy in any chemist, they also sell their own range of natural herb based products – teas, essential oils, lotions and so forth – all boxed up in irresistibly old fashioned packaging.
Calle del Fumo 5306, Cannaregio, Venezia 30121; Tel: +39 041 523 4681. Signor Basso makes headed stationery and cards on ancient printing presses from his little workshop for a number of celebrities, including Hugh Grant and Ryuichi Sakamoto. His work is unique, and his attention to detail unparalleled. He will also arrange for international shipping.
Il Prato: Legatoria
All manner of exquisite leather goods from cigar cases with temperature controls to elegant solitaire boards, all beautifully crafted using the same manufacturer as Hermes. They also make beautiful, bespoke initialled stationery. And the shop has a resident beagle.
Libreria Acqua Alta
Sestiere Castello, 5176/B, 30122 Venezia; Tel: +39 041 296 0841. A quirky book shop, where the books – both second hand and new – are stored in gondolas, canoes, tanks and piled high on floor to ceiling shelves. The owner, Luigi Frizzo, believes that books are as much beautiful objects as reading material, and has created a unique, inspiring space to house his ever evolving collection. The shop also has four resident cats.
Marina e Susanna Sent
Gorgeous, hand blown glass jewels, bowls, plates and lamps. Their pieces feel contemporary and cutting edge, yet work with traditional Venetian techniques. Their glass bubble necklace has been carried in the MoMa for many years.
Mazzon Le Borse
Campiello San Tomà, San Polo 2807, Venezia 30100; Tel: +39 041 520 3421. Chic and classic bespoke leather handbags, belts and other small accessories. Everything is made on site in the back of the shop by Signor Mazzon. Reasonably priced and you can choose every last little detail from the colour and kind of leather to how many pockets and where you would like the zip. Turnaround is about 3-4 weeks and they are happy to ship internationally.
A family run jeweller in Piazza San Marco with a wonderfully old world feel about it. Like stepping into a very glamorous boutique from another era. They make beautiful and unique pieces that reflect Venice and its history.They will also happily design individual pieces on commission.
Cannaregio 1143, Venezia 30100; Tel: +39 041 715178. A pastry shop not to be missed: breads and sweets in the Jewish tradition. Deer’s horns packed full of crema di mandorla (almond fondant), tiny delicate candles made of sugar and much, much more for anyone who, like me, has a sweet tooth.
Pied A Terre
In the arcades of the Rialto market, this shop sells furlane, velvet slippers that are traditionally worn by gondoliers. These come in all the colours of the rainbow and are hand made using recycled materials, like bicycle tyres for the shoe soles. They also sell adorable little velvet slippers for children.