This is our Christmas gift guide really taking you into a Venice so full of precious shops selling home-made goods and gifts making come Venice alive. Gifts helping you to get to know Venice even better. Away from the Rialto Market and the Mercerie, though I do love this area (check out our Advent Calendar with 24 stories on shopping in the Mercerie).
This year, I will do my Christmas shopping in my neighborhood which is Castello. We now go where the Venetians go, shoping off the beaten paths. Say, to Salizzada dei Greci and Salizzada Sant’Antonin in the ancient Greek quarter in Venice. Here, you won’t be rushed when choosing a gift and you will also get a chance to learn precious insider news. Stories about their shop, neighbors and everything that’s on our mind in this particular part in Venice these days. To explain this kind of “shopping experience” I need to tell a story taking you back to the Venice of the 1990s.
When I was a child, I loved shops decorating their windows with stuffed animals for Christmas. All the pasticcerie in Venice did it, and some still do it today. For some reason, stores selling shoes or clothes also do it, creating a winter stage. Often, they only use real fir twigs, inviting a piece of nature into town.
In the late 1980s when the toy shop on Ponte dei Zogatoi was still open (my blogger colleague, Luca Marchiori describes it beautifully in this post), the shops opening onto the campiello just down the bridge were all decorated with stuffed animals at Christmas. The pharmacy was, just like the store selling shoes was on the other side. And then one Christmas, they used stuffed foxes with long, fluffy tails to decorate their windows.
Having discovered the foxes amidst the fir twigs in the windows of the shoe shop, I just had to pass there every day. Once my mother even lost me in the crowds just because I wouldn’t move totally spellbound by these beauties. Decoration obviously, no use asking if we could buy one of these? Then one day, I simply entered the store and after two minutes came out with the fox Amarella. The shop owner had noticed me returning every day and had already made up her mind to come out and give me one of the foxes. Without knowing me, and us ever having bought anything in this store, she was ready to give a gift to a child in front of her shop window.
You might experience a similar story yourselves … being given a real treat just because. Little gifts are given in Venice in the winter every day. Shopkeepers taking their time and offering a cup of coffee, cookies to taste, a little book or lovely postcard or even a stuffed animal :-) Here are a few favorite shops of mine, all in my neighborhood.
Antecla. A gift store located five minutes from Piazza San Marco, in Calle San Provolo. Here, on the corner on Fondamenta de ‘l Osmarin, you will notice the little store selling murrine – glass pearls from Murano, called Antecla. A nice name which goes back to Greek mythology, Antecla was a daughter of Hermes. Antecla offers antique jewelry and glass pearls. Take your time to browse and ask to be told the story of murrine. Calle San Provolo / Fondamenta de l’Osmarin. No website.
Profumeria Mimosa. You do get Chanel and Bulgari perfumes, besides many other brands. But it’s a small profumeria, not part of any chain, on Salizzada dei Greci and there’s enough time to talk and find the perfect face cream as well and which colors are en vogue for Christmas. View Facebook Page.
Pastificio Serenissima. In my opinion, one of the best gourmet stores in town. Love their flavored pasta collections like the one you can see above. This is my favorite, pasta alle rape rosse (red beet-flavored pasta) or pasta al curry. Their pasta is made fresh every day and sold over the counter. You’ll also find dried herbs, tisane (herbal teas), dried funghi porcini and risotto furnished by producers located in the Veneto, mostly in the Lake Garda region. Try their risottino ortica di montagna (risotto flavored with dried nettles) or risotto ai funghi porcini, which is Lina’s favorite. I will tell in my next post on our food blog how we use these risotti as a base to create winter dishes. View Website.
Gianfranco Missaja. Do you love maps, or would you like to know more about Carnival in Venice? Here are the best resources, booklets and many more tips you can get in Venice, for both topics. View Website.
Pasticceria Chiusso. I think I’ve written so often about this pastry store. I love their cornetti (croissants) flavored with apple and marzipan. And for Christmas, I love their signature focacce or panettoni. Soft and so yellow, with a slight taste of amaretto on the outside. View on Facebook.
Ponte dei Sogni. My favorite shop in Venice if you want to buy toys for children and adults. Toys with a special bond with Venice, and games such as zogo de l’oca. This store also sells artistic postcards, gifts made by Venetian painters and other artisans, such as precious marbled papers and framed pictures. In short, souvenirs with a story and never anonymous. Of course, there are stuffed animals :-). View Facebook Page.
Pasticceria alla Bragora. If you followed along this guide, by now, you may have had quite a few interesting talks with store owners :-) We are now in Salizzada Sant’Antonin and it’s time for a late cappuccino and the best of all cornetti in town. You can enjoy both at Pasticceria alla Bragora. My favorite. Their best cornetto (croissant) comes filled with sweet almond cream and is served warm and topped with amaretti (bitter almonds). View on Tripadvisor.
Want to find out more about the historical Shops in Venice, off the beaten path ? Here’s an interesting Facebook Page, introducing them one by one: Negozi Storici Veneziani.