Venezia- The Merch

Like any tourist destination, Venice was loaded with shops. Merchandise aplenty!

I’m going to tell you a secret. This is my favorite thing about Italy. Are you ready?

The absolute, hands-down, best thing about Italy is that advertising is not the national bird of this country. The fantastically preposterous thing about Italy is that while there are occasional ads sprinkled throughout the cities and on the highways, in comparison to the ads of America, Italy is BARREN.

I cannot begin to tell you how much I adore this. Road trips are beautiful and peaceful without being begged to stop at one of the six nearby McDonald’s or sleep at whichever crappy hotel has the most dollars for billboards. It’s so relaxing for the mind.

I mention this because the shops here seem to operate on word of mouth and a dash of luck. They’re tucked amid churches and homes, and sometimes are completely invisible unless you happen to look just right. Since we only had a few hours for this particular trip to Venice, I can only imagine how many amazing shops we missed.

Thing number one- Murano Glass

Murano glass is world famous. While I had heard of it before this trip, I had mainly only seen it in beads and glass animals. While those are definitely impressive, I honestly wasn’t overly impressed. I’ve been seeing glass animals and beads my whole life. Though they are cool- meh.

But then we wandered into a Murano glass shop and our minds were opened.

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I was blown away. We learned that each month has a different theme, so if you love a certain piece in the store this month, you’d better buy it, or forever hold your peace. April’s theme seemed to be religious icons- it was Easter, after all. We’re not religious, but we could not resist. The pieces were so beautiful! Although we’d had no interest in buying glass (we’re clumsy people and glass is breakable), we left that store with much lighter pockets and much heavier bags than we’d had when we entered.

Thing number two- the lost art of letter writing

I couldn’t tell you whether the Venetians are big letter writers, but if you judge by their shop windows, the art never died in Venice. We were greeted with vast selections of quills and inks, wax seals, letter openers with Murano Glass handles, and fancy stationery. We managed to avoid spending money in any of these shops, although one day I will venture into one and ask the proprietor for help in commissioning a specially-designed wax seal press.

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Using shadows to photograph reflective shop windows…ImageImage

Thing number three- masks

While Venice is known for many things, from what I hear, Carnevale in Venice is not to be missed. Unfortunately this past year- we missed it. We were still too new. But next year, we will be there, come hell or high water (perhaps literally).

In case you don’t know, Carnevale is the elaborate celebration that occurs just before the beginning of Lent and the Easter season. It’s also known as Mardi Gras in the southern parts of the US, and simply as Carnival in Brazil. Carnevale in Venice lasts for several weeks and is loaded with parties, concerts, shows, and activities. People come from all over the world wearing incredible costumes and masks.

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Many of the masks use designs that have been popular for centuries.

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Image There are seven historical types of Venetian mask. The devil isn’t one of the seven, but the mask in the bottom left corner appears to be the Pantalone- the joker.

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These are the Medico della Peste. These were worn mainly by doctors to avoid catching Bubonic Plague. I’ve read that they kept straw and scented plants in the beaks of the masks to help filter out the airborne particles from the plague.

Thing number four- Clothes

We didn’t buy any. We didn’t even look. There was no time, and I still haven’t quite adjusted to the Italian manner of dress yet. While it has grown on me, I’m still just not ready to make the plunge.

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This is a very, very popular style among young, Italian men. The floral shirt, the tight(ish) pants with the baggy crotch and unusual button placement… It’s everywhere.

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On the other hand, graphic t-shirts are not popular with Italians at all. On occasion you’ll see t-shirts on the street, but more often than not if you see someone in a t-shirt, they’re not native Italian.

Thing number five- my favorite thing of all

Of course we saw a bunch of random, strange items for sale in Venice, but this one jumped out at me more than any other. Although we have a bit of an apron collection, we bypassed this beauty. It was just a bit too much chintz for me.

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Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn, but oh, how I love Venezia…

So there you have it. A small compendium of the things you can buy in Venice. We also saw stores with books, musical instruments, frameries, grocery stores, and the most boring Hard Rock Cafe shop I’ve ever visited. The cafe itself may be much better, but the store had nothing of note, unless you count shirts worn by Prince, Beyonce, and Madonna, and underwear worn by Britney Spears. I personally can’t say that I consider those things to be notable, even though I did just mention them.

Next time I’ll post my excess photos from Venice. I have a bunch of neat little things I saw around and about. We have some friends coming into the states in a few weeks so we will be going back to Venice (yay!) and taking our first trip down to Rome. We may also spend a day in Florence. Stay tuned, friends!

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