Tucked under the arcades behind the souvenir stalls at the Rialto, on the market side of the bridge, Pied à Terre sells handsome, handmade, brocade, silk and velvet slippers in bright colours. Inspired by 18th century Venetian styles – my favourites are the Venetian and Sabot designs – along with the famous Furlane slippers, these unique take-homes originated in the early 20th century in the Friuli Venezia Giulia countryside. There, the peasant-farmers couldn’t afford leather footwear, so they recycled rags, jute bags and old bicycle tyres to make their shoes. Following World War Two, the women, desperate to earn some income to feed their families, travelled to Venice to sell their shoes. The story goes that the gondoliers were the first to adopt the shoes after realizing their soft sole wouldn’t scratch their boats, and soon after everyone had a pair. Pied à Terre makes their soles from old tyres and uses rich (often recycled) fabrics for the uppers. You can also take your own material to the shop and order a bespoke pair.
Bookbinder Paolo Olbi is one of Venice’s last great artisans. He has two lovely shops on Campo Santa Maria Nova and Calle della Mandola where he sells his beautiful handmade note pads, address books, photo albums, stationery, and business cards. If you don’t find Paolo at work in the backroom, embossing patterns into the leather covers of notebooks, he’s probably at his atmospheric workshop in the Castello, with his typesetter Beppi, where he welcomes interested visitors. We visited one Saturday morning, and he spent a couple of hours taking us through the fascinating process, from how they create the wood plates for the book-covers, inspired by old Venetian designs, to binding the books by hand. I already purchased half a dozen notebooks to give to friends, but he gave us a money-holder as a gift and took us for a glass of wine at the local bar to thank us for our interest. That’s Venetians for you!
Calle della Mandola, San Marco 3653, Venice: +39(0)41 528 5025
Although there are around 450 bridges in Venice, only four cross the Grand Canal. The most famous is the Rialto, the district around it once the most important financial centre in Europe when the Republic was at the height of its power. Although the banks and bordellos of the renaissance have gone, what makes the Rialto worth visiting, apart from the bridge itself, is the market concentrated around a few tiny alleys and on the quayside. For a thousand years, housewives, servants and chefs have bought their daily supplies here, from a handful of scampi from the lagoon to fresh fruit from the Veneto. This colourful and animated spectacle has to be the best free show in Venice and is open every morning apart from Sundays and holidays.
Tucked away in a back street near the Fondamente Nove is the best pasticceria in Venice, and one of the most mouth-watering window displays I've ever seen. Chestnuts dipped in chocolate, 'budini' (little rice and egg custard cakes), castagnaccio (chestnut cake), all kinds of chocolate sweets, and at reasonable prices. The owner, Roberto Puppa, tries to create the most authentic, traditional Venetian recipes - ask for advice and recipes. And you can get a cup of coffee, too.
Follow Rio tera SS Apostoli, heading towards the Gesuiti church
Even if Venetian masks are not to your taste, the shop is a little treasure box to wander into. They did the masks for Eyes Wide Shut and I think the unpainted white ones that they sell are the most dramatic. The Ponte dei Pugni and floating greengrocers are also nearby.
Famous for its glass work (and apparently where mirrors were invented and exclusive to for quite a while). Walk down
the main street of Murano and you will return with more small glass
ornaments than you can carry - the street is just glass shop after glass shop! You can also go and watch the handymen at work at the factory, not very far from the water bus station.
Lovely for a walk - especially in spring. Littered with cafes and restaurants, you can sit for a drink or just soak up the sun.
Take a book or munch on a Gianduiotto di passeggio from the Da Nico gelateria in the summer.
Wistful in winter: take a midnight walk in the freezing cold and take in the sound of the Giudecca Canal.
Go to the water bus (vaporetto) stop Zattere, or walk up from the Accademia stop; www.actv.it/english/home.php
A great website by Krysve. Hotel information and booking for four good hotels (Salieri, Art Deco, Al Sole, Florida) as well as photos of Venice (including some taken in March this year - really a fantastic experience in Venice!). This site is well-maintained and a wonderful resource for anyone who is in love with or who wants to visit Venice. Certainly the creator of the website loves the city maybe more than anyone I else I met during my stay. Try it!
It's an island with a far more vibrant and less touristy atmosphere than the main part of the town. The shopping around St. Marks Square is in places spectacular and glamorous, but most of the glass (for instance) is Chinese tat. The market on the South side of the Ponte Vecchio is something like the real thing - almost like a French country weekly market - fresh veg, people buying food instead of just eating out.On the other hand, St. Marks Square at night is one of the most stunning places I have ever seen - even when it's flooded!
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