When you think of taking a European vacation, it’s probably not hard to imagine Venice, Italy as part of your jam-packed itinerary. With breathtaking canals lined with historic buildings, world-famous cuisine and piazzas packed with charming outdoor cafes, you can explore Venice on foot or on the water.
If you’re taking a cruise from Venice, make sure to stop and shop before you leave the port on your cruise. Or if you’re enjoying a European cruise already and are going to make a pit-stop in Venice, check out the shops for Italian treasures unique to the country. Either way, here are 15 things you’d want to buy while you’re in this beautiful coastal city.
1. Murano Glass
If you’re looking for authentic Italian glasswork unlike anywhere else in the world, head to the small island northeast of Venice called Murano, the birthplace of glass-blowing. While there, you can watch artisans at work and shop for all kinds of beautiful items like bowls, vases, paperweights and holiday ornaments.
In addition to kitchen items and decorative products, Murano glass makes beautiful jewelry. Ranging from delicate to chunky, each bead (or perle) is made by hand, creating unique pieces that double as jewelry and works of art. Look for Murano glass necklaces, bracelets, rings, earrings, watches and cufflinks, or even buy beads to make your own one-of-a-kind jewelry.
2. Authentic Venetian Wooden Puzzles
In Venice, artisans create historical wooden puzzles unique to the city. Look for renditions of landmark architecture such as its cathedrals, palaces and bridges. Or you can find miniature carved gondolas to remind you of the trip you made down the Grand Canal, a colorful wall hanging of the city to display at home or various decorations to remind you of Italy. These treasures are hand-carved and handpainted, so no two creations are exactly alike. The puzzles are suitable for children too.
3. Burano Lace
Just a bit further to the northeast of Venice (roughly a 40-minute boat ride), you’ll find the island of Burano. Here, artisans create exquisite lace “Burano” products, which are aptly named after the island. This intricate lace-making technique has been passed down for over 400 years, and each item made is unique. Since Burano lace is lightweight, flat and portable, you can easily pick up intricately designed tablecloths, handkerchiefs, or doilies and pack them to bring back home.
4. Venetian Masks
Each year, Venice hosts Carnival (spelled and pronounced Carnevale), a centuries-old tradition and a favorite festival of Italians. Throughout Venice’s history, participants have celebrated Carnival by wearing decorative masks and costumes. Today, Venetian masks have become an industry, with shops selling them on nearly every corner in Venice’s commercial district. Do as the locals do and shop for a hand-painted mask made from cartapesta, or papier-mâché.
5. Door Knockers
There’s no better way to welcome visitors than with a Venetian door knocker. It’s a common center point on Venice’s historic buildings, like St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, as well as other doors throughout the city. Made of metal and usually featuring an animal head attached to a ring-shaped hammer, these doorknockers are stunning and unique to Italy. Treat yourself and pick one up for your own door, or gift one to your friends or family back home.
6. Leather Handbags
Italy is known for its fine leather products, so make sure to pick up a new leather handbag or other premium leather item while you’re in Venice. Italian artisans use the best quality hides and also tan the leather with natural plant-based extracts. Using these types of extracts ensures a truly distinctive and ageless appearance. You’ll be sure to find authentic leather items showing centuries-old craftsmanship in Venice.
7. Paper Products
Venice artisans are known for papermaking. Created with a technique called marbling, Venetian paper features beautifully swirled pigments in various patterns. You can find a variety of marbleized writing paper, wrapping paper and cards as well as journals, fountain pens and wax seals at shops throughout Venice.
8. Gondolier’s Hat
When you take the famous gondola ride through the canals of Venice, you’re likely to notice your captain or gondolier’s hat. Made of straw with a broad brim, these hats offer cool comfort on a hot day. As the hats also sport a black, blue or red ribbon, they look stylish too. Be on the lookout for your own straw gondolier’s hat at any of the gift shops throughout the coastal city.
If you’re handy with a sewing machine, you’ll appreciate the beautiful textiles you can find all over Venice. Fabric shops offer a wide range of fabrics that are sold by the meter, including soft velvets, fine silks and elaborate damasks. Pick up some fabric before you leave to make your own Italian-inspired clothing or recover your favorite armchair with Italian upholstery fabric.
When in Italy, don’t leave without picking up the classic Italian cooking staple: pasta. To get the best Italian flavor back home, look for conchiglie, orecchiette and pici, or pasta made from corn, rice, kamut or quinoa flours at Italian specialty shops or markets. Since risotto is also a popular pasta in Venice, add a package of Vialone Nano rice, which is native to Venice. Just make sure that any food you bring back on the ship is, packaged and sealed to comply with regulations.
If you’re looking for a food that’s unique to Venice to try and bring back home, pick up a tin of baicoli. It was originally created as a long-lasting biscuit for local Venetian sailors and was often used in place of bread. Today baicoli is vanilla-flavored, dry and oval-shaped and sold in metal tins in Venetian markets.
Chocolate is always considered one of the best travel souvenirs, and Venice and other parts of Italy has some of the best in the world. For a truly decadent treat to give your family and friends back home, pick up chocolate bars or boxed candies made from real Italian chocolate and roasted Piedmont hazelnuts. Just make sure that any food you bring back on the ship is packaged and sealed to comply with regulations.
When it comes to cocktails, few say “Venice” like a Bellini. Invented by the owner of a world-famous local Italian bar, this refreshing concoction is made with prosecco (the Italian version of champagne) and the juice of fresh, white peaches. Pick up a premade bottle of Bellini at any Venice wine shop and take home for easy making. Remember you can buy only one, duty-free liter per adult, which will be held for you by your Carnival cruise staff until the end of your voyage.
14. Gourmet Foods
Venice markets carry a wide range of packaged gourmet foods for Italian cooking. To recreate the true Italian flavors back home, pick up olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, pasta sauce or jam. Just make sure that any food you bring back on the ship is packaged and sealed to comply with regulations.
For a different Italian-made adult beverage, purchase a bottle of grappa. This is a brandy-like spirit made from parts of grapes like the skin, pulp and stems leftover from winemaking. Many Italian wine shops sell several varieties of grappa and grappa-based liqueurs, and some even offer grappa tastings.
Whether you’re taking a Carnival cruise from Venice or already enjoying a European cruise and going to make a pit-stop, Venice stands out as a great gift-giving city. From glasswork and door knockers to a bottle of grappa or another foodie souvenir, any of the items on this top 15 list are a perfect reflection of both Venetian history and culture.