Text and images by Sarita Rajiv
Do you have a travel ritual; something you always do when you’re exploring a new place? One of my friends, a foodie, makes it a point to try out exotic local cuisine whenever she travels. I’ve heard of an Indian couple that like to replicate Bollywood movie songs filmed in the places they’re visiting. So they take pictures of themselves posing and dressed like the actors in the song. Think a lady in a sari with the pyramids of Egypt in the background!
My travel ritual is fairly simple in comparison. I like to take back a piece of the place I’m visiting. These could be little souvenirs and gifts for family and friends or a take-away memory of that place for my home. And today I’m dipping into my travel files to share some Italian goodness with you. I’m talking souvenirs and gifts from Venice and Florence. I got so carried away discovering and photographing all the fantastic Italian products you could take back from Italy that I have to split this Italian gift guide into two parts to do justice to these gift and souvenir ideas.
So here’s part one of Italian gift guide with souvenirs from Venice and Florence for you.
Italian story books: One of the highlights of our Venice trip was visiting the quirky Alta Aqua book store. Listed as one of the must-visit book stores in the world, Libreria Aqua Alta in Venice literally translates to ‘High Water Library’. A befitting name, set as it is on the canal and housing a gondola full of books, posters and post cards among other quirky paraphernalia! Luigi, the owner of the bookstore helped us pick out a book called ‘Tobia the gondolier’ which is part of a series on Venetian craftsmen. What a fun way for my daughter to remember her trip to Venice and the experience of being in a gondola.
Venetian masquerade masks: Walking down the streets of Venice, it was hard to miss all the stalls selling Venetian masquerade masks. The masks were vibrant, shiny and elaborately decorated and, just what kids are attracted to as we discovered thanks to my daughter. After trying out several we settled on a relatively simple one that covered just the eyes. These are fun souvenirs to take back from Italy…especially for kids who love dressing up in costumes of all kinds. And as we discovered from people-watching at the airport, it seemed like it isn’t just kids who love these Venetian masks…they are a hit with adults too.
Venetian jewellery box: If masks are not quite your thing, you could try the jewellery boxes. We spotted them in several stores across Venice. They’re made of clay and in the shape of the Venetian face masks. Small and dainty, they’re perfect as gifts for the women in your life.
Murano art glass: I’m not a big fan of art glass, even so it was quite an experience to see some of the gorgeous art glass made in the island of Murano. And when I chanced upon this gorgeous glass balloon made by Livio de Marchi, the famed Italian artist, I was sold. Did I mention Murano glass art is incredibly, extraordinarily expensive? It’s not quite a travel souvenir, but then I just wouldn’t be doing justice to my Italian gift guide if I left this beauty out!
While shops in Venice sell Murano glass jewellery and artefacts, the best way to ensure that the Murano art glass you are buying is authentic is to buy it from Murano, a short ride away from Venice on the vaporetto.
I’ll leave you with these gorgeous glass balloons for now. I'm hoping you got some good souvenir and gift ideas for your next Italy trip. Look out for part two of my Italian gift guide. Psst, I’ll give you a hint...think wood and lace. Got you curious, didn’t I?
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