Italy Vacation ShoppingPosted by in Collecting | Holidays | Popular Posts | Travel | Travel Shopping
I’m halfway through my posts about all of our stops in Italy, so let’s take a rest stop and talk about shopping (don’t worry, there will be lengthy foodie posts to come as well!)
Before I leave on a trip, I try to find out what the specialty items of the area are. For Italy, I determined that I should look for handmade glass and lace (and locally made lace is hard to find and expensive since most of it is just made in factories in Asia now) in Venice, handcrafted paper and leather in Florence, and lemon products and custom-made sandals in Sorrento. Cameos are another specialty in Italy. I also read about glass or stone mosaics throughout the country.
I have several specific collections I am always looking to add to: bookmarks and magnets are the cheapest, although bookmarks can be hard to find. I always am looking for Christmas ornaments, Easter eggs and cups, handmade baskets, locally made soap, fun food items to bring home, and watercolor paintings depicting the area. It helps to have specific things to look for.
The shopping in Venice was fantastic. There were so many stores, it was hard to focus. This was also our first city, so we were jet lagged and trying to adjust to the terrible heat! We took a vaporetto to the island of Murano which was
an amazing place to visit, but they had so much glass that is made there on the island that it was hard to choose! Some of the glass is very expensive. One shop had a few glass mosaic pieces, but none were right.
I found two great bookmarks in Venice, one with a tassel (which they sell many of in Venice) and one with Murano glass.
We bought our Venice painting from an artist in the campo right in front of our hotel, next to a canal. It was one of those perfect settings.
There was a lovely shopping section in Florence on the far side of the Arno, just past the Ponte
Vecchio, but I wish it had been bigger. This area had some terrific artisan shops where we bought leather items and a beautiful painted tray. My husband bought a wallet and we got the leather trays I photographed. I found bookmarks here and little books of paintings from each city which will hang on my book tree in my office.
I bought my painting in Florence (the long narrow on in the front of the photo below) in a small courtyard outside the Uffizi where artists were selling their work. Artists were also selling things in the Plaza Repubblica at night. I find that areas where
tourists gather in the evenings are good places to find local paintings that are inexpensive. I rarely pay more than $20 for paintings like these.
I looked at gorgeous stone mosaics in Florence, but could not bring myself to spend a minimum of 250 Euros for one. So those have now taken up residence in the museum in my mind (all the things I wished I had bought and didn’t on all of my trips!).
Rome was a challenge for shopping, but we did find a nice little grouping of shops near the Pantheon. Everything else was junky souvenir shops or expensive designer shopping. There were several shops with nice pottery in Rome.
I bought a painting in Rome, but it’s a print that I saw lots of street vendors selling. I could not find any artists selling original paintings.
I saw a gorgeous handpainted leather purse I came very close to buying, but the back of it had some scratches. They didn’t have any others. Another item added to the museum of my mind.
We took a tour of Pompeii and I did not expect to buy anything there other than my fun little cheap magnet (I buy one every place we go and they decorate the file cabinet in my office). However, our guide took us into a cameo store, where an elderly man sits hand-making cameos. They were beautiful and my daughter and I each bought one (ok, I bought two). The artist signed them on the back and also wrote our
initials on the back. I really wanted a blue cameo, but they told us those are always made in factories. The ones we bought are handmade from shells.
Sorrento had a wonderful shopping section, very quaint with narrow
alleys and cobblestone streets, just off the Tasso piazza. It was a shopper’s paradise. There were so many shops selling leather purses that I was dizzy!
My daughter had sandals handmade for her here (you go in and pick out the elements you want on them and they have it ready the next day: they do not actually hand-make the sole however – they just put together the pieces you select). Limoncello is a big product here, but I bought lemon soap and honey since we don’t care for alcohol. My husband bought a beautiful leather bag and a belt here.
We had dinner one night down in Marina Grande, a tiny little beach area. There was an old woman selling lace just behind the beach. She was sitting and doing lacework, so there is a chance the lace I bought did not come from Asia, so I bought one lace doily.
We also stumbled upon a truly fantastic HUGE store called Gargiulio and Januzzi. They sold inlaid wood boxes and plaques, some glass jewelry and a big room of amazing Italian pottery and linens. Downstairs was a big room with marquetry inlay furniture which was gorgeous. I had to get out of that room or I would have had the entire thing shipped home. I bought some pottery and a table runner, as well as an inlay wood box (all still being shipped home, so no photos). Very high quality items and very good customer service. The shipping was free which was a nice bonus.
We visited the island of Capri on a tour, but only went to the town of Anacapri where the shopping was rather limited. I had high hopes for Capri, but didn’t buy much, other than the beautiful hydrangea glass plate I’ve photographed with my Murano glass. My daughter and I bought the lace bracelets I photographed with the lace doily here.
I could not find a painting on Capri (there was one shop in Anacapri with paintings and the owner was so aggressive, I could not even really look at his work. We ended up buying one in Sorrento of Capri the next day, so that worked out ok.
Not pictured are t-shirts and sweatshirts other members of the family brought home, as well as a couple pairs of earrings my daughter bought and promptly put into use!
We also had to make an emergency suitcase purchase at a train station! My daughter’s suitcase zipper broke. The train station in Rome had a big suitcase shop and we got a nice one for about 50 Euro, which was a nice bargain. We tried to throw out the broken suitcase, but everyone we asked told us to just set it outside the main doors of the station and someone would take it!
Overall, it was a successful trip in terms of shopping and now I am trying to figure out where to put it all! I have to get the paintings framed, which is always a challenge. I can often find frames and mattes at Michael’s but sometimes they are not standard sizes and I have to have them framed.
I always feel as though I am buying a ton, then I get it all home and it really isn’t a lot. It’s always so nice to have lovely little items to remind me of our trips!
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You have some wonderful memory joggers! I love the idea of a book Christmas tree, and that fold-out book! My routine purchases are 1. a Christmas ornament from each place we go, preferably handmade; 2. a tile–usually just tacky tourist rather than fancy–that has the name of the place and/or iconic design; 3. If its near the sea, a miniature boat for my “fleet”; and 4. something from a craft shop, preferably when I can see it being made. I like to take photos of things being made. Didn’t buy lace in Venice or Belgium because I couldn’t imagine I would use it.
I love the fleet! I have my flock of sheep which is similar. The tile idea is really interesting too. How do you display them? We took photos in the sandal store. I find that the only time I have any interest in using lace doilies is at Valentine’s, so I get them out then and put my decorations on them.
I remember being tempted by the leather goods when in Italy. It sounds like you were very efficient with your shopping excursions. I love the idea of having sandals made.
What lovely souvenirs. I always try to buy something that will make me smile and remember the trip.
Cool stuff! And nice reminders of such a great trip.
Your cameos are reminding me of the cameos I bought in Italy a long time ago – ones that I want to get out of my jewelry box and wear! Your mementos are all so beautiful.
Always nice to bring memories hop with you to look at over and over!
Sounds like you love shopping. Did you have to buy an extra suitcase to get it all home? I like the idea of researching beforehand what to look for in a country.
I’ve tried collecting bookmarks, too, and had the same problem. Not everyplace sells them.
Especially love the tray from Florence, although everything you bought is beautiful and will give you wonderful memories of a great trip.
I’m writing a guest post for a travel site about travel shopping and address the question of how to get it home there. I’ll post a link once it is up.
I loved window shopping by looking at your photos. The book marks are the kinds of things I buy. They make such nice gifts for people–and I always like to nudge people to pick up a book. Looks like you got some beautiful treasures.
I display my bookmarks in large frames in my office. I have quite a collection now.
When I was in Italy in college, I stumbled on a garage sale of sorts and picked up several pairs of earrings that I still love.
That’s really cool.
Funny story: my mom went to Portugal, which is known for its amazing linens. I asked her to choose a linen of some sort for me. She brought me instead, pearls. She found a great deal on a string of pearls and was excited to give them to me. I hate to be ungrateful, but 1. I don’t wear jewelry and 2. I really have a dislike of pearls. I still wish I had a lovely tablecloth from Portugal…
My favorite item to buy when traveling is jewelry. It doesn’t have to be an expensive piece, just representative of the area. Then, when I put it on at home, it’s like wearing my vacation.
I love this. I have been buying some jewelry when I travel, mostly bracelets. I bought a carved conch pendant in the Bahamas I love and a turquoise bracelet in Jerome, Arizona. The cameos were the only jewelry from this trip.
I have ivory jewelry my grandmother bought in Africa that is very special to me and my daughter has a bracelet my grandmother bought in Peru.