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Venice gifts and souvenirs

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Stationery

Travel diaries, handcrafted marbelized paper, and other gift stationery items are fine gifts. Sealing-wax kits, complete standard or custom metal stamps, will please recipients with a taste for the traditional. (Look for stamps with Venetian themes, such as the Lion of St. Mark or a sun with a human face.)

Venice has many handsome little shops that specialize in paper goods, bookbinding, and stamps. All are used to dealing with tourists, so don't be shy about venturing in and asking, "Uh...parla inglese?"

See captioned photo: Il Pavone

Food

Candy, vacuum-packed bags of Italian coffee, cookies, and other common food items are fun to give away or save for a special occasion. Torrone, a boxed almond confection, and Perugina chocolate kisses in ornament-shaped plastic balls are popular at Christmas. Also check the wines and packaged gourmet foods at I Tre Mercanti, which offers 97 different types of pasta sauces alone.

Avoid the temptation to carry a salami or a bag of tangerines home with you, since perishable foods (other than baked goods) can't be imported legally into the U.S. and many other countries.

See illustrated article: I Tre Mercanti

Everyday household items

Purchases that you take for granted at home can be wonderful souvenirs when purchased abroad. Years ago, my wife and I bought travel flashlights in a Lisbon hardware store. These became our "Portuguese flashlights," even though they were imported from England. In Denmark, we bought plastic cups for our bathroom--and seven years later, those bright Danish red cups still remind us of our three trips to Denmark. From Italy, we brought a collection of miniature Star Trek spaceships home to our 9-year-old Trekker son. The fact that the toys bore an American brand name and were made in Asia didn't change the fact that, for our son, they were Italian additions to his starship collection--if only because the labels were in Italian.

A while back, Brad Ball of Silversea Cruises told us about his favorite souvenir item: refrigerator magnets. Such magnets are inexpensive, easy to carry home, and more useful than most other travel mementoes.

See captioned photo: Ratti

Tips:

  • If you're a serious shopper, the one book you need to buy is Born to Shop: Italy, by the inimitable Suzy Gershman. This easy-to-carry, readable, and entertaining paperback won't steer you toward Star Trek toys or plastic cups for your bathroom, but it's loaded with practical tips on shops and shopping in Italy, and it has a detailed chapter on Venice.
  • Avoid the temptation to buy counterfeit purses, scarves, and other illegal knockoffs, or you could be fined thousands of euros. (See "Fines for Fakes: Italy Declares War on Counterfeit Products.")

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