Souvenir Shopping: 3 Iconic Things to Bring Home from Italy

by  Alex Schechter | Dec 3, 2013
Venice, Italy
Venice, Italy / bluejayphoto/iStock

Italy wasn't created for one-stop shopping – in fact, it's not even that well suited to single-destination trips. Rome? Venice? Florence? How to choose? Well, you might not have to. The Italy deal in this week's Top 25 newsletter offers a six-night train ride including a two-night stop in at each of those iconic cities. Since you won't be spending the entire trip watching the scenery go by (at least, we hope not), here's a look at the best shops to visit to take home a one-of-a-kind, easy-to-pack souvenir.

Venice: Paper
Following an age-old tradition of Venetian bookbinding, the skilled craftsmen at La Ricerca, a family-owned shop near the Piazza San Marco on the tiny Calle Ostreghe, specialize in hand-made marbled paper. The one-of-a-kind rich, swirly patterns appear on book covers, journals, address books, photo albums, and pretty much any other form of bound paper products you can think of; in addition, the intimate shop is also packed with accessories like pencil holders, bookmarks, and business card holders, all ideal souvenirs you simply won't find anywhere else.

Rome: Antiques
Any collector who passes through Rome knows the city is rich with undiscovered treasures and mementos from the city's rich past, be it furniture, vintage clothing, or forgotten artwork. In this last category, the Piazza Fontanella Borghese (Mon-Sat, 9am-1pm) excels. Heralded by many as the best outdoor market in Rome, the square (named after the Borghese family's palazzo, located nearby) is host to around 20 connected stalls, all showing off their individual, carefully curated collections of antique books, maps, photographs, etchings, and prints. The gem you find here will be paper-thin, but remember: good things come in small packages (plus, it'll fit in your suitcase!).

Florence: Leather
Guidebooks earnestly warn readers to "smell the leather" when they venture through Florence's labyrinth of tanneries and leather goods stores. The idea, of course, is to ascertain the quality of the hide they're about to purchase. But that won't be an issue at Scuola del Cuoio, a collective of leather artisans that's been around since the 1930s. The "school" is a gallery and work space all rolled into one, housed within the gorgeous Basilica of Santa Croce, a 13th century Franciscan church, whose beauty and history only enhance the ambiance of the Scuola del Cuoio's vaulted showrooms. On top of leather gilding demonstrations and other workshops, visitors can spend hours simply browsing the incredible selection of purses, wallets, briefcases, belts, and calfskin iPad covers.

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