Visitors love Venice for its age old beauty. But few know that the true wealth of the city lies away from the labyrinthine streets and pizzerias, hidden behind in minute doors and up crumbling, forgotten staircases. We've scoured the streets and created this list of the city's most refined arts and crafts that make the perfect souvenirs.
In 1307 the craftsmen of Venice, frustrated by the difficulty they and other merchants had in navigating around the city's narrow canals, began making specific oars (remèri in dialect) for the city. Initially these were only slightly more complicated than traditional flat oars, however, the next few centuries the craft became an art in itself. The complex twists and turns in these specific oars (le fórcole) being as beautiful as they were functional. Today at Le Fórcole, locals hand-make typical Venetian wooden oars and rowlocks (‘forcole’ in Venetian dialect) using these ancient techniques passed down over the generations. You can also look through a catalogue of oar design, gondola history and get a glimpse of the history of this city from the inhabitants who shaped it. Next time you see a gondola passing, take a closer look at its oars to appreciate this disappearing craft. www.forcole.com
One of the most crucial elements bringing theatre, ballet, cinema and television to life is costume. The Nicolao Atelier tailor's shop started to produce period costumes in 1980, achieving the creations that have been exported all over the world for years as one of the greatest expressions of Made in Italy handicraft expertise. Skilled hands cut and sew precious and exclusive fabrics using the authentic cuts and styles adopted in the past to add a touch of class to the period costume-making profession. Atelier Nicolao creates stunning pieces to evoke periods of history ranging from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance right through to the 1920s and ‘30s. See beautiful Venetian costumes complete with their unique masks, hats, capes and many more accessories at the Cannaregio showroom in the centre of the city. www.nicolao.com
Fonderia Artistica Valese
Venice’s last remaining foundry carries on the tradition of Venetian metal sand-casting, transforming bronze and other materials into artistic ornaments, mythical figures, miniature landmarks, door handles, handrails and chandeliers that can be shipped home. Established in the historic centre of Venice in 1913, it uses the traditional method of sand casting to produce beautifully crafted items: from the ornaments used to decorate gondolas to the lampposts used to illuminate the Grand Canal; from reproductions of famous monuments to moulds used for glassmaking. The Valese Foundry also produces 'tailor-made' objects and reproductions of complex items such as chandeliers and antique fittings. Don’t miss the guided tour revealing a side of Venice that is absolutely unique. www.valese.it
Fonderia Artistica Valese