It’s official. There’s no escaping it. As much as I’ve tried to ignore the twinkling of lights in windows and the incessant playing of Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ on the TV since October, the arrival of December is the end of the line. Christmas, my friends, is officially upon us.
At the risk of sounding all Grinch-like, the festive holidays are not my favourite time of year (think sipping spritz on a sun-splashed summer afternoon at a canal bar instead). That being said, there is at least some joy to be found in the perfect acceptability of eating chocolate for breakfast at this time of year. That and the presents, of course.
However, despite being an out and proud lover of all things Venetian, my family maintains their annual struggle of knowing what to buy for me, and the questions of, ‘what would you like for Christmas this year’, begin in earnest as early as July.
For all Venetophiles who suffer from the same festive troubles, I’ve listed below the top ten Venice-related gifts that you can casually leave on the coffee table as a helpful hint to your gift-stricken family. For the interests of my own family, I do not have numbers 2, 3 or 7. Just saying…
Happy Christmas shopping!
1. Murano Glass piece
Yes, it’s an obvious one but it’s a goodie. Forget the cheap five euro pieces you can buy in any tourist shop in Venice, real Murano glass pieces are exquisite, ornate trinkets that any Venetophile would love to have. Not only do they embody a real slice of popular Venetian history, but they look great on your mantelpiece! Get a festive inspired piece, an animal ornament (the Venetian lion, no?!), or a colour-infused curved plate to hold your keys in.
There are many reputable online stores that sell real Murano glass (see the official website – http://www.muranoglass.com), but do beware the rogue trader trying to pass off glass as Murano made. If you’re not sure, just look out for the Murano glass mark of authenticity on the website – Vetro Artistico Murano.
I was introduced to this book by a friend who knew of my Venetophile ways. Despite not even having an inkling of cooking endeavours, I found myself poring over this treasure trove of Venetian dishes like I was an Italian Nigella Lawson. Fellow Venetophiles and indeed Italophiles will recognise this strange quirk of changing ones likes and dislikes based on whether something is Italian-inspired or not.
The author is a London chef who wound up in Venice, as many of us do, and was enchanted by the beauty, culture, and the locally-inspired culinary dishes. Norman promptly returned home to open up his own restaurant, Polpo, to bring a piece of Venetian cuisine to his fellow Londoners. His book details all manner of dishes from starters, to mains, desserts, and the quintessential Venetian chiccetti.
3. Venice Jigsaw Puzzles
To avoid a daily deluge of stories that begin, ‘This one time, in Venice’, keep a hardened Venetophile quiet with a gift of a 1000-piece (or more, depending on their Venetian malaise) jigsaw of Venice. It could be a jigsaw of the classic Rialto Bridge, of the Salute Basilica, or simply a backwater canal street.
If you’re lucky enough to be visiting Venice before Christmas, wander around the back streets of Cannaregio where you’ll find some Aladdin’s Caves of shops, selling all manner of gizmos, trinkets, and, you guessed it, jigsaw puzzles of the city itself. Failing that, a trip to WH Smith will do the trick.
4. Cafe Life Venice: A Guidebook to the Cafés and Bacari of La Serenissima
It’s a well-known cautionary tale that many of Venice’s restaurants are nothing to write home about, owing to the fact that there are so many one-off tourists visiting that local chefs don’t see the point in trying to win any Michelin stars when each tourist diner is unlikely to ever return again.
The Venice instalment in the Cafe Life series is therefore a little dynamite of a guidebook, detailing some of the best, the oldest, and tastiest restaurants, cafes and bacari across the Venetian land. It’s as much a peek into the local life of the city’s residents as it is a recommendation of where to eat, and the stories of the restaurant owners, their clients, and their eateries is a joy to read.
The book is a bit out of date (the Pasticceria Marchini isn’t there anymore for example), but there is something delightfully satisfying in deciding to track down a particular place in the Venetian maze and then actually finding it.
Yes, it’s another book, but for the self-confessed Venetophile, this is the Dali Lama of Venice-related literature. Why? Because even the most hardened of Venice lovers will learn something new about their spiritual homeland with this book.
From legends and ghost stories, to secret hideaways and snippets of insider info, this book is small but mighty. Venice lovers will love reading the smaller print details of their favourite city and then walking the trails and finding the little alcoves mentioned in the book.
6. Murano Glass Ring
Okay, so I know I already mentioned Murano Glass, but this one is worth mentioning again. If a glass ornament or trinket isn’t the Venetophile’s bag, then how about a piece of Murano Glass jewellery? There are lots of delicate necklaces and pretty bracelets for the discerning Venice lover, but my personal favourite is the Murano Glass ring, the kind that snakes around your finger. It’s at once unusual and unique. My husband bought one for my birthday and it’s safe to say he was in the good books for quite a few months.
Last year I went on a tour of the prosecco region in the Veneto, learning all about the different types of prosecco and the varying classifications of wine, and since then I’ve likened myself to a bit of a prosecco expert (obviously).
For any self-respecting Venetophile and prosecco drinker, buy them a bottle of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) prosecco. This is the highest classification of Italian wine and is guaranteed to come from the Mecca of prosecco, i.e. the Veneto region. In short, this means a bottle of DOCG prosecco tastes pretty darn good. My personal favourite is the Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut – divine!
Ah, Francesco Da Mosto, my spiritual father. I potentially love this man more than I love my own father (sorry, pops), so amazing is his expertise, artistic flair, and ability to look cool whilst smoking a roll up cigarette in his 2004 DVD, Francesco’s Venice. Yes, it’s about ten years old, but Francesco’s Venice is a creative masterpiece in conveying the tumultuous and sensual story of the Most Serene Republic.
It’s simultaneously educational and fun, and even if history isn’t your thing, Venetophiles will love this DVD if not for the spectacular panoramic views of La Serenissima, but for Francesco’s quirky joie de vivre and his innate affection and exuberance for his homeland.
Chances are you won’t be able to afford a masterpiece by Titian or Bellini, but one item in the Venetophile’s arsenal of memorabilia is a piece of artwork showcasing the lovely La Serenissima.
Be it a canvass, painting, or cinematic portrait, a lover of Venice will be a lover of you if you get them one of these for their Christmas. And don’t be put off if your Venetophile already has a piece of Venetian artwork in their home. That does not mean they don’t want another one!
For the Italian history buffs among us, Bosworth’s romp through 19th century to present day Venice is a book-wormy jewel in a sea of Venetian history literature.
Bosworth steps away from the quintessential tale about La Serenissima’s Republic and Renaissance brilliance and instead focuses on the toils and troubles of a city catapulted into a United Italian nation, war, and mass tourism. It’s not exactly easy bed-time reading, but it certainly paints another side of the city known for its history of artistic genius, licentiousness, and beauty.
Got any more present ideas for us Venetophiles?? Leave a message and let us know!