The general rule of thumb for shopping for is that the closer to the Piazza San Marco the more expensive but I’ve not always found this to be the case so it’s worth doing a little compare and contrast exercise. Some little glass and jewellery shops near the Piazza are quite reasonable but there is so much glass for sale, that you can find the choice bewildering. Some may have been made on Murano but I gather much is imported now. You will find some shops proudly displaying their local credentials; do seek them out.
There are free organised trips to glass-blowing factories and showrooms on Murano that your hotels will happily arrange for you. As you can imagine, the guides and agents involved really want you to buy goods from the particular factory they take you to so there may be a little pressure but remember you are under no obligation to make a purchase. You can also visit Murano on your own by catching any of a number of vaporetti that leave from Fondamente Nove.
Apart from glass the most popular souvenirs must be carnival masks. Although Carnival (Carnevale) lasts officially for around 12 days before Lent, masks are available everywhere at all times. The quality varies enormously from imported mass-produced offerings to hand-made, beautifully decorated creations based on the characters from the Commedia dell’Arte. I confess here to my deep dislike of the vast majority of them and leave you to make up your own mind!
It goes without saying that there are hundred of leather shops selling bags, purses and belts but a very large proportion of the goods are not made or sold by Italians. West African street traders still try to sell knock-off designer bags from groundsheets in the most crowded tourist areas.
I’ve seen fake Fendi bags for sale outside the official Fendi shop in Campo San Moise, while the shop was open! The police seem to have an inconsistent policy of moving them on but they have, in recent years, started to target the purchasers of these goods. Fakes may be destroyed and fines levied. I don’t know how widespread this is so it’s your own decision.
Picnic and self-catering supplies can be bought from the fruit and vegetable stalls of the Rialto market and alimentari (small grocer/deli shops). One of the most interesting is Drogheria Mascari on the ruga degli Spezier near the Rialto market. It sells an astonishing range of spices, sweets, oils and wines as well as some imported foods for homesick travellers.
There are a few small supermarkets in the city that are also good for fancy bags of pasta, good olive oils and balsamic vinegars to take home. There is a Conad supermarket on the Zattere near the San Basilio vaporetto stop. It’s a good size, has a great deli counter and is open on a Sunday. There’s also one on Strada Nova in Cannaregio. In Castello on the corner of calle Mondo Novo and salizzada San Lio is a well-stocked Co-op with a hot snack counter. Here a 1.5L bottle of water will cost less than a quarter of what you will be charged at kiosks and bars near San Marco. A recent addition is Supermercato Punto in San Marco. It has two entrances, one on the Salita Teatro just off Calle Mandola, and the other over a little bridge by the Chiesa di San Luca. There are other tiny supermarkets shoehorned into unlikely spaces as well as other Co-ops in Campo San Giacomo dell’Orio and by the Piazzale Roma vaporetto stops.