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Our Guest Author’s Best Souvenirs from Italy– Venice, Rome, Florence, Verona and Pisa

Guest author Raphael Alexander Zoren  of A Journey of Wonders just came back from a two-year trip around the world and brought with him a big suitcase filled with souvenirs. 36 of them, in fact!

Ed: Note— after you read about guest author Raphael’s top picks, you may also want to check out my own favorite Italy souvenirs and learn how to buy Italian ceramics, find crisp Italian linens, and taste-test delicious Italian cheese from a family farm.

Florence Dumo ReplicaThe moment I saw that huge replica of the Duomo of Florence, I knew I HAD to buy it. I wasn’t thinking straight, of course. After all, who in their right mind buys something that it is extremely heavy and easily breakable? Especially when they are just part way through their two-year trip around the world, and lugging around a suitcase from place to place?

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Just a few of Raphael’s prized souvenirs.

Well, me! Over the course of my travels I’ve bought at least one item from each country/region I’ve visited.

I found my best souvenirs in Italy— here are some of my favorite Italian souvenirs that made it into my luggage:

A Roman gladiator shield and sword (kid’s plastic version, of course!)

gladiator souvenir-at-the-colisseum

“My name is Gladiator… and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

I grew up watching Russell Crowe’s epic movie Gladiator, so when I saw this souvenir Roman gladiator shield, I knew I had to have it. Here was my chance to recreate a scene from one of my favorite flicks at the place where it all happened– the Colosseum.

I received a lot of flak and nagging from my then-girlfriend. “Raphael, you look extremely silly with that!” But I didn’t care. Suffice to say, we didn’t last long. Ed. note: ladies, if you want to date Raphael, don’t make fun of his toys!

You can buy this Roman gladiator shield near the Trevi fountain in Rome for about 15 to 20 euros. It also includes a helmet but my head was too big for that! I guess this was really meant to be a kid’s toy.

 A Venetian mask souvenir straight out of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut

Venice Mask Ca' Macana

Ca’ Macana is located within the historical downtown of Venice at Sestiere Dorsoduro, 3172. Souvenir Venetian mask prices range from 20 to 40 euros.

Ever since I was an easily impressionable child, Venetian masks and the whole idea of dressing up for the Carnival fascinated me. That’s why during my visit to this love/hate city I wanted to get THE best Venetian mask out there. I did some internet research and found Ca’ Macana, the shop that created most of the Venetian masks for Stanley Kubricks’ last movie, Eyes Wide Shut.

Ca’Macana is one of the oldest mask making workshops in Venice, known their respect of tradition– the workshop crafts authentic handmade Venetian masks using the same traditional methods of Venetian artisans from over 800 years ago. Venetian mask designs are never repeated, so each mask is a true bespoke original.

Shopping Ca’ Macana for a souvenir Venetian mask is a fun experience– you’ll be dazzled by the colorful, intricately designed Venetian masks lining the walls (along with the autographs of fans Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman). With all these delicate, handmade masks, you might expect a stuffy atmosphere and a no touch policy but fortunately that was not the case at all. The helpful staff actually encourages you to try the masks on and will even let you pose for photos with your favorites.

If you want to try your hand at painting your own Venetian mask, you can participate in Ca’ Macana’s Venetian mask painting workshop. While adults can learn about the history of the Venetian masks while painting their own, the workshop recognizes the short attention span of certain small visitors and promises that if “there are small children in the group we will not bore them with a long theoretical introduction”-– kids can just grab some paintbrushes and have fun, no history lesson required.

More Italian Souvenirs: Love and War

Italian Souvenirs 2

In Rome, I picked up this small metallic helmet right outside the Vatican for 5 euros. In Verona, I found this small statue of Romeo & Juliet for only 2 euros inside of the Verona Coliseum’s gift shop.

After bagging my prized gladiator souvenirs in Rome, I kept an eye out for more souvenirs that represented the great Roman empire– like this replica Roman soldier’s helmet. But I don’t just buy war souvenirs, there’s room for love too. In Verona, the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the romantic in me couldn’t resist this small statue of the star-crossed lovers.

Impractical, breakable Italian souvenirs are no deterrent!

Italian souvenirs 1As you might have guessed by now, if I love a souvenir, I won’t let the fact that’s it’s breakable or heavy keep me from buying it. In Pisa, I found a stone bible with the leaning tower on top of it for 1 euro right next to the real deal. I also picked up this small stone Lion of St. Mark in Venice for 3 euros outside of the Ducal Palace. I simply couldn’t resist!

Dumo Replica FlorenceOf course, I’m saving the best for last, this souvenir medium-scale replica of Florence’s Duomo. Just look at the photos and behold how amazing this is!  The colors, the details, the je-ne-sais-quoi, this is, without any doubt, my favorite souvenir of all of Europe. Want to know the best part? It’s actually not that expensive! You can buy a replica of the Duomo of Florence at the San Lorenzo street market for only 15 euros (of course, you need to bargain first!).

How to travel with souvenirs

Yes, I know what you’re all thinking: how in God’s name did you manage to carry all of those souvenirs with you for two-years? The answer is that I didn’t really drag all of my souvenirs around with me everywhere I went. Instead, I carefully plotted my itinerary by including souvenir “drop off” points– that is, friends’ homes around the world where I could store my souvenirs while I traveled, and later pick up when I was ready to return home.

In fact, after finishing up a long 24 months of travel, instead of flying home directly from Japan to Mexico, I made an out-of the-way connection all the way to Scotland (via Dubai!) just to pick up my souvenirs!  Yes, a direct airplane from Japan to Mexico would have been quicker and cheaper but hey, there was no way I was leaving my souvenirs behind! Ed. note: Raphael, that’s commitment!

Souvenir Finder Tip Sheet

  • What to buy: Guest Author Raphael recommends a mask in Venice, and bookshelf-friendly replica statues
  • Where to buy: In Venice, seek out the famous Ca’Macana. Replicas and statues can be found around tourist sites
  • What to know: Bring bubble wrap from home for breakables– it can be tricky to find in Italy

 

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About the Guest Author

You can follow Raphael’s adventures in Mexico and the world at his travel blog: A Journey of Wonders, while you can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more amazing travel photography!

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9 Responses to Our Guest Author’s Best Souvenirs from Italy– Venice, Rome, Florence, Verona and Pisa

  1. sueslaght 04/09/2014 at 4:03 pm #

    I am thinking Raphael needs to meet Steph and her teeny tiny backpacking souvenir style. 🙂 Now the question is was there a Starbucks mug in there somewhere?

    • Raphael Alexander Zoren 04/10/2014 at 9:07 pm #

      Who’s Steph? I would like to meet her haha Souvenir travelers unite!!!

    • Kristin Francis 04/10/2014 at 11:53 pm #

      ha ha brilliant Sue! For my next story, I need to track someone down now who has to rent freight or a container to bring their souvenirs home lol.

  2. Rolling Harbour 04/10/2014 at 2:49 pm #

    For no good reason, I suddenly desperately want a model duomo from Florence. I’ve never had that urge until now… Cheers! RH

    • Kristin Francis 04/10/2014 at 11:45 pm #

      Haha RH I feel that way looking back at my photos all the time!

  3. diana @ veggienextdoor 04/10/2014 at 9:30 pm #

    The Carnival mask is my favorite!

    • Kristin Francis 04/10/2014 at 11:44 pm #

      So pretty! Think it would be fun to paint one too.

  4. Retno Widiati 04/13/2014 at 10:13 am #

    I really love Duomo of Florence, where I can buy ?
    I love miniatur building anywhere I travelled

  5. KAren Jackson 07/31/2014 at 3:04 pm #

    We collect tacky fridge magnets, the tackier the better and also nice Christmas tree ornaments.

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