Venice is famous for its canals, bridges and wondrous piazzas but not to be left out of the intoxicating mix that is La Serenissima are its exquisite store windows. And we are not talking fashion windows here, like those you may see in Florence, Milan or New York. Although these exist, primarily in the up-market byways near the Piazza San Marco, they are far outnumbered by the windows of stores that cater to tourists hankering after souvenirs, yes, but also to the visitors’ concept of Venice not so much as a place but a fantasy, a state of mind.
Although it is impossible to vie with the city’s photogenic beauty, these stores do their best, creating attractive microcosms that show off the merchandise, bear witness to the Italians’ genius for design, and entice tourists inside, where they will hopefully drop a handsome sum and help keep the locals, a dwindling population, afloat for another season.
The best of these windows, whether vaunting carnival masks, Murano glass, stationery, paintings or tourist knicknacks, appear much like tiny stage sets, drawing the viewer into the mysterious, somewhat quirky fairy-tale world that is Venice.
Many of the windows are at their best at night, when they glow with artful lighting on the dark alleyways of Venice.
Here is a collection that I have taken over the years.
Most were taken with a tripod, surrounded by gawking tourists from all over the world. Store owners don’t seem to mind your taking pictures of their displays.
In other cities they would worry that you were stealing their ideas. Here, nothing seems to faze the Venetians’ natural tolerance of tourists and their obsessions.