Many travelers are familiar with the excellent shopping opportunities in northern Italy. However, most simply race down to Nove, collect their treasures and dash back across the border. While this approach works for some adventurers, I discovered how to satisfy those power-shopping urges while enjoying the beautiful Veneto region of Italy – to include its fine dining and wonderful historical sites – all in the same visit.
The first issue at hand is shopping, and the ceramic manufacturers in the Nove area are well-known around the world for their wares. Most are conveniently located within a few miles of one another, so hitting a number of them in one day is very doable.
However, if you do want to limit your loiter time, you can select the vendors based on your own interests. For example, Ancora, one of the best known “ceramiche” factories, produces a large assortment of Italian ceramics. It manufactures pieces ranging from the famous “chicken” pitchers and ceramic dishware, to holiday dishes, fruit baskets, lamps and umbrella stands. The items are hand-painted and the viewing area carries a wide selection to choose from. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By the way, very few places accept credit cards, including Ancora, so bring euros or your checkbook. Think you might run out of cash? Don’t worry, ATMs are plentiful and fairly easy to locate.
Another well-known outlet is Devis, a supplier of Capodimonte ceramic works. The Capodimonte style, different from what you’ll see at Ancora, is often referred to as china. It has an elegant look and Devis craftsmen specialize in handcrafted ceramic flowers. Its display area is small, but packed with items to purchase or just to look at. You can find out more at www.devis.it.
The largest show room and shopping area I came across was at La Ceramica, another traditional handmade ceramic outlet with a huge collection of ceramic dishware. They ship ceramic goods worldwide and produce selections for such distributors as Crate and Barrel and Lenox. For more information, check out www.laceramicavbc.com.
Of course there are many other dealers, outlets and show rooms. Larry’s Ceramics is small and very personable, and specializes in custom hand-painted tiles, but if you’re shopping for ceramic dolls, you’ll want to visit Ceramiche Bortoli. All are willing to let you browse and will gladly answer your questions. Hours vary, but most are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 6 or 6:30 p.m. Saturday hours are typically from 8 a.m. to noon, with some stores open until 4 p.m. All are closed on Sunday and holidays.
Now that you’re shopped out and your car needs gas, drive south a short distance to Camp Ederle in Vicenza. They’ll help you purchase gas coupons at the post exchange and can even assist with hotel accommodations. However, as always with room arrangements, your best bet is to research on-line or visit your local travel agent before even heading to Italy. Vicenza has an abundance of hotel rooms and you can pay most any price.
The four-star Hotel Campo Marzio, for example, is luxurious and is situated near the city center, one block from the train station (www.hotelcampomarzio.com). My wife found a great room at the Hotel De La Ville (www.boscolohotels.com) for $68 a night, a 15-minute walk from the center of the city.
Restaurants are equally abundant, with a wide selection of pizzerias. Take the time to walk the city center. You’ll find it traffic-free, and don’t forget to try a cappuccino or your favorite gelato at one of the many cafés or gelateries.
This region is also known for its fine wines. Order a half liter of your favorite vino at one of the many bars, with a slice of bruschetta or a small loaf of bread, relax and people watch.
As for sightseeing, the Veneto region is rich with Italian architecture and splendor. Vicenza is home to Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), often referred to as the most influential architect in Western culture. Palladio’s contribution can be found in the numerous villas built throughout the Veneto region in the 16th century, with the best-known being La Rotonda. In fact, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello is patterned after this villa. You can visit La Rotonda Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon and 3 to 6 p.m. Entry fee is €10.
Venice and its surrounding islands are nearby. You can depart from the Vicenza train station for the 45-minute ride directly to the city center. You’ll exit the train station facing the Grand Canal, a spectacular welcome to Venice.
You’re also a short drive or train ride from Verona, where you can visit Juliet’s balcony, walk and shop the quaint streets and admire the coliseum.
So, the next time you get the urge to power shop in the Nove area, extend your trip a couple of days, and enjoy the shopping and touring. You can make the most of the journey, buy those much-wanted items, dine on fine food and wine, and see some incredible sites, all in one trip.