Lonely Planet Writer

How taking home a piece of Venice can be good for the city

Souvenirs are a tricky business. You’re always looking for something special that encapsulates the spirit of the city you’re visiting. What better, then, than an actual piece of the city itself? A brand new collection, created by Pieces of Venice, turns old materials such as jetties, mooring poles, and high-water boardwalks into designer objects, for children and adults alike.

Gondola on Canal Grande with Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in the background, Venice, Italy. Image by ©canadastock/Shutterstock

“Our aim is to keep traditions alive, and by doing so, also preserving the identity of Venice, passing on its memories by recycling and reusing its building materials,” says Karin Friebel, one of the three members of Pieces of Venice, which also includes Luciano Marson and Luca Cerchier.

Taxi, San Pietro di Castello 364, by Marco Zito, courtesy by Pieces of Venice and Ghenos

Items span from toys such as swings, kaleidoscopes and propellers, to walking canes, pillboxes and shoe horns. Their names are quite curious, always followed by an address, which is both a clue and an invitation to explore deeper. “Take, for instance, the propeller, called Elica – DORSODURO 2, designed by Luciano Marson,” Friebel tells Lonely Planet News. “That’s the address of the Punta della Dogana, the windiest spot in Venice, so the perfect place to spin a propeller.” The area hosts the former customs warehouse, now an art museum, and is crowned by a weathervane in the form of the Goddess of Fortune, that spins with the changing of the winds. Another example? The swing (Altalena – DORSODURO 3136) refers to a Tiepolo fresco at the Ca’ Rezzonico museum, called “The Swing of Pulcinella”.

Elica (Propeller) – Dorsoduro 2, by Luciano Marson. Image by Pieces of Venice and Ghenos

Pieces of Venice doesn’t have a proper shop in Venice, but you can find their objects online. The most simple items are raw boards to incorporate as building materials; the most extravagant is up to the client, who can order them custom-made. Friebel says a portion all profits go toward cooperatives in the social sector, which employ disabled people and inmates, that often help in the production of Pieces of Venice.

Grand Canal with view on Santa Maria della Salute and boats. Image by ©ThierryHennet/Getty Images/RooM RF

As the trio scavenges for raw materials, the rarest of all – such as a vintage gondolas or the Casino boardwalks from the 1970s – will be auctioned, and the proceeds donated to not-for-profit organizations working to save Venice, or that are actively involved with the local community.

It’s not just a civic act of recycling and reusing old materials, and caring for the environment, says Friebel. It’s also a way of preserving precious memories through objects, while spreading a sense of belonging to a threatened place, all while contributing to the community, and helping save a sinking city.

Words: Luisa Grigoletto