If you are within sight of a handful or more tourists, you are not far from a shop or stand selling souvenirs of Venice, most of which look about alike and are over-priced.
What to buy: Popular items begin and end with the ubiquitous carnival masks, but of course there are always the t-shirts, water color paintings (seemingly mass-produced), etc.. Scarves were immensely popular during our 2010 visit, and that trend may or may not have continued. These scarves were probably the best souvenir stand/shop buys at the time.
Look in the Venice 'Warnings and Danger' tips and you'll see many tips about the illegal bag sellers. These (mainly African Immigrants) sell fake designer handbags, and don't pay taxes.
I've happily passed by these chaps with their selection of handbags either displayed on a sheet on the floor, or hung from their arms. They loiter in the main tourist rat runs. Some have given me a fright appearing from the shadows!
I've had no intention to buy a bag, but I've usually acknowledged their presence, with a ' Thanks, but No Thanks' and a friendly Bye! - (and count my blessings, that I'm not having to earn my living this way!)
So, Christmas 2007, I'm wandering between Scalzi and Lista di Spagna, minding my own business, and passing by one of these handbag 'stalls' when I catch sight of a red bag - it was the size and shape I'd been looking for.
I only hesitated for a minute, but the salesman recognised a potential customer. - He picked it up and shouted only 40 euros madame ! I laughed and carried on, but he then shouted 20 euros. I was just converting this to sterling in my head, when there was a quick movement of the 'stall/ sheet' being gathered up and this chap and his accomplices making a run for it. Presumably, the police had been spotted
Well I was a bit miffed- I'd taken a liking to the bag, but I wasn't going to run after them. ;-) Instead I continued wandering a bit further.
Less than 10 minutes later I was retracing my steps along Lista de Spagna, intending to get a vaporetto back to my hotel.
I was surprised to see 'the stall' back as if undisturbed, and the stall holder recognised me -"20 Euros madame"?
Awww what the heck - I liked the bag, it was a decent price, I knew it was fake/ illegal - but It wasn't as if I was robbing the 'real designers' - There's no way that I would be paying hundreds of Euros for their stuff, and they weren't freezing their butts off out in the cold, like these lot - So I handed my 20 euros over, wished him a Happy Christmas and laughed as he said "these are a Thousand Euros in the shops" - as if!!!
Ok, so back home, I unwrap my bag, and I realise that it's got a 'Prada' badge on one side.
From the outside, it's quite a nice bag - inside, the material is pretty cheap, and the stitching's not great - so obviously not 'designer Prada'
Now my dilemma is, not that I've purchased an illegal item, BUT- If I go out carrying this bag do I look like
-A) a wannabe WAG ? or even worse,
-B) someone who's brought a designer bag, thinking that it's the real thing, and it's so obviously a fake - even to a blind man!!!
My solution is to carry it with the badge towards me, so no one need know!!
On a more serious note- I've read that not only are these hawkers likely to be fined, but anyone caught buying these bags is also subject to a hefty fine!
For anyone wanting to purchase a legal bag, but not at designer prices, there are a few shops selling reasonably priced bags. I found one during my recent visit, opposite Ferrovia train station, which had a variety of styles/ colours/ prices!
What to buy:
Very good Designer-Bag Replicas. The Gucci and Fendi ones are very good - the Louis Vuitton Models suck.
What to pay: Depends on your negotiating skills! The Seller will start around 100 Euro per Bag and then it`s up to you - pretending to be NOT INTERESTED takes you far! I paid 40 Euro for a big (&good) Gucci-Replica.