By David Brough
VENICE, Italy – Venice’s St Mark’s Square is often overlooked for its shopping opportunities in high jewellery.
The piazza, most famous for tourist destinations such as the Campanile (bell tower), Basilica and Doge’s Palace, is also the home of high jewellers such as Nardi, Roberto Coin, FOPE and Roberto Bravo; and Bulgari and Casa Codognato just off the square.
Shoppers can enjoy a cappuccino, surrounded by antique mirrors and paintings, at the elegant Caffe Florian, which will celebrate its 300th anniversary later this year; or take a cocktail on the terrace of the Gritti Palace Hotel, following in the footsteps of Ernest Hemingway, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, a short walk beyond the square.
Alberto Basagni, who runs the Roberto Bravo jewellery boutique on St Mark’s Square, believes Venice can celebrate its high jewellery quarter just as Place Vendome hosts Paris’s haute joaillerie and Bond Street in London welcomes many of the world’s most renowned maisons.
“Piazza San Marco has an amazing history of high jewellers, offering an exceptional variety of pieces from contemporary to vintage and antique,” Alberto said as he showed off some extraordinary gem-set pieces in the Roberto Bravo boutique, situated very close to Caffe Florian.
Roberto Bravo offers a wide selection of exquisitely designed jewellery featuring rubies from Myanmar and Mozambique; emeralds from Colombia; sapphires from Sri Lanka; and tanzanite from east Africa.
The coronavirus pandemic has dealt a hammer blow to the tourism, hospitality and luxury businesses of Venice, and jewellers have been impacted too as international visitor footfall dropped.
On a recent visit to Piazza San Marco, tourist numbers were brisk but well below pre-COVID times for this period of the year when one can still enjoy drinks and dinner in the open air on balmy evenings.
Visitors appeared to come mainly from Europe, with Chinese and American tourists visibly absent due to the pandemic.
The high jewellers of Piazza San Marco remain upbeat, imaginatively telling their brands’ stories, continuing to deliver new collections featuring fabulous gemstones with superb customer service, and looking forward to the full recovery of tourism in the city.