Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fair Trade in Venice

You might think that the touristy area around the famed Venice Rialto bridge would be an unlikely spot for a store specializing in Fair Trade products, but this is Italy where Fair Trade and Slow Food are huge (in fact the Slow Food movement originated in Italy).

And sure enough on the main street that flows from the east side of the Rialto Bridge steps, Salizada Pio X, you will find the Botteghe del Mondo. The window displays may catch your eye before you realize which store it is as they are filled with brightly colored leather handbags, natural fiber clothes, and "Peace Steps" leather sandals. The hand-made sandals are produced by a non profit cooperative in Palestine with local materials to help fund education and social services for children in Palestine refugee camps.

The suede handbags, in an array of gorgeous, bright colors, are handmade by a local cooperative, Coop Filo, near Venice working with disadvantaged and troubled youth. A side corner of the store has more common Fair Trade food products but most of the store is filled with non-food items, some made in Italy, others, like the Peace Step sandals, made elsewhere with purpose and care.

While there are stores in Venice, and throughout Italy, filled with leather goods (some made in Italy, others in China), this one offers the possibility of locally made products with a worthwhile cause.
In addition, you will find lovely and helpful service at Botteghe del Mondo even if you enter rain-soaked as I did on my first visit. But here's a tip- if you do enter wet - save your fondling of the suede bags for another, drier time.

Botteghe del Mondo-Coop Filo, Salizada Pio X, 5164 Ponte di Rialto, 30124 Venice (Venezia in Italian); Tel: 041 522 7545; Open Monday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 1:30 pm/2:00 to 7:30 pm, Sunday from 10:30 to 1:30 pm/ 3:00 to 7:00 pm.

Coop Filo has three other stores in Italy - Milan, Rome and Trento.

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