Once I managed to truly upset quite a few Venetians by running around town asking for the most ridiculous things ever in the history of time: A needle and some thread. It was a legitimate clothing emergency involving a very nice pair of blue jeans! Of course I already knew that there are some things that are simply not discussed. But was mending clothing one of those things? Or is it really that difficult to buy a sewing kit in Venice?
I went first to the most obvious places for home goods and closet needs: Bottegone, Billa & Beautyful. I even had a totally desperate, 100% touristic, moment and stopped into a couple of pharmacies! At each place, I was not only turned away, but was treated to some of the most aggravated expressions that I have ever seen in my life. But, I didn't give up. It can't be that idiotic to ask for something so normal right? Soo… Can you guess what I did?
I went to the font of all knowledge in Venezia of course! That's right, I went to the Bacaro and asked the bartender (who subsequently called his mother) and now we know where one buys needles and thread in Venezia! At the lingerie store...duhh! They sell all of the unmentionables! ;-)
The point of this story is this: Venice is a city where people live. In cities where people live, the ordinary things that people need are available. However, as the permanent population of Venice declines, and commercial rents skyrocket, the number of businesses that cater to everyday needs goes down. There was probably a time when one could purchase a sewing kit in every bottega… It may even have been the memory of that time that had so many people annoyed with my question… Or maybe it was just me. Anyway...
Figuring out where to get ordinary things is, in my opinion, the biggest challenge to adapting to life in Venice. (Hence our "Necessities" section.) It requires the nerve to ask and keep asking, the willingness to look and keep looking, and the courage to step into a world of Venice that is not inhabited by tourists at all.
Nevertheless, patronizing local businesses when you need ordinary things is not just the only choice, it is also a the best choice. As you search them out you will find that people appreciate your curiosity and willingness to learn about the everyday things that keep life humming in Venezia. You will meet Venetians. They might not speak much English to you. But, they will do everything they can to understand and to help you. You will be in the real Venice.
Enough sage advice right? What you really want to know is what happened to my jeans! The truth is that I am not only a stupid out-of-towner, I also don't know how to sew! The shopkeepers at Roni did everything they could to match thread color and thickness for me and sold me exactly the right needle for the job. But there was just no hope. My jeans were two steps away from the rubbish bin when that adventure started. Thank goodness that I'm an uncouth American slob because that meant I could shamelessly continue wearing them every step of the way!