Despite remnants of Italian architecture, Venice is the closest you’ll come to an Old Florida beach town—more relaxed than neighboring cities, but just as attractive to shoppers. They come for the chic boutiques and galleries lining Venice Avenue, a charming boulevard that leads right to the shore. When it’s time for a break, choose from old-fashioned ice cream parlors, quaint teahouses or al fresco dining. And don’t miss the vintages treasures around the corner on Miami Avenue; it’s a haven of shabby chic.
SWEET TART The oversized sugar and creamer ($410) in tangy yellow English pressed glass reveals the Victorians’ admitted vice. “They consumed way too much sugar,” says Karla Baer of her rare 1897 Victoria & Albert set by Davidson. Krystal Korner, 101 W. Venice Ave., Venice (941) 484-8747.
TO YOUR HEALTH Cardiologist-cum-winemaker Dr. Madaiah Revana advocates a glass a day; the acclaimed cabernet sauvignon ($110) created by Heidi Peterson Barrett for Revana’s budding Napa winery is in the back room. Venice Wine & Coffee Company, 201 W. Venice Ave., Venice (941) 484-3667.
POLITICAL ACCORD What’s the one thing Clinton, Schwarzenegger, Guiliani, G.W. and G.H. Bush agree on? Vineyard Vines ties. We love the preppy-chic sea critters on ties like this turtle number ($65) with coordinating silk pocket squares ($39.50). Mark, Fore & Strike, 319 W. Venice Ave. (941) 412-0251.
PARADISE FOUND Though artist Francesco Agresti still keeps a studio in his native Italy, he says he’s found paradise in Florida’s Venice. His original oil, Free Again, ($4,200) is one of several local artists’ works on view at Abbacino Galleria, 243 W. Venice Ave., Venice (941) 485-7600.
BLUE SKIES and crystal-clear water are memories this statement ring will conjure long after your vacation in Venice. The gem-quality aquamarine (9.34 carats) is set in 18K white gold with 60 points of diamonds—at $2,975, it’s worth the trip. Heitel Jewelers, 347 W. Venice Ave., Venice (941) 488-2720.
DEJA VU? Make-up artist Lisa Terraglia swears this Alexandra de Markoff foundation re-creates the skin’s youthful glow. So did Garbo, Harlow and Lombard, who wore the brand on camera for flawless skin. Bonnell’s Boutique, 225 Miami Ave. W, Venice (941) 480-0011.
VIRTUAL VICTORIAN Indulge in Queen Victoria’s daily delight: a true English tea for lunch or before dinner. Think white gloves, nosegays, and finger sandwiches; it’s all here, plus Devonshire cream and scones ($3.50). If Tea Cups Could Talk, 239 Miami Ave. W., Venice, (941) 488-4400.
MERCHANT OF VENICE The Bard himself would allow this potpourri of vintage dealers to pilfer his name. The delightful hodgepodge of clothing, knickknacks, custom lighting, and furniture—like this 1920s vanity table ($600)—is pure entertainment. Merchant of Venice, 223 Miami Ave. W., Venice, (941) 488-3830.
Don’t Forget To…
Be the first to wear a robe ($105) from the same prints Tori Richard uses for its resort shirts at Captain’s Landing, 319 W. Venice Ave., (941) 485-2329.
Pick up a hot new bikini from DKNY in the latest trend from Europe: leopard prints teamed with hot pink ($110). Sun Bug, 141 W. Venice Ave., (941) 485-7946.
Save up calories for an ice cream soda ($4.55) or an old-fashioned egg cream ($1.95) at the Soda Fountain, 349 W. Venice Ave., (941) 412-9860.
Step back in time at the Cat’s Meow, where the shabby is so chic you’ll want to take photos—but no cameras allowed. 235 Miami Ave. W., (941) 486-1650.
TIME IN A BOTTLE
The perfumer’s art endures.
Heaven Scent Florence’s oldest pharmacy, founded by Dominican monks in 1221, still follows formulas created for Catherine de Medici to make famed Santa Maria de Novella fragrances like this pomegranate cologne ($84). Simply Spoiled, 100 Central Ave., Sarasota (941) 364-3337.
Love Story With just one hair of a calligraphy brush, a grandfather in China painted birds, flowers and a bridal poem inside this jade-topped bottle ($960). Less than 100 men in the world practice this nearly lost art. Burke & Company, 527 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota (941) 952-0042.
Bridal Bouquet At Christina Aguilera’s wedding, everyone but the paparazzi received sachets in the fragrance she adores: an unforgettably packaged, quixotic blend of blood orange and jasmine called Tiramani by Shelley Kyle ($60). Write-On Sarasota, 1924 Osprey Ave., Sarasota (941) 364-3300.
Arts Afire Though the look is contemporary, the artists who create these hand-blown glass perfume bottles use techniques dating back to the Renaissance. Designer Lois Ross has amassed a rare collection priced from $70 to $600, each one-of-a kind. A Step Above Gallery, 1288 N. Palm Ave., Sarasota (941) 955-4477.
Whiff Notes? Think of Marilyn Nager’s shop as a crash course in vintage perfume bottles. She’s collected and sold them for years, many to perfumer Evyan for custom packaging. French crystal atomizer with satin glass rose, $65, Marilyn’s, 1269 First St., Sarasota (941) 544-7987.
Let Them Perfume An antique Louis XVI-style dressing table set of four bottles is unusually stowed in a delicate vermeil-on-silver filigree tote ($1,800). Look closely and you’ll find images of Marie Antoinette among the garlands. Burke & Company, 527 S. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota (941) 952-0042.
Just Encase Renowned for its masterful hand-blown encasement glass, Lundberg Studios flame-works the flowers for the limited-edition Monet’s Garden before sealing them forever in solid crystal ($610). Ashley Avery’s, 1425 First St., Sarasota (941) 955-9593.
Who’s in Store?
Watch the constant parade of unlikely customers entering and exiting Eye of the Needle, and you might wonder what’s really going on inside. Fear not: Kathy Levins’ boutique is just a needlepoint/knitting shop, albeit among the most upscale in the country.
From business moguls to couture-clad socialites, interior designers and nose-ringed Ringling design students, they come for Levins’ amazing selection of artisan-painted needlepoint canvases, knitting kits ($200 for a drop-dead afghan) and custom yarns ($45 to $60 a skein).
Snowbirders stock up with supplies to last all year; insiders stop by for sessions called “Stitch and Bitch” (definitely not your grandma’s sewing bee). “Needlepoint and knitting are back with men and women of all ages,” says Levins. With a following of professional crafters, hobbyists and international jet setters, she should know.
Stitchin’ Time is a lot more organized with a designer-print project bag ($190). Clients love them as lightweight airplane carry-ons; stow wallet, passport and toiletries in see-through pouches intended for crafting tools.
Craft Couture, like any other, depends on finishes and materials. Buy a backpack kit ($400 to $500), do the needlepoint, and the shop will finish it in your choice of lining fabric, leather trim and made-to-measure straps.
Beach Books are out, crafting is in. Pack a picnic and your choice of needlework canvas: a rug that will take a Maine summer ($1,100) or flip-flops you can stitch in an hour (the $90 kit includes fabrication in San Francisco).
Eye of the Needle, 1806 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, (941) 955-0458.
A tour of the kitchen cabinet circuit is not complete without a trip to the new LUBE showroom, a masterpiece of Italian design. Made by Cucine LUBE, the cabinets come in contemporary and traditional styles customized for your kitchen in Italy and delivered in a mere six weeks. A “playroom” lets you test-drive features like Ferrari door hinges, drawers by Blum of Germany and myriad must-have options. Check out the sports-car curves of the new Katy cabinets in racing red. LUBE of Sarasota, 2628 17th St., Sarasota (941) 954-0200.
Fifty is the new 40, and that’s why Draper’s & Damon’s has just re-imagined its stores with younger, hipper clothes for the 50-plus crowd, including California brand Da-Rue. Draper’s & Damon’s, 4820 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 921-3717.
Now and Zen
Sarasota Green Marketplace is the first green home and building retail center in Florida and one of just 20 in the country, according to owner/urban planner Mary Anne Bowie, who sells healthy flooring, safe cleaning products, and even sustainable homes. We love the radio-controlled Zen Doorbell ($130), visually pleasing with naturally resonant sound. Sarasota Green Marketplace, 2864 Ringling Blvd., Sarasota (941) 953-3588.
Casually chic shoes for summer.
By Jill Obrochta Dambro
A brown leather sole hosts a small wedge heel and chocolate velvet ribbon strap. Signature gold clasps meet in the middle with a perfect bow. Indulge—these have no calories. Marc Jacobs, $315. Lotus, 1451 Main St., Sarasota (941) 906-7080.
Make a splash
If mermaids had feet, they’d wear these sensational slip-ons. Gold beading, arranged in a starfish design, with coral center bobble; leather base with simple side stitching. Shore are pretty. Mystique, $108. Lotus, 1451 Main St., Sarasota (941) 906-7080.
She’s a little run-around
You’ll be running in the right circles in these flashy metallic gold leather slip-ons with round abalone face. Bernardo, $115. Metro Mix Boutique, 8223 Cooper Creek Blvd., University Park (941) 355-2120.
Step out all aglow in this chic, mini-heeled flip-flop. Bronze metallic leather with cross-stitch trim; braided strap hosts smoky topaz jewels. Lena Luisa, $48. Animale, 354 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota (941) 388-1476.
Walk the plank in these classic black flip-flops, graced with a Swarovski accent skull and crossbones. You’ll be hooked, matey. Stacie Bass, $49.99. Metro Mix Boutique, 8223 Cooper Creek Blvd., University Park (941) 355-2120.
Dazzle onlookers in these blindingly beautiful slides, made of brown suede animal print graced with rhinestone and jewel-cut stones. Tiny black Lucite heel. Toe-riffic. Vigo Fiore, $128. Amimale, 354 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota (941) 388-1476.
Have it your way
With interchangeable decorative straps and center ornament, you can design the perfect shoe over and over again. Black semi-platform style with eight choices of ornaments. Tiger Lily, $39. Preston’s Boutique, 7628 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota (941) 922-1911.