When Venice Lives: It Looks Like This–Venezia Stampa

The entrance to Venezia Stampa. Notice that it’s two steps down, which led to worse flooding in 2019.

Inspired by Monica Cesarato’s Live in Venice Week last May, when I went to Venice in August I sought out a number of the artisans that she and her team interviewed. After watching this interview video, I found my way to Venezia Stampa, located in Campo Santa Maria Mater Domini. The shop is run by Luca Valonta and Michele Costantini who have resurrected vintage printing presses to carry on Venice’s rich tradition of printing since Aldus Manutius ran the Aldine Press in the 1400s.

Michele Costantini has been working in printing for 31 years, though he has a diploma as a Tour Operator and also studied piano at the Venice Conservatory. At Venezia Stampa, he deals with pre-press, editing, graphics, digital printing, administration, and many other tasks that arise. He was born in the Castello sestiere at Campo Ruga but now lives in Quarto d’Altino due to the high cost of living in Venice, though, as he says, “Thanks to my work in Venice I always see it and live it.”

Luca Valonta grew up on the Lido with his family and father who was a typographer, passing down his knowledge to Luca when he was quite young. Michele adds, “Luca’s father taught us a lot and we will always be grateful to him.” Luca has been working as a printer and typographer for 42 years. In 1989, Luca and Michele founded Venezia Stampa when they both still lived in Venice. Luca especially loves working with lead or wood movable type doing letterpress printing. Together their skills complement each other and offer customers a full range of printing options.

Enjoy getting to know more about Michele and Venezia Stampa from this interview. Thank you to Luisella Romeo for translation help.

These wonderful “ex libris” cards feature dozens of occupations that used to be common in Venice. (I bought two sets!)

When Venice lives fully as itself, what does it look like?

It is not always easy for Venice to fully experience itself. Fifty years ago, before the advent of mass tourism and the free and wild creation of shops and small shops with cheap goods, the city could count on many neighborhood activities, from the bakery to the butcher, from the foodstuff to the green grocer, from the haberdasher to…  It was a Venice first of all for the Venetians who lived it fully. Venice should be first of all for those Venetians who love it. So the ideal aspect is, for example, that of the Rialto market that lived and prospered for all citizens and visitors or that of the Redentore festival on a boat as we are still trying to do (excluding this bad period of Covid and the variants). Perhaps Venice is fully itself in November, during the Feast of the Madonna della Salute, still very much felt by the Venetians who pay homage and feel like a community in the process.

Bookmarks, posters, and more prints to choose from, all printed on site.

How does your work preserve the culture or history of Venice?

We are lucky to have a job that dates back centuries. The press and Venice have gone hand in hand for hundreds of years and contribute to maintaining culture, curiosity, despite all the difficulties involved. Nowadays, printing as it once was done is snubbed by many, who prefer speed and digital quality (albeit excellent) to slowness and artistic passion with its strengths and weaknesses. We try with very old printing presses to preserve the history of printing and the old printing methods even at the expense of our earnings.

These colorful cards show classic images from Venice.

What are one or two aspects of the culture of Venice that you prefer?

The internationality of Venice leads art to want to exhibit itself in this wonderful living room. Just think of the countless exhibitions or the Biennale d’Arte, but also the palaces or churches steeped in knowledge and which inevitably lead to being curious and interested. In short, as in many other historic cities, even in Venice it is enough to move around as a visitor to find unlimited cultural features.

Which Venetians (living now or in the past) are you inspired by?

I can’t say I’m inspired by any Venetian in particular. I was just born and raised in Venice by a Venetian father.

Luca shows me the cabinet filled with letters for creating type.

What is your favorite place in Venice to be alone? To share with others? That nobody should miss?

The first place is undoubtedly the Grand Canal to be crossed by boat or even vaporetto but only at night, with the lights that illuminate the buildings and the absolute quiet as well as the almost still water. And this applies to the first and third questions also.

To answer the second question, to share with others, I would say be on a boat, in the lagoon, in the company of friends and loved ones and with good food and wine!

If you could ask visitors to Venice to do a thing or two to be better visitors, what would you ask?

I would ask first of all what some are already putting into practice: respect. For the Venetians, for the people, for the workers of the city, for the monuments, in the streets, in the campi (small squares). I would ask precisely not to behave as mere tourists, but as visitors.

A variety of artwork prints are available at the shop. I also loved the fun presentation using a vintage scale.

Here is the interview with Venezia Stampa presented in Italian.

Quando Venezia vive pienamente come se stessa, che aspetto ha?

Non è sempre facile per Venezia vivere pienamente se stessa. Cinquant’anni fa, prima dell’avvento del turismo di massa e della creazione libera e selvaggia di negozi e negozietti di merce scadente, la città poteva contare su moltissime attività di vicinato, dal panificio alla macelleria, dal biavarol (alimentarista) al fruttivendolo, dal merciaio al… Era una Venezia prima di tutto per i Veneziani che la vivevano pienamente. Venezia dovrebbe essere prima di tutti di quei Veneziani che la amano.

Quindi l’aspetto ideale è quello per esempio del mercato di Rialto che vivesse e prosperasse per tutti i cittadini e visitatori o quello della festa del Redentore in barca come si tenta di fare ancora (escluso questo brutto periodo del Covid e i divieti var)i.

Forse Venezia è pienamente se stessa in novembre, durante la Festa della Madonna della Salute, ancora moto sentita dai Veneziani che in processo rendono omaggio e si sentono comunità.

A detail from one of the vintage Heidelberg printing presses.

In che modo il tuo lavoro preserva la cultura o la storia di Venezia?

Noi siamo fortunati a svolgere un lavoro che risale a secoli fa. La stampa e Venezia vanno a braccetto da centinaia di anni e contribuiscono a mantenere la cultura, la curiosità, pur con tutte le difficoltà del caso. Ai giorni nostri la stampa come si faceva una volta viene snobbata da molti, che preferiscono velocità e qualità digitale (seppur ottima) a lentezza e passione artistica con i suoi pregi e difetti.

Noi tentiamo con le nostre vecchissime macchine da stampa di preservare la storia della stampa e i vecchi metodi di stampa anche a discapito dei nostri guadagni.

Quali sono uno o due aspetti della cultura di Venezia che preferisci?

L’internazionalità di Venezia porta l’arte a volersi esibire in questo meraviglioso salotto.

Basti pensar alle innumerevoli mostre o alla Biennale d’Arte, ma anche ai Palazzi o chiese intrisi di conoscenza e che portano ad essere per forza curiosi e interessati. Insomma, come in tante altre città storiche, anche a Venezia basta muoversi da visitatori per trovare aspetti culturali illimitati.

Luca with another Heidelberg printing press.

A quali veneziani (viventi ora o nel passato) ti ispiri?

Io non posso dire di ispirarmi a qualche veneziano in particolare, sono solo nato e cresciuto a Venezia da un padre veneziano.

Qual è il tuo posto preferito a Venezia per stare da solo? Da condividere con gli altri? Che nessuno dovrebbe mancare?

Il primo posto senza dubbio è il Canal Grande da solcare in barca o anche vaporetto ma esclusivamente a notte fonda, con le luci che illuminano i palazzi e la quiete assoluta nonché l’acqua quasi ferma. E questo vale per la prima e terza domanda.

Per rispondere alla seconda, direi in barca, in laguna, in compagnia di amici e cari e di buon cibo e vino!

Se potessi chiedere ai visitatori di Venezia di fare una o due cose per essere visitatori migliori, cosa chiederesti?

Chiederei prima di tutto quello che alcuni già mettono in pratica: il rispetto. Per i Veneziani, per le persone, per i lavoratori della città, per i monumenti, nelle calli, nei campi. Chiederei appunto di non comportarsi da semplici turisti, ma appunto da Visitatori.

Plates used in the printing process.
More stamps, all made by hand.

About seductivevenice

Teacher, writer, traveler, dancer, reader, photographer, gardener.
This entry was posted in Italian heritage, Venetian artisans, Venice and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to When Venice Lives: It Looks Like This–Venezia Stampa

  1. Nancy W Schwalen says:

    It looks like an intriguing shop.

  2. Stephano Evangelides says:

    Is it possible to buy on line? I wish I knew the shop when I was in Venice.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s