Inside The World’s First Floating Shopping Mall
15 June, 2017
Globetrotting shoppers will tell you that there's little difference between a mall in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles or Singapore. Fine, they might be bigger, shinier or stock more local designers, but ultimately a mall's a mall, right? Not anymore. Meet T Fondaco dei Tedeschi, Venice's brand-new luxury shopping and concept store that is turning the whole retail experience on its head. Driven by the need to resurrect Venice's history as the cultivators of luxury goods, where merchants from all over the world gathered to trade spices, perfumes, gemstones and silks, this former post office, merchants hub and Napoleonic custom house has had a rejuvenating uplift - and is definitely not just a mall.
Occupying one of Venice's most prominent palatial buildings, T Fondaco lies adjacent to the Rialto Bridge, with direct entry via the Grand Canal. As you dip beneath the archways you're met with trademark terrazo floors and characteristic Italian flair, brought up to date thanks to innovative restorations from Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas of OMA. Forget sifting through selfie sticks, novelty hats and knock-off Venetian masks, enter the palazzo's ground floor for intricate handcrafted local artisan products, while well-heeled Venetians dip in and out of beauty and accessories departments featuring home-grown brands such as Fendi, Max Mara and Armani, alongside familiar luxury names like Chanel and Saint Laurent.
Better still, collecting souvenirs to immortalise your trip takes an opulent turn here, with brands such as Gianvito Rossi, Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino creating bespoke pieces especially for the store. Capturing the essence of Italy was integral to the whole idea behind the experience, which the luxury retail DFS Group founders were keen to "localise". If bespoke clothing is a bit out of your budget, capture the zest of Italy in a bottle of La Bottega di Rialto olive oils, acacia honey or bianchetto truffle sauce.
If all the perusing has left you in need of a little pick-me-up, head to the restaurant run by Massimiliano Alajmo (the youngest chef in the world to receive three Michelin stars) and his brother Raf Alajmo. Dramatically occupying the entire central space of this historic building to encourage conviviality, Amo (meaning "I love) was designed by Philip Starck and serves everything from simple espressos to pretty plates of modern Italian cuisine. With a solid cocktail list to boot, it will no doubt become a destination for aperitivo too.
In a bill to not only become a shopping hotspot but a cultural hub as well, T Fondaco also houses an event pavilion. The light-filled atrium is set to host a series of specially commissioned exhibitions, shows, screenings and parties. But our favourite bit? The rooftop terrace offers unrivalled views of Venice with its winding canals framed by the shimmering peaks of the Italian Alps - and you won't have to shove your way through hordes of tourists to get that mandatory Insta snap.