We are staying in the Santa Croce district in Venice, just north of the Colosseum in Rome and just east of the Piazza del Duomo in Florence. Can you recommend some good local markets for cheese, bread, meat, fruits, etc. (for lunch and snacks) and a supermarket close by as well where we can pick up groceries and supplies (like bottled water, toothpaste, etc.)? Any market recommendations for knick-knacks, artwork, etc. are also appreciated! Grazie!
The owners of the places where you'll be staying will likely be able to give you the best recommendations, since they'll be the most familiar with your specific neighborhoods. Have you asked them?
Ok, thanks :-) We aren't there yet; I just like to be prepared.
You won't find much in terms of large supermarkets in any of those historical centers. There is little room for large supermarkets in historical centers and Cities are also reluctant to allow large stores in the historical city centers anyway. Therefore most stores in those areas will be small shops, or at best, small mini markets. Without the exact address I can't give you advice on the closest shops, but there are lots of shops of any kind everywhere, all you have to do is ask anybody near where you are, and they'll direct you to the closest shop you need. In Florence, which I know well, for foodies I recommend visiting the Central Market of San Lorenzo. Sant'Ambrogio market, is also good but I don't know how far east of the Duomo you are.
Many of the smaller food stores in Italy close for several hours for the lunch break - just be prepared. Bottled water to go is sold at bars (what we would call a "cafe"), if that's all you need. My sister found a supermarket in Rome at the Largo Argentina (I know that's not near the Colosseum, but I'm posting it just in case it helps you). This was a real supermarket open through the lunch break, not one of the smaller food stores.
Billa is a chain that has stores in Venice. One on the Fondamenta Zattere in Dorsoduro, one near the Frari Church in San Polo, one on the Strada Nova in Cannaregio.
We've used them, they have pretty good produce and prices (for Venice). http://www.billa.it/Layouts/dd_bi_single.aspx?folderId=118929&pageId=1169055&ffact=f839
In Florence there is a very large American style grocery store at the intersection of via Pietrapiana and Via del Oriulo - you can get everything there and the deli counter is actually pretty good. It's open every day even Sunday and does not close over the lunch hour. It has been called "standa", "Bila" and most recently I think it's part of the "conad" chain. THere is a smaller but modern grocery store a couple of blocks from the Duomo on via Del Oriulo. There is of course the San Lorenzo market in Florence where you will food and souvenirs - you should go in the morning. My personal preference is Sant-Ambrogio - it's much smaller than San Lorenzo but I like it better. That market will be a bit more of a walk from the Duomo than San Lorenzo. There will be a ton of small shops where you can buy bottled water. I recommend just finding the closest one to your apartment so you don't have to carry it very far. Prices may be a bit more, but bottled water is very cheap in Italy compared to North America.