Before I start shopping for holiday gifts online, do you have a list of favorite little shops of wonder around the world—those one-of-a-kind, off-the-grid places that still pride themselves on heritage, provenance, and artisanal craftsmanship?

The Peripatetic Shopper

I love to shop, too. Over the years, I have relied on a roster of world-class travelers, colleagues, and friends for hard-to-find places in offbeat neighborhoods, with crazy hours, eccentric owners, and stories behind every objet, whether it’s a bolt of silk ikat (from the textile shop at Hotel Raya on Panarea, Italy) or the sandals Jackie O so coveted that are still hand-stitched by the same family on Capri (Amedeo Canfora). Yet, with all the travel guides, blogs, and so-called luxury experts out there, it’s almost impossible to come up with a best-kept secret these days. But as travel specialist and accomplished shopper Nancy Novogrod says, “We never give up, do we?” Below are my favorite little shops of wonder for this holiday season, wherever you are.

In New York City, Three Lives & Company bookstore (left) and Creel and Gow.

New York City

The cozy, ever so civilized Three Lives & Company bookstore (154 West 10th Street) may be one of the last of its kind. It still wraps its books in crisp parchment and raffia. You’ll want to buy every book in this teacup-sized shop, and then settle down, over in the corner, cross-legged with a coffee, and while away the afternoon. For the person who has everything, Creel and Gow (131 East 70th Street) is a finely curated cabinet of curiosities, from blue-and-pink butterflies under glass to a hand-carved cobra in jet, to dazzling rock crystals and textiles from Uzbekistan. And then there’s I Pezzi Dipinti (270 Lafayette Street), the eighth-floor atelier of designer Cathryn Collins. She hosts trunk shows from Jackson Hole to London, but this tiny room in NoHo is her only permanent outpost—you will never see her clothes hanging on a rack in a department store. She specializes in cashmere, silk, and fur of the most incredible quality and design. A recent scarf design was inspired by a tablecloth she saw in a tiny Pakistani village.

Biciclette Rossignoli, in Milan.


Guy Trebay, a style reporter for The New York Times, swears by Ditta Raimondi di Pettinaroli (Corso Venezia, 43). Founded as L. Raimondi & Figlio in 1776 to provide stationery to the Milanese elite, its selection of papers and engraving fonts is a phenomenon; the samples on display of writing papers produced for the Savoia, the Sforza, and the Visconti alone make this hidden-in-plain-sight, wood-paneled shop worth a visit. Biciclette Rossignoli (Corso Garibaldi, 71) is a 100-year-old firm that sells a solid, traditional product that has served many generations of Milanese. According to devotee and fashion executive Alessandra Alla, locals have always used bikes, given the city’s conformation, that are adorned with posh leather accessories like coordinating side bags, leather saddles by Brooks, and bike bells.

When in Rome, experience the cabinet of curiosities at Chez Dede (left) and Ditta Annibale Gammarelli Snc.


Created by the stylish graphic designer Daria Reina and her husband, illustrator Andrea Ferolla, Chez Dede (Via di Monserrato, 35) features a distinctive French-Italian take on bags and scarves and a very curated cabinet of exclusive curiosities: objets d’art, accessories, fashions, home décor, vintage pieces, jewelry, and éditions de finesse. Did we say bags? What we meant was many variations of le grand sac, le cabas panoramica, and even a clutch—each featuring enchanting illustrations. And who among us doesn’t deserve an olive-and-ivory scarf printed with illustrations of Guy de Maupassant and André Malraux? Ditta Annibale Gammarelli (Via di S. Chiara, 34) is the ecclesiastical tailor for Vatican officials, up to and including the Pope. It is revered, notes Nancy Novogrod, for its men’s socks—in priestly shades of purple, cardinal red, and black.

Apothecary essentials at Lorenzo Villoresi, in Florence.


“I have a vision which triggers an emotion which I translate into fragrance,” Lorenzo Villoresi recently told journalist Kathleen Beckett. And there you have it: the most humble description of the very complex, creative, and theatrical mind and soul of one of the last great perfumers in the world. At long last, in his family’s 15th-century palazzo overlooking the Arno, Villoresi and wife Ludovica have opened a small museum and, luckily for us, a boutique (Via de’ Bardi, 12) devoted to his signature fragrances. (Our favorite is the Teint de Neige.)

An eye-catching look from Jane Pendry’s Dovima, and a peek at the operation.


The ever stylish Jane Pendry, a former fashion editor at Vogue, opened Dovima (10 Rue Beautreillis) for women like herself, who care less about labels and a lot about style. Her Marais boutique, named after one of Avedon’s favorite models, is open by appointment only. “It’s not the dress that really interests me, but the life you live in it,” says Pendry. Leave with a fuchsia blouse for the beach or maybe a piped cashmere jacket with the most divine little buttons. Whatever Pendry offers is full of color and a flirty joie de vivre, much like the designer herself.

Martinos, in Athens.


Stellene Volandes, the editor in chief of Town & Country, is my favorite resource for all things Greece. She recommends Martinos (Pandrossou, 50), in the Monastiraki neighborhood. “It’s filled with touristy stalls,” says Volandes, “but it is also one of my favorite stores in the world, and one of the oldest in Athens. Five floors of Greek antiques and portraits and vintage textiles, and you’ll wander them and want it all.”

In the Park, in Shanghai.


Tucked away in an office courtyard on Anfu Road in the former French Concession, In the Park (1/F, Building 6, 322 Anfu Road) mixes retail, art, and a social space to reveal the city at its most creative, fashionable, and forward-looking. For something completely different, fashion designer Han Feng loves Chemical Supplies (123 Fuzhou Road), which she describes as, “truly, an old chemical-supply company in a nondescript office building with a shop that sells all kinds of fantastic glassware for laboratory use—beakers, test tubes, flasks, and jars of all shapes and sizes that make beautiful vases or carafes.” Think Blade Runner meets Baccarat.

Home accents at Stephen Moore Home, in San Francisco.


In the tony Noe neighborhood, tucked between the Castro and the Mission, Stephen Moore Home (3845 24th Street) is a respite for the eyes, senses, and wallet. The eclectic little gem carries everything from candles to stylish black-and-white photographs to remarkable chandeliers, silver goblets, and antiques. Everything is shockingly unfamiliar and one of a kind.

Truefitt & Hill, a solid spot for a shave and a haircut in London.


On business trips to London, my buddy and former colleague Steven DeLuca and I used to fight it out: Should we spend our downtime at Truefitt & Hill (71 St. James’s Street) for what Steve argues is the best shave and proper men’s grooming products? Or should we head to The Guards Shop, or Guards Toy Soldier Centre, in Westminster (Wellington Barracks, Birdcage Walk), to spend a small fortune collecting modern-day replicas of warriors and their landscapes from the Napoleonic Wars, the American Civil War, and Gallipoli? Somehow, we always found time for two stops. Enjoy, and happy shopping.

Richard David Story is a writer and editor in New York City