As an American, I see signs occasionally that say "Do Not Touch". Usually, they are in museums and stores that have lots of glass items. But Venice has taken this command to a new limit. I think they are trying to see how much a consumer can do without touching any products. Of course, I find this completely ironic; if you confined the hands of a Venetian (and I assume most Italians), they would become mute--its impossible for them to say anything without using hand gestures.
My first experience at the Do Not Touch 'law' happened at the Rialto fruit and vegetable market (and all other open air markets). You can look all day long and you can ask the vendor to give you so much of any product, but you cant touch any of it. Dont even think of checking to see if those plums are ripe or you will get a tongue lashing (with hand gestures for good measure). Its really impossible to buy fruits and vegetables without touching them. So, I go to the grocery store for these items. As long as I comply with their hygiene rule and place a plastic glove on my hand (conveniently provided for you), I can touch and squeeze and pick all I want. So there.
Next, leather. Alot of people who visit Venice (and Italy) like to go home with a new leather item (purse, wallet, suitcase, etc.). But, you cant touch them. Make yourself at home and stare at them all day long, but dont even think about taking them off the shelf by yourself. If you ask for help to see an item, they will hand you the leather but you can feel the trepidation in the air. So, I have learned to go to the leather stores that are staffed by the Asians. They have absolutely no problem with you touching, opening, closing, testing the products before you buy (and they are the exact same ones the Venetians are guarding).
Finally, shoes. This is beyond comprehension. I totally get that vendors dont want you squeezing their fruit and ruining it. And I totally get the fear of scratching the leather before it is sold to someone. But, for the life of me, I dont understand why I cant touch a shoe on display. Case in point. I was walking around last night and stopped in a shoe store to check out the winter options. There was a sign that forbade me to touch the shoes. But there was a rack of shoes and one of them interested me. So, gingerly with one finger, I tilted the shoe to see if it was a heel or a flat. Turns out it was a heel and therefore not of interest to me. I meandered over to another display and was rudely greeted by a sales clerk who answered my question of size options with much disdain. So, I went back to the shoe rack and before I made it over there, the male clerk stepped in front of me, with hands on hips, and informed me in Italian that I was not allowed to go back to the shoe rack because I had touched the shoes! I kid you not. Stunned doesnt even begin to explain my reaction. And because this is a public arena, I wont tell you what I told him, but lets just say we both know I wont ever go back there!
Think of me next time you are in the store and you have your hands all over everything!