One of my very favorite destinations when I’m here is the monthly antiques market in Arezzo, with nearly 500 vendors arriving for the first Sunday and the preceding Saturday, each month. I mark my calendar and try to save the dates, usually choosing Saturday, and leaving Sunday for the Pissignano market (almost “garage sale”) farther south of Spello, near Trevi.
On 5 November, the weather was gloomy, I was going alone, and I seemed to be having difficulty getting to Arezzo. The newspaper stand where I usually stop for a ticket for the train was closed, and the ticket machine in the Spello station had a notice that it would not take paper bills (“banconotes”), leaving me without enough change for a ticket and no time to go back into town to find a ticket there at a tabbachi. (Some of the tabacchi stores, which usually sell tobacco products, also sell train tickets, postage stamps, cell phone credit, lottery tickets, and are packed with candy, gum and snacks.)
I boarded the train without a ticket and immediately found the conductor, to tell him that I needed to buy a ticket aboard (only done in grave emergencies, since a few years back). The fine for not having is ticket is the cost of the train route from beginning to the end—and must be paid to the conductor, or else the price doubles to pay it elsewhere, later. Fortunately, he believed my story in my very most sincere Italian, and I soon had a ticket and was safely on the train and on schedule.
As I walked into the main piazza, after passing at least 100 other vendors, I saw a huge wooden water trough for horses, complete with a pump to fill the trough. It was made of chestnut wood, and weighed about as much as a boxcar. I had not seen this before, and didn’t know WHO would be interested in this, but it was certainly a deluxe way to water horses.
I talked to many vendors, some of whom know me now, and wandered the side streets, all lined with vendors and their wares. Some of the vendors are located just outside their shops in Arezzo, and there are a series of three shops that always get my perusal. One, just off the main square, had a paper maché Pinocchio, nearly six feet tall, that has become very familiar to me. With girlfriends years ago, we found this same Pinocchio (then painted red, green and white—Italy’s colors) leaning on a wall across from the shop where it now resides. Once it was for sale, but now has become the “mascot” of the shop, and the owner will not part with it—but I never had any idea of dragging Pinocchio home to Spello, carried under my arm. I’m still meeting people in Spello who saw me carry a bench home from Arezzo once, and remember me from that day, nearly two years ago.
At the top of the big main square, the arcade houses many vendors of very expensive paintings, silver, and fine antique linens. There, they are under cover in case of rain, although the other vendors are prepared with big sheets of plastic, in case the sprinkles begin. (And they use the same covers to leave their things secure and find some lunch, too.) This one lady is always present, outside a restaurant there, and always making fresh pasta to entice diners into the door. Here, she stands behind a display of the bistecca fiorentina (special cattle breed, fabulous steaks 20-40% larger than ours, and always served rare), some colorful vegetables, and some samples of the pasta specialties of the house.
This is a headboard for a bed, designed to be attached to the wall. I have a photo of this because I thought long and hard about buying it for my house here in Spello, and using it as art on the wall. I have a spot in the bedroom, across from the foot of the bed, that is about nine feet wide, and five feet tall—over a coat rack, all the way up to the high ceiling. The texture of this, and the chipped and worn paint, and even a bit of gilding had my interest, but the price stopped me. It was hand-carved of one piece of wood—no seams—but several of the top curls were missing, and then there was the price. I loved it, I wanted it, and I could just hear the tongues of Spello wagging if I brought THIS home under my arm—nearly six feet across, almost four feet tall. I know I could have carried it, but I just could not spend that much money on it, and the final price, after some negotiating, was still too much. So, I have a photo, instead!
This little red “casaforte,” or safe, is meant for jewelry, and has a small tray that sits inside, suspended over another space for larger necklaces in the bottom of the little painted steel box. It came with a key and I just thought it was a very interesting piece for only €10—from a vendor who has very eclectic choices, and I don’t think I’ve ever left the fair without something from him. I had unlocked the box, and then put the key inside and closed it to take home. When I arrived, and Paola and Leonardo wanted to see my “finds,” I could not open it. Paola had a quick splash of “genius,” as she called it—and tried a key from a small table in their house—which worked! Since then the key is on a string, so that I don’t lock it closed by accident again. Now, I know better!
From the same eclectic vendor, I had purchased a rack for stamps (“timboli”) used in some bureaucratic office here. Seems as if every piece of official paper here is stamped over and over with some form of stamp, and the rack was about €7, and interesting to me. Since then, I have looked for the stamps, to hang few on the little rack.
I was completely taken by surprise to find the timboli I was seeking in the stand of the militaria vendor, and the six I found took my breath away. They were remnants of the occupation of Italy by Germany in WWII, and were all symbols of the Nazi Party, the Waffen SS, and actually I was as fascinated as I was repulsed to have these in my hands. There is no way to know what documents were certified with these six stamps, but they are a piece of history that I could not let go. I negotiated a price for all six, and brought them home to put on my stamp holder, but up in a corner where no one will come upon them by accident. Living in California, I never imagined I’d have something so significant from WWII in my hands, and now in my house.
That was it for this trip—I need and want less and less, but still enjoy the shopping at the antiques fair. Now, I have to find things that are just interesting, with good prices, and that I can find a place for in my house here. No headboard this time, although seeing the photo reminds me how wonderful it would have looked in my room, but the steel safe and the stamps have found their spots in my house, for now. That’s enough!