The “discount antiques market,” Pissignano

Each month I plan for a trip to the Arezzo Antiques Fair, and then hope that Paola and Leonardo are going to Pissignano, always the very next day (the first Sunday of the month), and will invite me to go along with them. There, along with a small market of foods and produce, there are many vendors strung along the street near the Fonte di Clitunno (huge spring, coming out of rocks, forming a river—NOT a trickle!). The prices at Pissignano are much more reasonable than in Arezzo, and many of the things for sale are almost “garage sale” quality—someone cleaning out the old cantina full of nonno’s things, perhaps, or maybe nonno, himself, selling his treasures.

Leonardo and Paola, always two booths ahead of me

One of the few vendors of specialty Umbrian products

After stiffening up when I hear the prices quoted in Arezzo, Pissignano is always just a fun trip, with no agenda and nothing on my list to find. I once found a small desk here, or rather, Leonardo found it for me, and it was perfect for my space. I’d looked here many times for my madia—a furniture piece that was the center of bread production in homes in Tuscany and Umbria 100 years ago—and fretted that I had left behind the perfect one, until I found one in Arezzo from a vendor who I already knew from a previous purchase. Now, for me, I just have a fun browse with Paola and Leonardo, who never go there until an hour or two before they close, in order to find better prices on things left unsold at the end of the day.

I encountered (and photographed) this same onion vendor in Trevi, 2006

Since the vendors are all along nearly a mile of street, parking is nuts—the cars far outnumber the vendors and their posts. Leonardo always manages to find a parking place, but usually Paola and I are already on foot, starting at one end and heading toward the far opposite end. We try to keep each other in sight, at least, and often we just head for what interests us.

I'm always far behind, talking and touching and bargaining for better prices

Just-pressed olive oil for sale (only days old), direct from the olive grower

Hay forks, and a wooden bowl for kneading bread dough

This trip, on 6 November, I found a small carved side table for only €25, and could not leave it there. It had a family crest carved into one of the legs, and was missing small bits of wood and stain around the edges, but I was stocked with Old English furniture polish, and thought I could bring it back to life with some “elbow grease.” I took it home, and soon had it stained and restored, and used it to replace one of the IKEA small tables that I had purchased a year ago.

My refinishing project--a small side table I found in rough shape

Hand-carved family crest ("stemma") on the legs

My next find was a small woodcarving of a barefoot woodsman, with a rucksack and hiking stick, carved from hardwood. Another piece I could not resist for only €10. For a small “piece of art,” made by hand by someone whittling away, this was a bargain price. It’s now up on a shelf in my living room, watching over the house.

Small rustic woodcarving, one I could not pass up for the price

The final purchase was a blown glass demi-john, this one made to contain wine (smaller opening than the ones for olive oil). The vendor had about 40 of these out together on the ground, and they were €5 each. In his van, there were another 40 or more, in case I needed several. Leonardo insisted on carrying it to the car for me, and we were soon on our way back to Spello, only 20 minutes away by the superstrada. That gave us plenty of time for the argument: Was I going to clean the green glass demi-john, or not? “No,” I said. And then the debate began. Since it’s mine, I get to have my way—and didn’t clean it before I put it up on the shelf over my front door, where a second demi-john in a woven basket was already posted, and NOT cleaned up. Paola was giving me all the instructions to clean it, inside and out, but I was not interested. More rustic, I said, if I don’t clean it. And I won.

New (uncleaned) demi-john joins the older one above the front door

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