Ciao, Bella! Today Antiques Diva Guide Désirée is taking us antiques shopping in Rome! Whether you’re shopping for vintage fashion, antiques or seeking design inspiration, Italian design is guaranteed to deliver! From dodging Vespa’s in the hustle and bustle of Roman and Renaissance cities to cruising the softly undulating hills of the Tuscan countryside, Italy is brimming treasures just waiting to be uncovered. This is the perfect country to plan a multi-day, bespoke Italy antique tour, going from Rome to Milan to Florence to Venice to Siena or a hilltop village in between; finding the best prices on mid-century pieces, contemporary ceramics and glass and a gorgeous selection of rustic farmhouse and more traditional antiques. Our Italy Antiques Diva Guide will take the guesswork out of where to go, creating well-researched itineraries for you, as she picks you up from your hotel and escorts you through this enchanting nation, translating and negotiating on your behalf the entire time. Because our guides are locals, they have relationships with vendors and know exactly where to take you based on your style and budget, maximizing your time and money while on tour. Today, Rome Antiques Diva Guide Désirée is taking us behind-the-scenes on a recent tour.
Toma, The Antiques Diva
I’m excited to introduce our new Rome Antiques Diva Guide, Désirée Marie Townley, vintage fashion, couture and costume design and makeup artistry expert, and author of the popular blog THE CUT AND THE CLOTH. In addition to leading Rome antiques and vintage shopping tours, Désirée will be a regular contributor here on The Antiques Diva® & Co blog. With her trained eye for detail and world travels, she brings an artistic perspective to sourcing antiques and vintage fashion. If you’re attending our 5th Annual Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch on Jan 21 (and I hope you are!) You can meet Désirée and some of our other Diva Guides in person. If not, book an Italy antiques buying, vintage fashion or design inspiration tour! Today Désirée is sharing a few tips she learned 1st hand for chic and stylish touring in Paris.
Chic Packing for Paris
Paris is its own cliche… full of things you have seen in movies and read about in books. There is a reason that descriptions and images of these streets are so widely used- this is one of the most incredible cities in the world. The more familiar the city becomes to me, the more I love her. It is impossible for me to be bored or hungry here.
To increase your pleasure of traveling to any city, I recommend engulfing yourself in cinematic and literary references to the culture. For Paris, I recommend:
• Watch: Paris Was a Woman to fall in love with the history of Paris in the 1920’s
• Watch: Midnight in Paris directed by Woody Allen, for fun
• Read: A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway because it is a classic
My sister had recently turned 30, and as a gift, my parents decided to bring her to Paris to meet me. I had to give her something memorable for such an important birthday so I sent a box containing a Chanel handbag with a note that said, “The French respect Chanel. Meet me in Paris with this bag on your arm”. So she did. My whole family did.
DREAMING OF A TRIP TO ITALY?
BOOK AN ANTIQUES, DESIGN INSPIRATION or VINTAGE FASHION TRIP
In between my packing up my Berlin apartment and planning The Antiques Diva Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch on January 21, 2018, I’m making a list of all the weekend trips I want to take once I’m settled in Venice. Although Venice has my heart, I’ll confess to a love affair with all of Italy. Today, I’m reminiscing on some sidetrips to Firenze while on Antiques Diva® Italy tours…
I personally tend to stay more frequently south of Florence than within the city itself because I like the Tuscan countryside – two of my favorites that are expensive but worth the $$$ are Borgo San Pietro and Il Borro.
If you’re only in Florence two days you want to stay in the city and make the most of being there, so you can walk everywhere and be in the heart of it all! Now you know I love a good hotel – a fancy 5 start hotel has me at hello! HOWEVER, I will tell you that if you’re only sleeping in the room and looking to save money so you can spend it on antiques – The Ritz Florence has huge clean rooms BUT don’t mistake this with the real Ritz, there is no association – it’s a bargain hotel with that I’ve stayed at for 65€ a night, good location, good views, sparse rooms. NOTHING remotely fancy – basic basic basic – but a good bargain.
If you’re looking for something a bit nicer, but still budget, Casa Howard at around 150€ a night is 4 stars and has a good number of Italian antiques.
If money is no object I love the Four Seasons – guests live better than the Medici’s! (and they should given the $$$).
Antiques Diva offers an antiques and design 1-day tour in Florence that covers a huge area if you’re interested, but you can meander Oltraarno on your own and get some great window shopping in. Learn more about Antique and Mid-Century Sourcing in Florence
If you want to go to any museums pay the fee to book in advance. The queues in Italy are outstandingly long – it’s worth the surcharge to prepay to stand in the short line. Remember ALL the small shops close at lunchtime – so plan accordingly and eat a fabulous lunch.
Naturally you’ll want to stroll along Via Tornibuona, where the well-known fashion designers such as Prada, Loro Piano, Pucci, and Cavalli have their shops. And if you’re a bargain hunter like I am, plan a trip to the Designer Outlet Mall in Val di Chiana. Learn more about Fashion Shopping in Florence
I’m presently flying from Bangkok en route to Oklahoma (don’t you love in-flight WiFi?) to spend Thanksgiving with my family for a too-short but so much needed holiday weekend. After visiting my workshop in Thailand to finalize my TCH Collection: Couture Jewelry before our official January 17, 2018, Paris launch; I’m heading back to the US for a speaking engagement in Jacksonville, FL: London Calling: 2017 Art and Antiques Show. Then I’m off to Berlin to pack up my apartment and the movers arrive to transport everything I own to my new life in Venice…. Imagine moving all your possessions via boat down the Grand Canal!
YES! I’m moving to Venice! It’s official. I’m becoming Venetian. I’ll start off 2018 with a new home in Italy! And I’m fortunate to already have a slew of friends in Venice – in fact, last November I celebrated with locals as well as friends and colleagues who traveled to Venice specifically to come to my fête!
Thanksgiving in Venice
Just like back home, the day before Thanksgiving starts with a last-minute run to the market. Of course when you’re in Venice that means shopping in one of the many open-air markets to get your vegetables! (hmm… they even had a nice selection of Thanksgiving seafood!) We forgot to order our turkey – and were saved by the local supermarket who actually had just one turkey in stock!
So many decisions…
The crab looks fresh, antipasti perhaps? When dining at friends’ houses I’m often asked to bring my stuffed mushrooms… Could I do crab stuffed mushrooms for a Venetian twist on my classic?
Now to find my gondola in the parking lot…
T’was the Night Before Thanksgiving…
My dear friends Derrick Ricketts, VP of Dallas Market Center, and John Cohn flew in from Texas to celebrate Derrick’s Birthday Weekend (you know they were not about to miss this Thanksgiving meal!). In the middle of the night before Thanksgiving I heard such a clutter, I arose to see what was the matter! With me in my cap (and Derrick in his kerchief), we dashed the down the stairs to discover that John had jetlag and decided to prep the turkey.
The next morning we spent the day rearranging the Venetian sunroom to accommodate our dinner party. Our guest list was only 8 – but knowing this is Italy and Italian friends always bring friends, we sat 4 extra chairs for guests. Meanwhile just as we’re seeing if we can squeeze in one more seat… I got a phone call from Georgina – the head chef for Currey & Co – she’s seen on Facebook that I’m celebrating in Venice! “My son is in Florence for university – and we’re so sad he’s missing his first Thanksgiving while living abroad.” Needless to say, I made room for an extra seat so Max could take the train in from Florence and join last minute! Isn’t that the spirit of Thanksgiving – opening your home to friends and those in need of a warm meal? We found room for Max to stay the night sleeping on the couch after our unorthodox Thanksgiving dinner!
The house where we stayed in is an Airbnb property, and previously was the residence of the mother of Diva Guide Orseola.
And speaking of Diva Guides – Diva Guide Gail our UK Agent flew in from her home in Bath, England, for her first Thanksgiving meal!
Everyone pitched in to help! This was all about community effort! And in fact, isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? Community!
Venetian Diva Guides Chiara and Orseolo guaranteed that the vino sampling started early… and lasted until late! In Venice, they have a saying. “Water rots the wood.” Naturally, that means you have to drink Prosecco!
The tacchino needs more basting, then back in the oven!
The contorni are underway,
Ready for the main course with a turkey platter! But this isn’t just any turkey platter – this is a turkey platter that Antiques Roadshow Host Steven Moore brought me as a present from Burleigh pottery where he is the Creative Director. I’m not allowed to tell about the platters royal lineage… but let’s just say our turkey was served on a platter with pedigree. While Steven lives in England he’s practically Venetian royalty himself. He’s here in town whenever he gets the chance having declared himself an honorary Venetian.
Our Thanksgiving in Venice buffet.
Thanksgiving dinner by candlelight.
And of course, this Oklahoma-bred Diva insisted on starting with her Mama’s deviled eggs! After all, it’s not Thanksgiving without deviled eggs!
In case you’re wondering what we did with that crab? We had crab pasta for lunch early in the day! When in Italy, do as the Italians do!
A traditional turkey dinner, with all the trimmings.
Saluti! From our FriendsGiving in Venice; thank you to my circle of friends …
In all, we ended up with 12 at the table – a combination of Americans, Venetians, Brits even our Belgian AD&CO Logistics team!
Our Venetian Thanksgiving ends with taxis to the airport.
Wishing you the happiest Thanksgiving with family, or FriendsGiving with the family you’ve created, from my house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!
Toma – The Antiques Diva
Shhhh… I have a secret I want to share: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m besotted with Venice. On the blog, on social media, in person – at any opportunity I want to talk about Venice, dream about Venice – and visit Venice. Living in Berlin, it’s just a short flight away, and I’ve been known to pop in for a tour with a client, a meeting with a new secret source, or to attend a fabulous design salon… and always a prosecco with our two divine Venice guides, Chiara and Orseola. Last year I started taking Italian lessons – because it’s a beautiful language, and I want to be able to greet my friends in their own language. My love affair with Venice is only growing stronger – so I’m taking the plunge! I’m going to experience la dolce vita for more than a few days – I’m packing up my Berlin apartment and moving to Venice very soon. For a few years – I’m going to continue my Italian affair, indulge my passion and live in this beautiful city that makes my heart so happy. There are so many reasons I’m passionate about Venice, the following story is one of them. Ci vediamo…
If famous socialite and art addict Peggy Guggenheim were alive today, she would stumble out the back door of her 18th C palazzo – the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni – facing the Grand Canal and meander over bridges and through calli, campi and campielli’s in her neighborhood – the Dorsoduro sestiere of Venice. As she was window-shopping her way past clothing boutiques, jewelry stores antique shops and art galleries, something would catch her attention in the window of a little shop – a shop that wasn’t there before – at Dorsoduro 868.
She would pause peering in the storefront window of the pop-up shop for Porte Italia Interiors. Her manicured hand would come to cover her mouth as she studied the exquisite craftsmanship and details of the hand-painted traditional Venetian furniture. And I am certain she would sigh… “Porte Italia.” And she would come inside the pop-up shop, opening per se, the Door To Italy.
Porte Italia Interiors, whose headquarters are based north of Venice in Ronchi dei Legionari, has roots reaching back in the past. Their goal was to create furniture inspired by those famous Venetian antiques – the painted furniture of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries that in years past had enlivened Venetian interiors. Traditionally the locally made painted furniture in Venice – like the city itself – was more exuberant, whimsical and over the top than its European counterparts. Bright colors, exuberant silhouettes and whimsical motifs were the name of the game.
Today Porte Italia continues this tradition – employing locally trained artists from Venice Accademia of Arts – to create quality hand-painted furniture that can become the antique of the future. Founded by Enrico Lenarduzzi, this family-run business continues its tradition with son Emilio joining the leadership team at the small company which employees 35 local artists, decorators, frame makers, artisans, blacksmiths and carpenters. Each member of the team is dedicated to bringing the past alive in new interiors.
Each piece in their collection is custom made – and the company specializes in working directly with interior designers. Designers mail the company samples of the fabric to be used in an interior – and Porte Italia creates custom furniture to coordinate with the tissues used.
And like their Venetian forefathers who always had their eyes focused out to sea, Enrico and Emilio are also looking globally for expanding their business. An average week has this father-son duo jetting from Italy to the Middle East to the United Kingdom and then popping across the pond to America. Their client list includes everyone from sheiks and sultans to princes and princesses – rumor has it that Camilla has purchased one of their tables – to rock stars and legends. One of the largest collections of Porte Italia furniture in the United States is actually in the home of a Back Street Boy!
Currently seeking relevant distribution channels in the United States, Porte Italia is bringing Italy to the world. Their collection included painted doors, panels, mirrors, sofas, chandeliers and even frescos. Perhaps their bed collection has been the most popular piece in their collection – making the cover of Architectural Digest magazine as well as decorating 5-star hotels such as Ashford Castle in Ireland and the Castello di Casole in Tuscany, both members of the Leading Hotels of the World.
Discover Porte Italia
- SAN MARCO, 3359 SAN SAMUELE, VENEZIA – ITALY
- +39 0481 476096
Feature image by José Manuel Alorda
Toma – The Antiques Diva
I’m delighted to share with you a guest post by JoAnn Locktov. JoAnn is sharing stunning photographs by talented architects in her new book, Dream of Venice Architecture. You know I’m smitten with Venice and welcome any opportunity to visit with clients, meet with our Antiques Diva® secret sources, or just stroll along the canale or savor a macchiato and work at a small café and relish my surroundings. Our Venice Diva Guides Orseola & Chiara have opened many Venetian doors for me, the architecture at the Fortuny Museo is a favorite of theirs. The lovely photos and charming commentary in Dream of Venice will transport you to this special city. If you haven’t been, you must schedule a trip to Venice very soon. And if you haven’t visited recently, you must return. Until then, I invite you to Dream of Venice Architecture.
Venice. Venezia. La Serenissima. The city has inspired artists, musicians, writers, lovers, and poets for over a millennium. The beauty of Venice is well documented. Originally through painting and verse, and now through photography, movies and if we’re lucky, our own eyes. But have you ever wondered what makes Venice so mesmerizing? Can we attribute her appeal to one element? Is it the Lagoon light, the dancing reflections, the patina of age, or the subtle hues of salt-washed color?
Venice is an urban oasis. The natural water that you find everywhere, is delineated by the construction of palaces, churches, boatyards, gardens, and bridges-some iconic and many that are humble. We wanted to know if this city that originated over 1,500 years ago could still be relevant to our contemporary lives. This is what we found out. Come take a passeggiata with us and wander through the memories of architects, architectural writers, and the evocative images of the award winning filmmaker and photographer Riccardo De Cal.
All photos and excerpts from Dream of Venice Architecture
Published by Bella Figura Publications
For so many people, cities are captured by the visual memory of an iconic panorama but for me Venice is a wholly visceral experience where what we see is so much less than what we perceive or feel. In Venice, there is all at once the sound and smell of the water, the chiaroscuro of confined passageways that give way to expansive campi, the constant rise and fall of crossing so many bridges and the twisting irregularities of its labyrinthine streets. A place of great intensity; I know no other city where one must navigate by way of intrinsic memory rather than conscious understanding.
Annabelle Selldorf, FAIA
Every entrance has a four-digit number, always applied onto the frame in a uniform stenciled typeface. A few years ago I happened to be passing by the house numbered 1937, which featured a particularly distressed and ominous-looking door. Suddenly I had a strange vision that the horrific memories of the year 1937—Guernica, Kristallnacht, Stalin’s Great Purge—are hidden behind that locked portal. It took a good half-a-bottle of wine before I could let this disquieting fantasy go. Yet ever since, I cannot rid myself of an impression that every Venetian door represents a particular year; that the city is, in fact, a museum that contains all human history and all our future as well. This would of course explain why the doors are so mysterious and forlorn: why they are always locked; why nobody seems to be ever entering or coming out.
Venice may be too hot, too cold, too humid, too crowded or too easy to get lost in, but “her streets, through which the fish swim, while the black gondola glides spectrally over the green water” — as Hans Christian Andersen eloquently stated — release us to imagine alternatives to the general standard of urban living. Venice is not on the sea but of the sea, eclipsing the tale of Atlantis with a modern mythology both repeated and rewritten with every tide.
Just inside the windows, several pet bird cages were hung above a grand piano, and these, plus the lure of crumbs from the damask-covered tables where guests were eating their morning brioche, attracted small flying birds from the square. As we sipped our coffee, birds darted through the windows, soared around the ceiling twenty feet overhead, then hopped and chirped about the rug at our feet. It was pure enchantment. Those first few days in Venice were one of the transformative experiences of my life.
Venice: the ageless city. How can we take measure of her to a finite time, she who is crystallized by the juxtaposition of styles, of forms, of places, of spaces…
When you walk through Venice at night, in the silence, in the darkness, the canale fills you with anguish, fear, anxiety, dissatisfaction, as if you’re seeing a sleepless dormitory town, full of ghosts and dark clouds…
Inside the places on the ground floors you imagine unmoving ghosts reclining on large tables surrounded by chairs with the light filtering through from the outside—thus faint, so very faint, in the depths. The gondolas are moving slowly as the water laps the shore; the silver blades almost black and you think they are open funeral carriages ready for the reclining ghosts in the rooms.
When I hear the voice of Venice, my mind wanders into that nebulous space where time momentarily stops and I am quietly propelled into an intimate dialogue with my own free floating thoughts. The voice of Venice thankfully reminds me that there is an arena in which fantasy and reality can collide, coexist, and comfortably accommodate contradictions. Venice, for me, is a metaphor for unexpected creative possibilities. This notion never fails to captivate me.
Louise Braverman, FAIA
For the architect, the recognizing of a city is nearly always expressed through emerging elements: a bridge, a monument, a tower, a neighborhood or a geometric structure. In the end, nearly all of us reason like collectors of snow globes, those that are found in all souvenir shops, and show the stereotypes of different cities.
It is rare that landscape is used as the substantial element of a city, its GEOGRAPHY. But Venice is the exception.
For all its floating qualities, Venice is heavily laden with history, stone, and gravity. Though its marble monuments aspire artfully upwards, they are ultimately more preoccupied with down than up. One counterpoint to all this weight is the prominent windvane poised lightly atop the Punta Della Dogana. This figure of Fortune, presiding over the Bacino’s daily ballet of watercraft, pirouettes between architecture and flight. It has for centuries signaled the comings and goings of Adriatic weather that tints this city’s beguiling atmosphere. For some, perhaps, it pivots to the ebb and flow of dreams as well.
Max Levy, FAIA
The main facade of the Fortuny palazzo faces the Campo San Benedetto. It is adorned with the characteristic ogee arches of Venetian Gothic, a classification of the Gothic architecture that originated as an ecclesiastical style in northern Europe where it can be dour and forbidding. Venetian Gothic is neither. Adapted to residential construction and suffused with Byzantine and Moorish influences, it is light, graceful, and whimsical—almost feminine. The right setting for the fashion maven who was known as the “Magician of Venice.”
Palazzo Fortuny, Orseola and Chiara’s favorite
Ciao, and pleasant dreams of Venice
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®
If you’re not already familiar with legendary Manhattan-based interior design John Douglas Eason you’re going to thank me for this introduction! John Douglas Eason is not only one of the nicest (and most attractive) men I know he’s also one of the most sophisticated. If you’ve visited some of the grandest homes in Greenwich, Connecticut, without a doubt you’ve encountered John’s designs. Some of the best homes in America have John’s touch. At the core of John’s work lies a sophisticated modern sensibility, tempered by respect for traditional design. This can be seen in his strong, structured interiors saturated with texture and softened with organic forms and unexpected colors. John’s deep knowledge of fabrics, finishes, furniture and furnishings, from contemporary to historical, is leveraged in every project. Sourcing at international art and design fairs as well as hidden New York showrooms and secret sources, John brings a wealth of knowledge and resources to every home he designs.
Last week while traveling with John on our special Hamptons Antiques and Design Inspiration Tour (now taking reservations for our July 2018 Antiques Diva® Hamptons Group Tour – private Hamptons tours are available April through October) we were chatting about what a great time we had last year antiquing in Italy. Amidst the antiquing we took an extra day to soak in some design inspiration, visiting one of Milan’s best-kept secrets – Villa Necchi Campiglio, formerly a private home, and now a museum open to the public.
The villa was built between 1932 and 1935 for the wealthy Lombard industrialist family made up of Angelo Campiglio, his wife Gigina Necchi, and her sister Nedda Necchi. It is situated in a very well-to-do part of Milan and was designed by Italian architect Piero Portaluppi. Both architect and client paid close attention to detail to create a house that would be the backdrop to a life well-lived in Milanese high society.
I asked John to share his design inspiration from our visit to Villa Necchi Campiglio:
My fondest memory of the Villa Necchi Campiglio, other than the company I was traveling with of course, is those fabulous nickel and brass pocket doors leading out to the terrace. I also was captivated by the attention to the details, the intricacy of the that was repeated through the entirety of the house. It was on the pocket doors, the radiators, ceilings & stone floors! There was a most amazing track system for those infamous pocket doors that became seamless as it recessed to the height of the floor when the doors were opened. Recently I posted a photo from our trip of those nickel and brass pocket doors to Instagram and they immediately became one of my most popular IG posts to date. So memorable are they that I don’t recall anything from the movie “I Am Love” except for those phenomenal doors. This was the sole purpose that I so willingly tagged along for our group tour just to see a pair of pocket doors, and they did not disappoint. Much to my pleasure the attention to detail that abounds in the remainder of the house does not either!!
Let John’s design inspirations inspire you! Follow John on Instagram: @johndeason.
Watch I Am Love and see if you can spot John’s design inspiration!
When you’re in Milan, you simply must visit this inspirational house museum – it’s one of Milan’s best-kept secrets – a lesson in architecture and design as it successfully mixes impressive 19th-century style with progressive 20th-century design. Perfection!
Toma Clark Haines – The Antiques Diva®
Antiquing in Parma at Italy’s Premier Antiques Fair
Fancy meeting up with a group of fabulous designers, delightful dealers, (antique dealers, of course), magazine creatives, gracious guides, and one Diva extraordinaire to #shopeatplay in Italy for five days. Well, that’s exactly what Laurent and I did last month during Mercanteinfiera, Italy’s largest antiques fair held in the historic and gastronomic city of Parma, Italy, famous for its Renaissance and Romanesque architecture and prosciutto, parmigiano cheese and Lambruscu.
Twice a year, Toma Clark Haines, the Antiques Diva, and her Diva Guides take a VIP group of mostly interior designers and antique dealers on a trip that can only be described as an “antiques lovefest” because not only did we fall in love with the beautiful Italian antiques we saw, but we also fell in love with the people and places of Italy as well as everyone in our group. (While The Antiques Diva & Co NORMALLY only does one on one customized antique buying tours, a few times a year they work with 3rd parties to put together special VIP Group Tours; Mercanteinfiera is one such occassion. We were lucky enough to be part of that group!) What we thought would be a “look see” turned into an outright buying trip filled with more food, fun and friends than we could have ever imagined!
buy directly off the trucks as dealers
were unloading and setting up
The nine-day shopping extravaganza, which attracted more than 50,000 purveyors of antiques and designer finds from around the world, opened to the public on February 25th, but as VIP guests of the AD&CO we were fortunate enough to have early access during the pre-trade and trade days. This allowed us the ability to buy directly off the trucks as dealers were unloading and setting up. It was a bit crazy with everyone heading in different directions, dodging doggies and dollies (the furniture moving kind), but it provided us first dibs on the crème de la crème of Italian antiques and wares of over 1000 dealers.
Dealers are set up in five different pavilions selling a mixture of styles and periods of antiques and vintage furniture, jewelry and fashions, lighting (lots of lighting), art and accessories. Because Toma was in full-on Diva mode and making history in London at the House of Lords with the first ever Facebook Live post at the Houses of Parliament while speaking at the 9th Annual LAPADA Conference, she wasn’t able to join us the first day. We were in very capable hands, though. Her amazing Diva Guides, Orseola Barozzi Rizzo and Chiara Zanella, took charge and managed to navigate our large group through the multitudes of shoppers. They made sure that we each found what we were looking for, whether it was an 18th century Baroque Italian painted cassapanca or the nearest ATM. They also made sure we could communicate properly. Everyone in our group was from the South, and we could all be heard asking “quanto costa?” in our best southern accents!
A Few Vendor Booths at Mercanteinfiera
Our Goal: A Large Monastery Table
Since Laurent and I had one goal in mind, to find a large monastery table, we were thrilled to find not one but two 18th century tables almost immediately – and decided we best take them before someone else did. One table was fourteen feet and the other was twelve feet – hard-to-find sizes, at reasonable prices and both in excellent condition. We had already arranged to have our “collector” there just in case, so we immediately called him and let him know we had made our first purchase of the day. He would be collecting any items we purchased and taking them to our warehouse in Nantes, France. When Laurent goes to France in April to make a container, he’ll add the pieces from Italy with what he buys in France to be shipped back to our shop in Birmingham, Alabama.
A few things you need to know about Laurent. He’s been importing antiques for 25 years and has his own sources and does his own containers, usually four to five a year. So he was really reluctant about buying anything during this trip. He thought everything would be way over priced, and many things were because it’s a very high-end trade show, but once we started shopping, we realized what a wonderful opportunity we had been given.
even established antique dealers, set in their ways,
can really benefit from one of AD&CO’s many tours
In the two days that we attended Mercanteinfiera, we were able to purchase some incredible Italian antiques and were also able to find sources and make contacts that we will use in the future. Without the AD&CO, none of this would have been possible! We can’t thank them enough! It just goes to show even established antique dealers, set in their ways, can really benefit from one of AD&CO’s many tours. We plan on taking another tour in either Belgium or Sweden as soon as we can. Time is precious. And the time saved having Diva Guides with us to make introductions, translate and negotiate when necessary, and take care of the small details (like reading a menu) made all the difference in the world. Our imaginations could not have dreamed up anything more perfect. The energy, creativity, ingenuity, experience and the professional and personal attentiveness shown to us by Toma and her Diva Guides made this buying trip a truly magical journey.
Dear Diva Readers,
hen a client who is a fashion designer in India booked an Italian Vintage Fashion Tour he asked our advice on some extra things – post tour – to do while traveling in Florence. Naturally my locally-based Diva Guide Susan had a plethora of fashion shopping tips in Florence for both a designer seeking inspiration as well as for mere shopping mortals simply wanting to drop some dough!
Take a step back in Fashion History by visiting some of Florence’s famous fashion museums! The Gucci Museum is worth a visit as well as the Ferragamo Museum. For something different visit the costume gallery in the Palazzo Pitti which houses fashion from the 17th to 20th century. The Palazzo itself is beautiful immersed in the Boboli gardens on the Oltrarno which is the south side (or “other side”) of the river.
Naturally you’’ll want to stroll along Via Tornibuona as this is where the well-known fashion designers such as Prada, Loro Piano, Pucci, and Cavalli have their shops. And if you’re a bargain hunter like I am, plan a trip to the Designer Outlet Mall in Val di Chiana. Your hotel in Florence could organize transport – it’s only 40 minutes outside of Florence and for serious shoppers it’s worth the trip! Note to readers – it’s where I’ve personally bought a slew of my Italian purchases over the years from a fantastic pair of Tod’s for 35 Euro to Gucci sandals for less than 50E… Hmmm, if I keep writing this list of shoe purchases this will be a long, long list! Suffice to say, if you’re looking for Italian fashion and a bargain then this is the THE place to go.
For women’s fashion you must visit Luisa via Roma, Via Roma 19-21r, in Florence. This is on the same street as Eredi Chiarini at n° 16 which is a fabulous men’s fashion store. Playground, Via Don Giovanni Minzoni, 31/A should also be on the must shop list list.
Perhaps my favorite ambiance for shopping in Florence is at the Farmacia Santa Maria Novella. This beautiful old chapel is the original store and it still belongs to the nuns who create these wonderful perfumes, potions and lotions. Nearby is Frasi, a great men’s shop in Via Dei Federighi 7/R, above all for ties and accessories.
Leather shops abound all over Florence – watch this space, we’re helping a purse designer shop Florence soon so we will have a slew of tips to share with you from that trip – but if you’re looking for leather shops it is pretty much guaranteed wherever you are in the city you will find them. It’s hard to mention one leather shop above the others.
Nothing says Diva like a fabulous hat… and Borsalino in Via Porta Rossa at 40 r has a sensational selection. Another historic desitination is Casa dei Tessuti in Via dei Pecori, 20-22-24r. This shop is very old fashioned from the outside but they have a huge variety of high quality clothing textiles, and custom made suits, shirts, etc. They embody a total respect of the tradition of hand-made goods, and for fashionistas handy with a needle and thread they also offer basic courses on tailoring and costume history.
Paolo Romagnoli is located on the narrow street of via Parione at 54/r, A little tailors shop that makes suits and jackets, pants and skirts, shirts and even belts and ties. Prices range from 120E to infinity.
Last but not least… why yes, we at The Antiques Diva & Co tend to be fashionistas… let’s not forget our CORE BUSINESS is Antique and Vintage Shopping Tours so I would be positively remiss if I neglected to mention a few of the designer vintage stores in Florence! Ceri Vintage in via dei Serragli, 26r; just west of the Santo Spirito area is one of my favourite streets for finding antiques and midcentury! Last but not least – consider Pitti Vintage at Borgo Degli Albizi, 72r and Nadine, Lungarno Acciaiuoli 22r must shop destinations for the vintage fashion shopper.
Now before I love you and leave you… I would never leave you hungry. I’m certain if you’re like me you have folders bulging with a slew of restaurants marked for your trip to Florence but knowing of a few more places to nosh is always nice when traveling abroad. You can combine fashion and a bite to eat when visiting the department store Mercato Centrale – go to the top floor for a fabulous view and taste of everything Italian. Trattoria ZaZa in the market square outside is also great. La Menagerie http://www.lamenagere.it in via Ginori is perfect for lunch, brunch or supper but does get busy – you may need to call ahead to book a table. On the other side in San Ambrogio is Il Cibreo offers both a bistro and restaurant. South of the Arno are some smaller fun restaurants in the antiques district … Go out and explore… It’s really hard to eat badly in Florence. And when the day is done remember there are also a bunch of roof bars to sit enjoying cocktails and the view while reflecting on your purchases! One of my favorites is along the Arno river at the Hotel Continentale vicolo dell’Oro 6r.
The Antiques Diva & Co (with help from Tuscan Antiques Tour Guide Susan)
Dear Diva Readers,
hen clients come on tour to source antiques, it’s important that they do a little homework before crossing the pond. While we’re always happy to share our knowledge knowing for yourself what you’re looking for and what you’re looking at are important as you embark on the hunt – this knowledge will give you confidence in buying overseas whether our Diva Guide is taking you to the countryside to visit antique warehouses, city flea markets, or both. In Italy, Diva Guide Susan often takes clients all over Tuscany, scouring shops, markets, warehouses, and private residences for everything from ancient pieces to Mid-century modern. When looking at typical Tuscan antiques from the 18th and 19th century however, there are really three main styles to recognize. I asked Susan to explain a bit about those styles here on the blog.
Italy, as a peninsula, is an ancient country but in fact it was only united as one country in 1861. Up until that time is was ruled by various dominions, including those of neighbouring countries; France, Austria, Spain and naturally the customs and styles of these dominions were influenced by their rulers.
Even though Tuscany is a central region of Italy, Lucca, Florence and Siena each have distinct regional styles of furniture, in particular those of the 18th and 19th century. Nobel families dating back many generations were prominent in each province but there was also a burgeoning wealth from the textile industry in Lucca, banking in Siena and foreigners in Florence which further influenced the demand for important pieces.
The Lucchese Style
With the growth of the affluent middle classes large villas were built during the 18th and 19th century around the Lucca area, and many of these were silk and textile merchants. With new grand homes being built, the demand of larger proportioned and more elaborate furniture grew. More exotic woods were also available such as mahogany and fruit woods. Much of the 19th century Lucchese style was influenced by Elisa Baciocchi, Napoleon’s sister and Princess of Lucca crowned in 1805. At the time, in fact, to adapt their homes to the evolution of the Empire style, the family commissioned local artisans to create furnishings in the main inspired by the French style, though suitable to the local taste. These “corrections ” in effect created a new style, best in features and lighter in the forms. While making clear reference to the Empire, still the variation is recognized as Lucchese style.
The Siena Style
Siena did not fall under the same influences or dominations that Lucca or Florence did, being that it is a little further south. From ancient Roman times as a city, it has always enjoyed wealth, with large agricultural estates and summer houses for the wealthy city dwellers. Much of Siena was built on banking; in fact the first banks were introduced in the medieval period, as lending institutions along the old pilgrim’s path. Little has changed in Siena since that period, which is still strongly felt. The Palio horse race which takes place twice a year has changed little since its introduction. It was then that the city was divided into what are known as contradas, and it remains so to this day which has kept it a closed society. More local woods were used for furniture, such as cherry, chestnut and oak. The pieces, although large in proportion to the house or room were more functional than decorative. Furniture from Siena was a little heavier in style to that of Lucca.
The Florentine Style
Florence too has been influenced by many rulers and styles. Although there is much wooden furniture, perhaps one thing to look out for is its beautiful decoration. These Florentine artisans are still appreciated today for their delicate handwork, finely painted pieces and gilding. The latter a much softer colour with the gesso beneath than its southern counterparts. Decoration and colours tend to be more neutral and softer than those in Venice, but no less lovely and are most sought after.
As you make your way through Tuscany, you will be able to pick up on the different styles of furniture and decoration. With a keen eye, you will know exactly what you are looking at and be able to speak intelligently to dealers about their inventory. As anyone in the antiques industry knows, part of the joy of antiquing is knowing the story and history behind each piece. Hopefully this blog helps you distinguish between Italian styles!
The Antiques Diva®