Mercanteinfiera, Italy’s Largest Antiques Fair

The Antiques Diva & Co VIP tour to Mercanteinfiera Spring 2017

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. 

Our Antiques Diva & Co VIP group left to right front row: Laurent Gouon, Mimi Montgomery, Toma Clark Haines, Orseola Barozzi Rizzo, Michael Mitchell left to right back row: Jordan Marxer, Pandora de Balthazar, Chiara Zanella, Kristi Hopper, Tyler Hill, Michael Bauer

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! 

to-Ombre-Rosse-where-we-all-gathered-for-dinner-our-first-night-in-Parma-1024×768.jpg” alt=”Alley filled with large lamp-shaded overhead leading to Ombre Rosse where we all gathered for dinner our first night in Parma.” width=”700″ height=”525″ /> Alley filled with large lamp-shaded overhead leading to Ombre Rosse where we all gathered for dinner our first night in Parma. 

to-Plate-1024×1015.jpg” alt=”Our first plate of salumi in Parma” width=”700″ height=”694″ /> Our first plate of salumi in Parma 

Antique Diva Guides Orseola and Chiara with Pandora.


Tyler Hill shopping
Tyler Hill shopping

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. 

We arrived early for Pre-Trade Day as dealers were bringing pieces off their trucks.
We arrived early for Pre-Trade Day as dealers were bringing pieces off their trucks.

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 

Lolo French Antiques Mercanteinfiera 2017 Taxidermy
Taxidermy at Mercanteinfiera  


Mercanteinfiera 2017 Murano Chandelier
Murano Chandelier at Mercanteinfiera 2017


Lolo French Antiques Mercanteinfiera 2017 Religious Antiques Booth
Religious Antiques Booth at Mercanteinfiera


ton Steamer Trunks” width=”700″ height=”933″ /> Louis Vuitton Steamer Trunks at Mercanteinfiera 

Murano Glass Stems
Murano Glass Stems

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.

Monastery Tables we purchased
Monastery Tables we purchased

About Laurent
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.

Pair of 18th century Tuscan benches and one of four hand carved cherub heads we purchased
Pair of 18th century Tuscan benches and one of four hand-carved cherub heads we purchased

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.



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Author: Mimi Montgomery

When this Francophile is not researching all things French and loading pictures onto various sites to sell their wares, she is dreaming up ways to showcase Lolo French Antiques et More in charming new settings or traveling to various antiques shows. Mimi loves art, the beach, Lolo's French cooking, and like any southern girl worth her houndstooth, she's passionate about her beloved Alabama Crimson Tide. Her hobbies include painting, sports and reading. She resides in Homewood, Alabama, with Lolo and Louis - the Frenchie, not the king.

  • Thank you, Kristi!
    Laurent and I will be happy to help you with any of your antique needs. It’s not often that we get to experience something that really makes us better at our craft. How wonderful that you came away from this experience as a better designer! We learned so much from each other! And I couldn’t agree with you more… having access to all of AD&CO’s resources, especially Diva Guides Orseola and Chiara, made everything about our trip seem effortless. It’s definitely the way to go! I feel we’re all very lucky to have been included in this AD&CO VIP group. We need to start planning an Antiques Diva reunion trip! I have a couple of ideas!!

  • Well Mimi, you said it, #shopeatplay! What an amazing trip with some of the most incredible people (now, true friends), thanks to Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva! Never have I been treated so well and eaten so much fab food while being exposed to a country-sized fair full of antiques that would make the most discerning antique buyer gasp at every turn. Thank you #Mercantienfiera and #TheAntiquesDiva…living the #divalifestyle

    • We did get to live the #divalifestyle didn’t we, Michael?!? If just for a short time, but we did it! It was an amazing trip and I’m so glad I got to experience it with you and the rest of our fun group!

  • Today I am reminiscing about this wonderful trip. It changed me in so many ways. This experience made me a better designer by opening my eyes to the what the Antiques Diva and Co.
    Offers. Her Diva guides Orseola and Chiara were amazing.
    It was magical and the shopping was next level. That is saying a
    LOT from a professional shopper like me.
    Another thing that happened is that I met some of the most interesting and talented people who are now my friends.
    When I am not sourcing directly from Italy i can buy antiques from
    Lolo French Antiques because my new friends
    Mimi and Laurent showed us how it is done! So much talent…some of the best in the business.
    So bottom line…book a buying trip with the Antiques Diva and Co. This was one of the best experiences of my life.