Dear Diva Readers,
High Point Antique and Design Center and over the years we’ve chatted about her extraordinary niche service she offers as a custom slipcover designer. While Linda’s Product Design studies began formally at North Carolina State University, her passion for fine fabrics began at an early age on the back roads of eastern North Carolina. Many hot summer afternoons were spent in the back of Mama’s Ford Fairlane, traveling from one fabric store to another, searching for fine fabrics and silver linings. Today she continues the tradition with her Raleigh based company Pencil Me In,traveling across North Carolina, fashioning classic cotton and linen slipcovers for fine furniture. Recently Linda took her travels a bit further afield and went shopping with Antiques Diva style in Italy with our locally based guide, Susan.hen Antiques Diva client Linda Meeks offered to write a blog about her recent Antiques Diva Tour I jumped at the opportunity. Linda has attended multiple talks of mine at
Linda writes about her Antiques Diva Italy Tour:
“On instinct, I contacted the Antiques Diva & Co as soon as Barton (best friend, photographer and muse) ordered cheap airline tickets and a copy of Rick Steve’s guide to Italy. You see, since hearing Toma Clark Haines speak at High Point Furniture Market Fall 2014, I knew I was destined for a fabric reconnaissance with one of her guides. Enthralled with Rick Steves’ “Europe through the Back Door” travel style, I was convinced that seeing the marketplaces that the creatives and makers move through would carbonate my experience in Italy, and I needed a guide.
Toma connected me with Antiques Diva guide Susan Pennington and it was a match made in Sienna. My wish list for Susan was simple: 1. I’d like to see and hear Italians trade wares and secrets and learn a few swear words, 2. Take in the country air, and 3. Come home with a good find and a memory or two. When tour day arrived, Susan met us at our hotel and led us through the narrow streets of Sienna, dashing in and out of secret source shops, dodging Vespas and divulging tips about the local culture. Our morning excursion included an array of haberdasheries, galleries, and consignment shops in search of linens, passementerie, buttons, furniture, and art. Then we embarked on a road through Chianti, lunching in a hill town en route to Florence.
Next stop on our itinerary was a bit of luxury. Of course I can’t tell you the name or it would not be a secret source. But I will tell you it was neither a furniture showroom, workshop, carpenter’s shop, or architectural design studio, but a harmonious fusion of all the aforementioned. A place that honors the Florentine craft traditions, this unique space specialized in items restored, reinterpreted and reimagined for the home. Exactly what I encourage my clients to do with their heirloom furniture and fabrics every day! Here in this place Susan led the way as we climbed the attic to dig in the secret archives of waitlisted projects. And there it was! The perfect example of a Florentine footrest, aged green and tiny gilded bees. Susan negotiated the purchase and arranged to have it shipped (along with other linen & lace finds) to my workshop in Raleigh, NC, where it will be reimagined with a Florentine inspired slipcover and a story to tell.
After a long day of scouting and scavenging, and double gelato, Susan left us with assignments of more secret sources to scope on our own. Now confident in our sleuthing skills, we affirmed that whether in North Carolina, Sienna, or Florence, it is in the unexpected places and on the Back Roads that we find the EXTRA that makes the ordinary EXTRAORDINARY. And so as Back Door travelers, we have memories of: listening to Susan translate our trades in her lovely British/Italian, enjoying a scenic drive through the country, and discovering THE FIND. But did we hear any swear words? I don’t know!”
Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Linda! We’re so happy you enjoyed your time in Italy and that you came away with a treasure (and I promise we’ll get you a list of ‘ approved swear words” – note to the reader, Diva Guide Susan would never mutter a curse word… but the vendors on the other hand… Mamma Mia….
For more information on taking an Antiques Diva tour, or learning to cuss in Italian :), email us at email@example.com.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
Red Shed Tours as their on-the-ground step-on guides for their Tuscan Group Tour… and I couldn’t help but to share with you our insider Antiques Diva tips from San Gimignano on how to make your own Tuscan Tour!esterday we were in one of my favorite villages in the world with a group from Texas, helping
Our Tuscan Antiques Diva Guide Susan Pennington writes in today sharing with you all the Diva Details for an afternoon in the “Manhattan of Tuscany”! Okay – this place is a far cry from NYC – but believe it or not it was once shadowed by over 70 towers surrounding the village!
San Gimignano was built by powerful sparring families vying for importance and status, built during the medieval period and massive economic boom for the city, which sat on the pilgrim’s trail from Rome to Canterbury. It was also famed for its spices, in particular saffron. Today only 9 of those towers still stand but it is still as impressive as it was 900 years ago!
If you’ve got an afternoon on your own in San Gimignano you’ll have a ball! From Porta S. Giovanni runs the main street. Initially overwhelming, the town is actually a great place to shop for ceramics, baskets and leather ware, the prices are surprisingly competitive with other towns and considerably cheaper than Siena. There are lots of art galleries, contemporary jewelers, ceramic shops as well as all sorts of wonderful things made from olive wood…perfect Tuscan things to take home.
But make sure you make it all the way up to the duomo. Not least for the mouth watering ‘gelateria’ in the corner of the square. From the duomo take Via S. Matteo which leads down to the gate.
About two thirds of the way down is ‘Le Antich Essenze’ at n° 61. Here they make and sell their own hand-made soaps; totally natural with locally grown herbs, fruits and flowers, wheat, sage, olive oil and lavender.
Almost opposite at n° 70 is ‘Ieri & Oggi’, run by two sisters, Silvia & Roberta. They have beautiful linens, towels and fabrics, many of which are hand worked by themselves with croqueted borders and embroidered designs in typical Tuscan style. A little further down on the right is a small alley (via San Martino), almost immediately on the right as you enter is a tiny little studio ‘Barceloneta’ where Lucia decorates furniture. As you might imagine from the name of the shop, she’s Spanish, not Italian, but has great style and that’s what counts!
Just a little further down Via San Matteo at n° 81 is Mario Curini, a cavernous antiques shop with all sorts of things from repurposed pieces to delicate blown glass, medieval chests to wrought iron torchieres.
Thankfully here not everything closes at lunch time but you might like a little snack attack. Here are a few of our favorite Antiques Diva dines:
Trattoria Chiribiri. Pass thru’ the main archway S. Giovanni, go up the steps immediately to the left just thru’ the main arch. Piazza della Madonna, 1 A tiny place but with big food!
‘Ristorante Dorando just off the main square in vicolo dell’ Oro, 2 is set in an old cellar and quite charming. Tel: 0577 941 862 closed Monday
Le Terrazze just beside the hotel ‘La Cisterna’ in the square by the same name is a little more formal, set on the first floor it commands magnificent views over the surrounding countryside… the food is good too!
There are also lots of bars where you can find a great sandwich and ‘Enoteca’s’ which offer not just wine for tasting and purchasing but also light traditional fare such as wild boar salami, ‘pecorino’ sheep cheese, cold cuts and conserved vegetables, such as grilled bell peppers, olives and porcini mushrooms.
While in San Gimignano make sure to also stock up on your Tuscan food-finds! There are so many pastas, dried herbs, sausages and wines for sale at the various gourmet shops in town that this an ideal place to stock your cupboard.
The Antiques Diva & Your Tuscan Antiques Diva Susan