Dear Diva Readers,
ho doesn’t dream of antiquing in Tuscany? Between the landscape, the food, and quite simply the Italian style it’s no wonder why Italy is one of our top tour countries! From hidden specialty shops to warehouses in the countryside, our Diva Guide can map out a custom shopping route to suite your needs. One of the surprises clients experience on a Tuscan Antiques Diva Buying Tour is when stop off for a quick visit to an Italian consignment stores to hunt for vintage and antique treasures. The “Mercantini,” as they are known in Italian, are often ideal places to find unique antiques at unbeatable prices. Yep – we’re talking about SECOND HAND STORES! This is the equivalent of Charity Shops in the UK or Goodwill stores in the USA!
When we take clients to Mercantini, we never know what they’re going to find, as the inventory changes almost daily. You can either breeze through in a couple of minutes or you can find yourself sifting through treasures for hours. In the USA of course, there are certain second hand stores that are better than others—theres one a friend goes to in DC that is INCREDIBLE – and same holds true in Italy. The quality of inventory can depend on the location, the patrons, and the set up of each individual store, so one has to know which ones to go to and the way in which they work. That’s where our Diva Guide comes in.
Most of the pieces at mercantini are on consignment. However the owners of these shops also do house clearings, which means they have first access to estate sales. Like everything in Italy, these stores are local, and that’s why who and where you (or don’t as the case maybe) place your trust, relationships and reputations are all important.
It’s also necessary to understand how the pricing structure works in these stores. Because they’re always getting new inventory in, it’s crucial that they keep items moving, which means they are motivated sellers! On each piece you will see a label with the date when it first hit the sales floor. After two months the price is discounted by 10%. If you have the patience or courage to wait three months then the discount can be up to 50%. But of course waiting means risking losing the piece. However our Buying Service allows you to think about items and purchase them at a later date…but as any antique lover knows, if you love it, buy it now!
When it comes to the type of items you can find at the mercantini, the sky really is the limit. Shelves filled with wonderful old linens, old fashioned cotton woven towels with knotted fringes, heavy bed linens that probably were prepared for the wedding trousseau and were never used can be purchased for a steal! We’ve had clients purchase antique books from the 17th century and have also sourced antique china sets. Antique furniture, Italian ceramics, wonderful lighting (including mid-century) are constant finds. In fact, mid century pieces including furniture are undervalued in rural areas, so they can be purchased for a song.
No matter what your taste or style, stopping off at an Italian consignment store can prove to be an exciting and fun adventure – the last time I went to I spent 15E and came home with 3 Venetian trays. a gorgeous vase, some early 19th C leather bond books in Italian! What loot! We often take clients to these stores in between appointments with antique warehouses in the surrounding areas. After all, sometimes the dealers from the more metropolitan areas in Italy shop these rural consignment shops to find their own inventory. Why not get to it first?
If you’re planning trip to Italy and would like to book an Antiques Diva Buying Tour, email us email@example.com. We’d love to custom plan a shopping route that’s perfect for you!
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
While I’m away on tours in Provence and Belgium with trade clients from the USA, our “Dolce Diva The Italian Antiques Diva Personal Shopping Consultant” Susan P is guest blogging today! She writes, sharing details of a special crystal source in Tuscany… So Ciao Bella from me and Buongiorno from Susan.
La Dolce Diva Susan writes:
“I don’t even know how I found Vilca’s Crystal it was so long ago that I first stumbled upon it tucked away in a location virtually impossible to find. I suspect when I first stumbled upon it, it was by accident on one of my lone ventures foraging for one thing and finding something else. Over the years, Vilca has grown and evolved, grown and changed together. Today we have both moved on, they to bigger premises, introducing new technology, now shipping the world over and supplying some of the most prestigious stores in London, Paris and New York.
Vilca is located down a back alley on the outskirts of Colle Val d’Elsa, know as the city of crystal. Glass is relatively new (that is by Italian standards) to the city being brought to the town in the 19th century. To make their crystal, Vilca uses ash but also ground yellow marble from the local quarries to make the crystal.
Even though we lead Antique Tours in Italy I like to include a stop to Vilca on certain tours as it’s a rare opportunity to visit a true artisanal Italian glass factory to have items custom made for our clients.
Each time I have visited Vilca whether with a client, or on my own, the reception is warm and sympathetic from Patrizia and her cousin Gianpiero, who are third generation in the business. I marveled at being allowed into the laboratory, carefully picking my way through shards of glass and avoiding impromptu blasts of fire, but what struck me most was seeing a glob of glowing red glass being transformed into some exquisite sculptural piece; a bird on a branch, a dolphin leaping out from the ocean, a shell, a frond, a feather, a leaf, it was breathtaking, as well as more functional but no less beautiful pieces such as wineglasses, bowls and vases, many of which are signed by well know designers.
I frequently send friends, family, house guests and clients… at their own peril. No one ever returned empty handed, they too were mesmerized by these artisans, their skill, their creatively. The pecking order is tight and each has his own task, slowly rising rank after rigorous training, but each has their sense of pride and joy in what they do, which in most of the world is a dying art, something rare to find today.
Last week we had a wonderful group of ladies with us for an Antiques Diva Extravaganza. While they wanted vintage and antiques on the tour, they were also interested in home décor items, and local crafts and artisanal goods. Needless to say, where better place to take them than our dear friends at Vilca? An hour later, after a guided tour of the works… serenaded by a Neapolitan glass blower, much oooing and ahhhing in the showroom, we left with considerably lighter wallets. Clients bought gorgeous wine glasses to adorn dining tables, brandy warmers and cognac snifters to appease husbands and of course a few ‘trinkets’ for themselves as well!
To visit Vilca, click here.
We hope to see you at Vilca on your next trip to Tuscany!
The Antiques Diva & Co