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Buying Antiques in Italy

Architectural Salvage- Barn Door Trend

Dear Diva Readers,

One of our most popular requests is for architectural salvage. Whether clients are coming on tour or utilizing our Buying Services, we are constantly scouring Europe for all types of salvage and reclaimed materials. One trend that is very popular in the USA right now is the barn door—a type of sliding door you would typically find in a barn. But now people are using them in homes, restaurants, and hotels to divide spaces and add instant character and diva charm!

Architectural Salvage- Barn Door Trend- Hinged Door

Architectural Salvage- Barn Door Trend- Rounded DoorsAs with any design trend, the specifics of each project vary, but the overall concept remains the same. All you need are door track hardware and wheels, which you can find at many big box or hardware stores (or even online), and a door of course! Here at The Antiques Diva & Co we recommend using a vintage or antique door to make your project that much more special and unique. You can make this a DIY project or entrust it to your contractor, but be sure to select a door and hardware that enhance your particular space. This look works great in a traditional setting as well as a contemporary room. It all depends on the door you choose—the age, patina, finish, color, and style will all play a part in how the overall project turns out. For a more modern look, why not choose an industrial door? For a casual feeling, opt for warm wood tones with just the right about of wear.

Architectural Salvage- Barn Door Trend- Metal Door

Architectural Salvage- Barn Door Trend- Bookcase

We love taking clients to warehouses that are literally filled to the brim with doors. Perusing row upon row of every type of door imaginable is always a thrill. We’ve seen some beautiful old church doors as well as tall imposing doors that once hung on hinges of great country houses and chateaus of Europe. Many of our sources have excellent workrooms where their craftsmen can help get your door (or any other architectural pieces you find) ready to your specifications before shipping it. This means they can adjust the height, width, drill necessary holes for hardware, stain, paint, sand, and distress to your liking. We’ve even had pieces lacquered in Europe before having them shipped to clients across the pond.

Architectural Salvage- Barn Door Trend- Warehouse

Depending on the size of your space, you may want to consider using a pair of doors for your barn door project. It’s not uncommon to come upon a pair of matching doors that may have once been used as pocket doors or as double doors. Mounting them in the barn door style gives them a fresh life and what’s old can become new again. Another bonus is that older doors are often solid and made of the upmost quality. Think about it—if a door has been around for 100 years, it has proven that it can stand the test of time.

Architectural Salvage- Barn Door Trend- Double Door

If you would like more information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour or if you’d like to learn more about our Buying Services, email us at info@antiquesdiva.com. We’d love to hear from you!

Creatively,

The Antiques Diva®

Antique Tuscan Amadias

Dear Diva Readers,

O ne thing I love about antiques is the fact that they connect us to the past. And while some pieces of furniture are no longer necessary due to today’s technology, they are still beautiful and can be adapted for new uses in modern life.Take for example the Amadia, an Italian piece of furniture that once graced the kitchens of every Tuscan home, great and small. Originally it was pressed into service while preparing dough for bread-making—a daily activity in each household 100 years ago. Today you can still see amadias in Tuscan country kitchens, but more often than not, they are used for storage rather than a place to store and knead dough.

Antique Tuscan Amadias

Antique Tuscan Amadias

Bread is a staple food in all cultures, and has been for centuries. Each corner of the world seems to have its own take on this ever present food, offering diverse shapes and flavors. The preparation of dough was once a common task that relied heavily on traditional methods, always involving water, flour, yeast, and of course strong hands to knead the mixture. Today as you travel in India and Asia you often still see this bread making ritual a part of daily life in their households. If you’ve ever tasted Tuscan bread you’ll know it’s unique in the fact that it is prepared without salt. Legend has it that around the year 1100, the salt trade was interrupted due to a war between Pisa and Florence, resulting in a very high cost for salt. In turn, Florentines adapted by making bread without salt, gradually adjusting to this new taste, referred to as “sciocco,” (without salt), and thus what should have only been a temporary fix has evolved into tradition. (Plus it happens to taste fabulous when dipped in Olive Oil with fat salt and fresh pepper!)

Antique Tuscan Amadias

Antique Tuscan Amadias

Prepared once or twice a week, Tuscan bread would be made with locally produced flour, and once baked, would keep for about a week. Every kitchen would have had an amadia, a sort of dough trough, where the dough was kneaded. The amadia was equipped with a board to grind the flour, a rolling pin to roll out the dough, and a storage area. Once the dough had risen, breads were placed on a prepared canvas, the fabric making a fold between each loaf. In the mean time a fire would be made in the oven, and once its flames had died down, the embers would be set aside while most of the ash was removed.  Then came the time to bake the bread! Of course, if there was stale bread still left in the amadia after a week, it would not go to waste. Instead it would be used to prepare a list of exquisite dishes which utilized stale bread such as ribollita, panzanella, aqua cotta, pappa al pomodoro, fettunta, and black cabbage soup.

Antique Tuscan Amadias

Today you can find several different styles of amadias dating from the 19th century up to the 1950’s, each with their own unique patina and style. Clients that take our Antiques Diva Tuscany Tour often remark on these pieces, as they can be found in second hand stores, antique shops, and warehouses. And while their function is no longer necessary, they can still add to the look of a kitchen and act as extra storage or prep space, proving that objects from the past can still be made relevant, even in new ways!

If you’d like more information on taking an Antiques Diva Tour in any of our 8 tour countries—Italy, France, UK, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, or The Netherlands— email us at info@antiquesdiva.com.

Ciao,

The Antiques Diva®

Italian Roof Tiles

Dear Diva Readers,

Whenever a potential client inquires about taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour, one of the first things I do is ask them what they are looking for. One of the most common responses I get is, “Architectural salvage.” Whether people want to resell it, use it in their own home or source it for client projects, architectural salvage remains one of the hottest categories on people’s lists.

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After taking an Antiques Diva Tour in Italy, a design client wanted more information on Italian roof tiles she’d seen while shopping under the Tuscan sun. Our Diva Guide in Tuscany, Susan, definitely knows her stuff when it comes to reclaimed rural Italian architecture. Susan’s experience with antiques as well as rehabbing Italian homes and buildings makes her our go-to gal when clients have questions about architectural salvage. This particular client wanted to use antique Italian roof tiles for a building project in America. Her main concern was whether they would be able to withstand the freezing colder climates.  She also wanted to know if there was only one style of tile or if she had options from which to choose.

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Susan explained that the antique tiles our client had seen on tour were the curved terra-cotta ROOF tiles, which are referred to as “coppi”. However tiles can be found in various sizes.  The traditional Tuscan ones are smaller, made of a more compact clay and are paired with a wider lipped flat tile known as “Tegole” to cover the roof.

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The larger curved tiles which cup each other are MORE COMMONLY used in warmer areas of Italy and are made of more porous clay, which means they probably won’t stand up to extremely cold temperatures. In some regions of Italy smaller curved tiles are laid on flat tiles. There is also another tile similar in appearance… but a litter wider which means here are two different sizes of the curved tiles which are used in different parts of the roof. The larger tiles go on the ridges of the roof – though sometimes the flat tegole are used.

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Each region, just as in its cuisine, has a slightly different method of laying tiles and therefore uses slightly different sizes of tile as well. It all depends upon the style of architecture in that region and the gradient of the roof changes, which is often dictated by the climate of that particular area. Another thing to take into account is the color of the tiles which varies depending on the earth elements in the region in which they were made.

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Who knew there were so many elements to Italian roof tiles?! While style and color are important factors, it’s even more crucial to know whether they will hold up in certain climates. It’s also just as important to hire the right contractors who will use the proper materials and installation methods to ensure a satisfactory outcome.

If you’d like information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour, email us at info@antiquesdiva.com. We’d love to help you source antiques for your projects large and small!

The Antiques Diva® & Co – Thanks La Dolce Diva Susan for sharing your knowledge!

Antiques Diva Italian Travel Advice

Dear Diva Readers,

If you’re heading to Italy for a Roman Holiday this summer, read on.  The key to antiquing in Italy during the summer months is preparation – many markets close while vendors take their own holiday!  A reader and former client recently emailed asking me (and my locally-based Tuscan Guide) about the markets in Italy this summer and I knew that we had to share our advice with you here on the blog.

Diva Reader Kim writes:

Could you give me ideas for markets in Italy that would be good to hit when I travel to Italy late July/early August…Venice, Rome, Florence, Portofino….

I esp. love shoes, purses, linens, etc. Thanks! Hope you are well. Love keeping up with your biz! What a life you lead! Cheers!

Thanks in advance,

Kim

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Antiques Diva Guide Susan responds:

I have to confess market shopping in Italy during the summer months can be a tricky time as many of the monthly flea markets close. Those that don’t close most certainly slow down in the heat of the summer months, so the pickings are slimmer, but on a more positive note those that are open you will find have incredible deals as the competition is less fierce!

Antiques Diva Tours Italy

Another option are the ‘mercatini d’usato’ which are a great and growing resource;  not only are pieces on consignment from private clients but the stores also do estate clearances and really have fabulous things from Murano lighting fixtures to collections of paintings as well as furniture and decorative arts from all periods.

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If you’re going to Venice, Rome, and Florence, you will find these stores – we almost always include these in an itinerary on an Antiques Diva Tour. They’re sort of like the Italian equivalent of a British Charity Shop – but everything in them is Italian and vintage!  Of course it’s important to check who is open and when to co-ordinate with your travels. Generally the flea markets in Florence which happen on the 3rd and 4th weekend of the month close in August. In Rome, the biggest market is at Porta Portese which is every weekend, closes for the middle of August for two weekends. Ferragosto, which is August 15, is a the most important holiday on the calendar and in true Italian style, whole families shut up shop and go to the beach or up to the mountains for their annual family vacation – so there won’t be any shopping that day either!

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You mentioned that you love shoes, purses, and linens, and of course Italy being the queen of fashion is the king of vintage, having so many renowned designers.  For Italians the ‘bella figura’ weighs heavily,  that is, making a good impression, and it’s quality not quantity that matters. Designer labels are important but Italians are also thrifty so they look after their precious possessions and never throw anything away!

Linens too are wonderful; in the times of the share crop farmers each farm would have its own loom.  You can find bolts of linen for next to nothing, as well as sheets, crochet bordered bedcovers, and monogramed pillowcases in the consignment stores, many of which have been hidden for years in the wedding chest as part of the dowry—some not even opened!

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The key to antiquing during the summer months in Italy is preparation. Know where to go by finding out when each market it open and taking note of special holidays when everything will be shut up. If you’d like more information on taking an Antiques Diva tour of Italy any time of year, don’t hesitate to email us at info@antiquesdiva.com. We’d love to take you through this enchanting country—Diva style!

Ciao Bella!

The Antiques Diva®   

Linda Meeks Shops Italy – Guest Blog

Dear Diva Readers,

When 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 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.

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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.

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Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style  Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

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.

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

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.

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

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!”

Antiques Diva Italy Tour, High Point Market, Linda Meeks, Pencil Me In, Custom Slipcovers, Tuscan Tours, Susan Pennington, Shopping in Florence, Buying Antiques in Italy, Florentine style

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 info@antiquesdiva.com.

Ciao,

The Antiques Diva®   

Antiques Diva Resources

Dear Diva Readers,

While at The Antiques Diva & Co we’re known for our customized private antique buying tours throughout Europe – our contacts go beyond “just antiques”.  Our local Diva Guides are our greatest assets because they know their regions like the back of their hand… and they have contacts beyond your wildest dreams! Many of our clients are interior designers, which means finding antiques is just one thing on their long to-do list to finish their projects.  In Italy our local Diva Guide Susan has not only antique sources but so much more! Her little black book of artisans and skilled craftsmen is bulging with brilliant ideas.  In addition to sourcing antiques we can also help with new custom Italian furniture either from reclaimed or new materials that can match or coordinate with your antiques.

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Locally based Tuscan Diva Susan explains, “We know that being a decorator or buying for your private home is very different to being an antiques dealer. How often does one look at a piece and say, ‘If only it was a little shorter, a smidgen wider…’ Sometimes the European measurements just don’t match up. Or perhaps you found the perfect table but need twelve chairs instead of just four. With this in mind, it occurred to us on our travels that for you as a designer, maybe we can help with this dilemma.”

Over the years we have gotten to know and become friends with lots of interesting artisans – Italy is famed for its design, taste, and talented craftsmen. Albeit this latter category is a rare and dying breed so we have traveled far and wide to seek out the best small family-run businesses that have been passed down from generation to generation to ensure our clients find the artisans for which they are looking. Passion and pride play a fundamental role in their dedication and success.

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Traditional Elements

We have a source that is fantastic at making high-quality ‘antiqued’ furniture. In particular they have a beautiful range of marquetry dining tables, chairs, and cabinetry and will make bespoke pieces just for you. This eliminates your problems with length, width, height, and style of legs or finish. And better still, we know from past clients that their prices are a fraction of those in the USA.

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Painted Pieces

The father & son business we work with specializes in painted furniture of fine artisan quality. You’d be forgiven for mistaking it for old! The furniture consists of Italian style chests, buffets, cupboards, as well as sconces and chandeliers. The plus is that you can choose the color and the hardware. They use Farrow & Ball, so you will know exactly how the color will turn out, and their standards are high.

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Forged Iron

Tuscany in particular is well known for its ironwork. Our blacksmiths—and truly they are much more than that— are a family of 3 brothers, their father, and nephew. Together they are quite a force, designing and creating some of the most handsome hand-forged wrought iron around, many taken from centuries old designs, but others surprisingly contemporary. They also love to make original and unique pieces of furniture using old wood and adapting older pieces.

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These are just a few of our friends to whet your appetite. We have many, many more sources throughout Europe that can customize, restore or even build pieces to your specification. In fact, we have connections that can customize centuries-old fireplaces or even help you adapt antique staircases, gates, and fountains for your projects! We guarantee that your clients will be delighted with the end result because we have worked with these craftsmen for years.

If you would like more information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour in any of our 8 tour countries, email us at info@antiquesdiva.com and we’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Toma Clark Haines and Susan, Italian Diva Guide, Buying antiques in Italy, Sourcing design elements in Italy, Little black book of Artisans and Skilled Craftsmen, The Antiques Diva & Co, Toma Clark Haines, Tuscan Diva Guide Susan, Shopping in Tuscany, Painted Pieces in Italy, Forged Ironworks in Tuscany, Italian Design,

Yours truly,

The Antiques Diva® 

Venetian Textiles

Dear Diva Readers,

Every antiquer has their little obsessions… pieces that capture their imagination and their mind.  For me it’s antique textiles.  I have a weakness for them, running my fingers over pieces I shouldn’t touch, fascinated with texture and patterns.  While I love French and Belgian fabrics, it’s the Venetian textiles with their rich 1000 year long history that most captures my imagination.  Famous fabric weavers like Bevilacqua, Fortuny and Rubelli represent three different stories of a 12th Century tradition which turned Venice from an importer of luxury Eastern goods exported to the Western market into a producer of lavish fabrics. Woven on enormous and complicated looms, the production was regulated and protected by a strict legislation. The earliest precious textiles, the “samites,” were inspired by the East, especially Byzantium. The decoration was reproducing wheels with symbolic animals like lions and parrots and were enriched by other details that were brought to Venice from China by Marco Polo at the end of the 13th Century.

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O&C Antiques, Venetian Textiles, Italian Textiles, Antiques Diva, Antique Textiles, Tuscan Antiques Tour, Buying Antiques in Italy,

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And while we always think of the east influencing the Venetian textile design in fact one of the most important contributions to Venetian style actually came from within Italy.  The weavers of Lucca sought refuge in Venice for political reasons in the 1300’s – with them they brought and shared their traditions, cultural styles and creative talents, weaving them – if you will – into their adopted culture. This unique sharing of practical knowledge made possible the production of velvets that incorporated spectacular motifs and designs.

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In the 15th Century new floral patterns came from the East and inspired fresh Venetian designs. This combination of East and West is always present in Venetian textiles and is what makes Venice’s art, architecture and products special and unique. Our local Venetian Guide Orseola  explains, “We were the gateway to the East.  The Serenissima Repubblica – as Venice was known in the past – imported Eastern luxury goods.  Not just art and architecture but they imported carpets and textiles and different ideas and ways of thinking.  Venice is very different from the rest of Italy.  We’re not just divided by our canals, but rather we’re divided by our mindset –  we always look outward for inspiration.” 

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Today, gorgeously preserved textiles can be purchased and incorporated into traditional or modern homes. One of my favorite sources for textiles happens to be our Venetian Diva Guides antique business O&C Antiques that they run in addition to leading our Veneto Antique Buying Tours.  They’ve taken fragments of a highly ornamental Venetian textile and framed them in contemporary, minimal ways making antique textiles some how feel modern and relevant.  Appreciating antiques textiles as art is an excellent way of incorporating them into your home.  While I’ve always had a passion for textiles I’ve found over the years I tend to pick up little pieces here and there… but they get tucked away in a cupboard.  Thanks to O&C Antiques I’m thinking outside the box with my antique textiles.  Do you have any ideas on how can you display them as art.

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If you’re as interested in Venetian textiles as me – consider booking our Venetian Textile tour that not only allows you to shop but delves deep into the local culture and historical traditions.  But don’t stop there… moving beyond in Tuscany you can continue this textile tour in a sensational way, exploring the culture of Italy through art, politics and local traditions.  Our Tuscan Guide Susan has some amazing secret sources up her sleeve that we can’t wait to share with you.

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Ciao Bella,

The Antiques Diva®

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