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
Dear Diva Readers,
n most people’s minds, the phrase “Antiquing in Tuscany,” conjures up images of rustic Italian furniture, perfectly patinated terra cotta pots, hand forged wrought iron, and some of the best architectural salvage on the planet. However savvy Mid Century Modern lovers know that mid 20th century pieces also abound in Italy if you know where to look. Just as Italy revived its position as a fashion mecca in the 20th century (think Florence and Milan), so too it produced some of the greatest mid century furniture that is still highly sought after today. Though of course there are the well known names; (Paolo Buffa, Ico Parisi, Osvaldo Borsani etc…), that are sought after , it’s not neccessarily the names that count. There are so many unknown or lesser known furniture designers that possess the same quality, design, style & panache that Italy is known for– but it’s all in the detail!
If you’re looking for mid century pieces, Florence is the place to go. When we have clients who are mad about mid century, we recommend that they stay in Florence and spend at least one day exploring the shops in the city and another day or two with our Diva Guide in the countryside. There are some extraordinary stores in the city that offer the best of the best vintage inventory. Dashing from shop to shop through tight streets and alleyways is always a thrill, and learning about specific pieces from the very knowledgable dealers is a treat any enthusiast would love.
As with anything however, prices in the city are higher than in more rural areas. In fact, many high-quality dealers in Florence source their inventory in the countryside… and we know where their sources are! That’s why we always recommend taking at least one day with our Diva Guide to go to these sources, as she knows exactly where to go to find the best pieces at the best prices!
After driving a short distance outside of Florence, there are several exits off the main highway that lead to different mid century shops and warehouses. Many of these places are by appointment only and have new inventory constantly coming in. These are the dealers who specialize in house-clearings and have first access to estate sales so their stock is often fresh and unique!
If Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn shared a house, this is where they would shop! Everything from vintage chairs upholstered in velvet with sexy silhouettes to ultra modern plastic furniture can be found in these off the beaten path warehouses. If you have a thing for buttery leather upholstery and brass feet, then this is where you want to be! Rows upon rows of sleek dining chairs from the 1950s-1970s fill attics and basements while chrome and brass light fixtures illuminate the space.
Mid century mirrors are quite popular right now and there is no shortage of them in Italy. Minimalist shapes with an organic feel, mid century mirrors blend well into most interiors. Brass frames in the style of Gio Ponti abound and polished wood or lacquered frames are all popular choices.
It’s also good to note that if you’re looking for something specific, these dealers can most likely find it. Our Buying Service allows you to give us a list of what you’re after and we’ll canvas all our sources until we find the pieces you want, then send you photos, information, and prices. This is an excellent way of getting first dibs on unique pieces that otherwise would probably have ended up in the shops in Florence for a much higher price!
If you would like more information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour or on our Buying Services, email us at email@example.com.
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
My Antiques Diva Guide in Tuscany, Susan P, did it again… she honed in on a fabulous antiques fair to tell our readers all about! Susan, in the role of roving reporter, writes from Florence sharing exclusive coverage of the 27th Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze.
So Ciao Ciao from me, The Antiques Diva
And Buongiorno from La Dolce Diva, Susan P
This October the 27th Biennale Internazionale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze took place in the wonderful Palazzo Corsini which sits on the banks of the Arno in the heart of Florence, just a stones throw from the Uffizzi. It was a spectacular location for such an important event.
The ‘Biennale’ antiques fair is the oldest in Italy and one of the most important and prestigious of its kind in the world, inaugurated in 1959 at the Palazzo Strozzi as the idea of Luigi Bellini Sr, a member of the illustrious family of Florentine antiquarians. It became a cultural and social event that could not be missed, to the extent that the Florentine Fair was visited both by the members of the international jet set and by a crowd avid for curiosities, knowledge and marvels and still remains so today… an event where everyone knows everyone.
Definitely not for the casual collector; but a treat to have the privilege to view what in effect is a private museum. Termed ‘rooms’ rather than stands, each elegantly decorated and of course tastefully displayed, items having been carefully selected for the occasion. To find so much under one roof was almost overwhelming; fine and rare pieces (fearful to ask the price of most) spanning from Roman busts to 20th century art.
Names such as Canaletto (of which there were seven drawings from a private collection) and Carriera seemed the norm. 88 exhibitors, of which 14 were foreign dealers, showcased a dazzling array of over 3,000 objects which included paintings, sculpture, furniture, books and rugs… with contemporary jewellery and art to complete the picture (excuse the pun).
My favourite piece was ‘Noah’s Ark on the Mount Ararat’ by Simon de Myle, a signed and dated panel of 1570 exhibited by the Paris Gallery of De Jonckheere Paris, which I discovered was sold late spring at Sotheby’s in Paris for over euro 1,000,000, way over its estimate but is the only known piece by this artist. I could definitely find a place for this at home!
Having said that, I couldn’t help but be drawn to two paintings displayed by Robilant & Voena, who have galleries in both London and Milan.
View of the Arno
View of Piazza della Signoria
Recently rediscovered works by Thomas Patch (1725-1782) entitled, ‘View of the Arno with the Santa Trinita Bridge’ and ‘View of Piazza della Signoria’, have been conserved for over half a century in a German private collection. Patch himself was an interesting character with quite a story; he was one of the many who embarked on the grand tour of Europe, struck by Stendhal’s syndrome perhaps other enticements remained in Florence till his death, making his living undertaking commissions from rich young British men on the grand tour. His paintings today are in the Royal Collection in London and various museums.
There were also fabulous pieces of furniture and sculptures, Italian furniture. On the stand of Piva & Cie, Milan was a pair of turned and carved 17th-century tables in walnut with tops of Verona marble. But I was distracted by a magnificent, elaborately decorated 18th-century Venetian mirror, heavily gilded with inserts in mother-of-pearl (Gallo Antiquariato, Milan).
A pleasant surprise and interlude was the Diana Vreeland Gallery which specializes in jewellery from 1900 to 1970. Fabulous pieces that conjures up images of society parties in the 50’s an 60’s from great names such as Boucheron and Webb to name just two.
There were also dealers from north to south of Italy, including Naples which of course included a display of an authentic 18th century Neapolitan nativity scene.
Although out of reach for many of us, everything is for sale though destined to become part of private and public collections. Each piece is carefully vetted by two committees; the Florence export office and officials from the ministry of culture in Rome, having been authenticated and verified they are given an export license, unless it is one of the four or five items in every fair that have been considered to be of great importance to the heritage of Italy and are therefore only tradable within Italy
The location for the fair is just as spectacular: the imposing Palazzo Corsini, which sits right along the Arno not too far from the Uffizzi Museum, has hosted the Biennale since 1997. It was apparently built as a ‘casino’; no, not for gambling but the diminutive for a house (casa) in Italian. This ‘little’ house was apparently surrounded by gardens and fields – hard to believe today. The palace has hosted great personalities from the nobility of the renaissance and politicians of every epoca to Greta Garbo, Giorgio De Chirico and John Houston. The Palazzo Corsini in its subdued Baroque style with 18th-century flair is truly an amazing building and a sight to see in itself. Externally it gives little clue as to what lies inside. The imposing reception rooms designed for every occasion painstakingly stuccoed and decorated. Even a Grotto on the ground floor resplendent with encrusted shells and coral.
Lunch catering by one of my favourite, Convivium, to end the day as we took a moment to reflect; sipping prosecco on the open ‘Loggia’ terrace looking down to the Arno and up to Piazza Michelangelo and sigh, Stendahl’s syndrome perhaps?
With Love from Italy –
Susan P – La Dolce Diva
P.S. If you enjoyed this blog post about this great antique fair in Italy, you might consider booking an Italian Antiques Tour with La Dolce Diva Susan P, shopping from Florence to Arezzo, Sienna, and throughout the Tuscan borders.
Dear Diva Readers,
Today’s blog comes to you from Tuscany and your Antiques Diva Guide Susan P as she shares details on her recent Paper Marbling Workshop in Florence! This workshop is just one of the insider’s tips on Italy that we offer access to on our Antiques Diva Italian Tours!
So ta ta from me and Buongiorno from La Dolce Diva Guide – Susan P
The Antiques Diva®
Diva Guide Susan P
Omero Benvenuti, bookbinder since 1967. From outside a dusty window front reveals little of what jewels are held within. A small but impressive display of beautifully hand-worked, leather-bound books and a mirage of coloured Florentine marbled paper pieces from letter racks to pencil holders, little boxes for stamps to carefully displayed papers, all of which he has created himself.ust a stone’s throw from the famous Boboli gardens and the Pitti Palace, not far from the hustle and bustle of Santo Spirito, tucked almost anonymously in one of those many narrow Florentine streets is the workshop of
We had come to try our hand at making Florentine marbled paper under the watchful but auspicious eye of Omero (his name a wonder in itself meaning Homer). A passionate and gentle soul, a true Florentine artisan, more concerned with his craft than commerce, choosing only the best quality natural leather, colours and glues and following traditions passed down through generations. He proudly displays his inherited antique embossing tools and demonstrates their use using fine gold leaf. Whilst we are there one of his ‘regular’ clients came to collect a 19th copy of Dante’s ‘Inferno’ that he had rebound and covered.
He guided us to the back of the single room store. There he mixed for us five acrylic-based colours with water in little pots carefully lining them. Alongside was a large tray into which he poured a liquid which he had prepared the day before that must be left for at least 12 hours to rest. Of course each artisan has his own secrets… but Omero did share his incredible recipe; the ingredients were mind boggling; algae, water, Arabic gum, the yolk of an egg, a sachet of icing sugar all boiled up together. We noticed some rather dangerous looking medieval tools, which turned out to be his homemade combs.
We were given free reign to choose and apply the paints as we wished which was great fun! Colours are applied to the surface of the oily water in splatters using a paint brush, Best results are obtained using no more than six colours – one colour after another starting with the darker shades and then the lighter ones to create a dense pattern of several colors, which slowly expand. At this point you can lay the paper directly on the surface of the liquid, which we did try and came out with more contemporary designs, but more often motifs are created stirring the colour spots with a thin stick and the metal combs: first a comb with straight and narrow teeth and then a comb with triangular teeth. Each artisan uses his own-developed combs, enabling him to obtain unique motifs. Even the same comb produces very different decorations used in different ways.
Now a paper sheet is carefully laid down on the water, paying attention to avoid that no air bubbles remain between the paper and the water surface, as this would result in black patches … Omero didn’t quite trust us to do this so we left it in his capable hands. He dragged the sheet of paper over a rod to draw off the excess liquid… we waited with baited breath, feeling sure it was all going to smudge… . But what a wonderful surprise the final results, the colors being so much more vibrant than they appeared in the tray… it was hard to believe that it really was we who had created them!
Susan P – Your Dolce Diva – Leading Antique Shopping Tours in Tuscany
Dear Diva Readers,
i Fratellini on the Via dei Cimartori – this little spot is what the Italians call a true fiaschetteria – a word derived from fiasco which is Italian for a flask of wine. And wine is what you’ll get when you dine – or shall I say drink – here, over 27 varieties make this the perfect stop for your inner diva (or divo)!ou know I love fine wines and fine dining… but sometimes a “hole in the wall” can offer finer times than the grandest of restaurants. My Antiques Diva Tour Guide in Italy, Susan P, introduced me to one of her favorite spaces & places in Florence –
This little “restaurant” has a roll-down awning that makes the “restaurant” virtually disappears into a “hole in the wall” when closed, but when the awning is up and the boys are behind the counter this place is ready to rumble! Locals line up for lunch and gather in the street in in front of the shop, an impromptu party filled with laughter and miles of smiles and not to mention a darn good sandwich.
Combine a surprisingly good selection of wine available by the glass for pocket change with a gorgeous array of Italian Panini’s and you’ve got the recipe for success. My favorite sandwich is the cinghiale piccante con caprino (spicy wild boar salami spread with creamy goat cheese), but here, regardless of the sandwich, you can’t go wrong!
As I lift my glass to yours to say good-bye, I’m reminded of a funny story. In Italian for an informal “cheers” you might raise your glass and say “Chin Chin”. While the origins of this expression hark back to a time when peasants drank their wine out of wooden cups and would say “Chin Chin” to mimic the sound of glass wine glasses clinking, I was advised recently to use the more formal “Alla Salute” (or merely “Salute” as is more commonly used) when with my international friends. Apparently “Chin Chin” is slang in Japanese for genitalia and so is prone to cause fits of laughter when in mixed circles!!!
That said, rather than signing off “Chin, Chin” as I was planning, I think I’ll use a more formal farewell “Cent’anni”! Here’s to us living to the ripe old of age of 100!
The Antiques Diva®
(with a little help from her Italian Diva colleague, Susan P)
Dear Diva Readers,
n today’s blog I want to introduce you to La Dolce Diva – Susan, our Diva Guide leading antique shopping tours in Tuscany! Susan is a dazzling Brit living in Tuscany and is a dream-come-true! She’s quite possibly the most affable person I’ve met, with an easy smile, a lifetime lived exploring antiques, a quirky nature and an eye for style! Susan describes herself as “British by birth, Welsh by choice, Mid-Atlantic by nature, and Italian by adoption”.
Meet Susan – La Dolce Diva! The Antiques Diva® Guide in Tuscany!
Susan tells about Growing up in Britain…
“For as long as I can remember, design and decoration have been a part of my life. As a small child I spent hours playing with the doll’s house that my father had made for us, staging the rooms, making and hanging curtains, stitching tiny cushions, adding bits and pieces… My dad was quite a craftsman; he made the tiny furniture and electrified the house with a huge battery. I loved Lego too; building houses, gardens, rooms. I was also an avid fan of ‘Pelham Puppets (very British!) and would pour over catalogues deciding what I would like, then save my pocket money. When I had enough I carefully filled out the form with my order and rushed down to the post office to buy the postal order and send it off. Those were agonizing days when I would wait eagerly for the postman to arrive. I recall one Christmas when we received a theatre – how excited we were, painting the cut out wooden scenes with my sister, then creating grand plays and shows for our family and friends. I continuously moved the furniture around in my bedroom. I recall when I was around 10 years of age my room was to be redecorated and I was allowed to choose the wall paper, though what I chose was not exactly what my mother had had in mind; a dark blue ground with green and white snowdrops… but I loved it. As I got older I would accompany my father to visit British country homes and gardens, he was a great historian and purveyor of fine things. Subconsciously the seeds had been sown and germination started.”
Susan tells about starting her career as a Buyer at Harrods in London
“I left Wales for the bright lights of London to pursue a career in retailing, where better place to start than the renown store of Harrods. For our final assignment we were asked which department interested us most – much to raised eyebrows I nominated the antiques department. There was a warm and friendly, small close-knit team, the buyer was delighted to have a little go-fer, and soon I was attending auctions, bidding and buying… upon his direction of course. I loved the auction room – the excitement and thrill of the sales. One summer I went to visit my sister in New York and couldn’t resist attending one there and not long after found myself as a permanent fixture in one of the British auction houses in the city, eventually becoming a specialist in 19th & 20th Furniture and Decorative Arts.”
Bright Lights… Big City! Susan tells about living in New York City & working in antiques
“After six wonderful and formative years in the boom of the mid 80’s, working with dealers and collectors it was time to leave the hustle and bustle of New York City. Through a strange series of circumstances, I found myself in Tuscany. It was merely by chance and most certainly a random choice that I made, with six months to spare between jobs and ironically not quite knowing what to do. Back home in my native Britain I had picked up a very English magazine… not to be named of course, but well-known for its knitting patterns and traditional recipes, but perhaps above all, for being the place to look for short term jobs abroad, little box ads for nannies and au pairs. It was exactly one of these ads that caught my eye; it read… ‘come to Tuscany and work two hours a day’…. Hmmm, what an invitation, who could refuse?”
Susan tells how she moved to Tuscany nearly 20 years ago and became La Dolce Diva!
“I found myself on a beautiful 3000-acre agricultural estate in the heart of Tuscany just outside of Siena and in love in more ways than one. I was fortunate enough to become part of an Italian family and over the last twenty years have had a hand in developing an ‘agriturismo’ business; a multifaceted task which amongst other things has involved the refurbishment and renovation of over a dozen buildings.”
Susan tells about Antique Shopping in Italy
“The most fun part of working on an estate in Italy was of course decorating the houses… the resources in Italy are fabulous, the natural elements such as terracotta, marble, stone, beautiful ceramic tiles, rich fabrics, tassels and ties and of course an excuse to indulge in my preferred past time. Shopping takes a little time and patience and a lot of talk and schmoozing… the Italians are famed for that and it’s an integral part of the culture that must be embraced. My tastes are eclectic, ranging from fine period antiques, silver and paintings to vintage clothing and re-purposed agricultural tools and equipment. I still love to frequent the auction houses too. Of course it’s even better and more fun in company and I’m more than happy to share my secrets!”
The Antiques Diva®
Flea Markets and Ferragamo await in Florence as do fragrant sessions with an haute-couture perfumer, creating custom scents just for you. Wrap yourself in luxury Italian linens or linger in Lucca, enjoying the local wines and gourmet delicacies. Stay in Sienna visiting antique sales or shop for salvaged pieces at secret sources. Search the streets of Arezzo looking for religious relics and rustic pieces. And while you’re at it, book a cooking course, a day at the outlets or visit our favorite vineyards with our Diva Excursions. On Antiques Diva ® Italian Tours you’re guaranteed to enjoy La Dolce Diva as we share not just antiques but Italian lifestyle!
Inquire for details firstname.lastname@example.org
The Antiques Diva®
Dear Diva Readers,
just learned of a sensational weekend course in Florence that has me dying to return to Renaissance City. Visiting twice last year apparently wasn’t enough. This time, in addition to treading the paths of the Medici’s, I’d like to dig deeper into Italian art. In fact, I’d like to take a weekend in Florence to LEARN a time-worn Italian art!
Florence Art.net is offering an Easter Weekend Gilding, Painting & Restoration Course at the Maiano Estate, a quiet rural resort overlooking the city of Florence. The skills taught in the course are useful for people who like to restore or refurbish old paintings and frames, decorate or gild frames and furniture, or even create contemporary works of decorative art using these high quality materials and techniques. Being able to restore or produce gilded and decorated frames seems like it go hand in silk-gloved hand with being both an artist and antiques dealer! Plus, learning the skill against the swell of the Tuscan countryside… does life get any better than this?
How could I not be inspired in a setting such as this? On the hillside overlooking Florence with Brunelleschi’s Duomo in sight, students learn the ancient craft of gilding. Mornings and afternoons are spent in the studio painting and gilding your works of art and learning the skills of restoration. Then to top it off, the course brings in accomplished Florentine artisans and offers opportunites to learn about Florence’s world-renowned historical works of art.
Easter Weekend in Paradise – I mean, Florence, that is!
The Antiques Diva®
While I’m in the States, my sister and I try to spend as much time together as possible – we sneak out of her house early in the morning to invade the local Barnes & Noble for coffee and bagels while chatting over a stack of crumb-filled decorating books and magazines. And I follow her as she tends to life with her 6 kids. In some ways we’re as different as night and day: me living in Europe with my cat and no kids and she in Oklahoma, the modern-day (yet exceedingly more hip) Old Mother Hubbard (with piercings and flared blue jeans). But those are just surface details – people can always tell we’re sisters.
When I follow her to the grocery store someone inevitably stops us saying, “You MUST be related!”, commenting on the way we both talk with our hands. And one morning while in Starbucks, a woman eavesdropping from the next table sputters, “It’s like watching someone talk to themselves in a mirror!” adding “You’re both so excited!”. And most recently, when we walked into a printing company to view a sample copy of the local monthly art journal my sister edits, the guy behind the counter leapt to his feet and yelled, “I never knew you had a sister!”.
On my recent trip to the States this December 2009, it seemed my sister was busier than normal – I arrived in the middle of her putting the monthly art publication she edits to bed. It was Art Beat’s annual food issue and she’d decided she wanted to include an article on Oklahoma wineries.
What followed were several hours of perhaps the best wine tour I’ve ever had. My sister confessed she was “almost a wine virgin” and that the few times she had consumed had been with my husband and me when we brought bottles for Christmas dinner. Richard immediately put her to ease, explaining the process, introducing us to what was clearly his favorite subject. He spoke of the science and technology of wine making, and then he spoke of the art in creating the perfect blend. He took us into his work rooms, explaining step-by-step how each process worked. Much of what he said wasn’t new to me – but the way he said it was.
Since moving to Europe my husband and I have visited countless wineries and done literally thousands of wine tastings, but what moved me about the tour of Tres Suenos Vineyard was the lack of pretentiousness, the grace and humility in which Richard Kennedy spoke of wine. This was a man who enjoyed the grape. It wasn’t about buying the most expensive bottle or making sure the bottle had the right label on it. He educated us, and explained terms in the most simplistic manner, answering questions I’d been afraid to ask in snootier vineyards and he made those questions seem like they weren’t the least bit silly. When we moved onto the wine tasting with Colleen, she spoke passionately about her own wine conversion, explaining how she hadn’t been into wine until recent years and she shared cooking tips as my sister and I sipped our way through 11 Tres Suenos wines.
As we were finishing up the wine tasting, I noticed that Tres Suenos was offering a Group Tour to Italy this May 2010. Having just spent an afternoon stateside in Richard’s company, I knew undoubtedly that to visit the wineries of Italy with him would be a trip of a lifetime! And I wanted to share the trip details with my readers so they too could have an opportunity to learn wine, down-home-style, with Richard Kennedy and Tres Suenos Winery!
Tres Suenos Winery – Vineyards of Italy Tour!
May 15-23, 2010
2 nights in Alba
2 nights in Treviso
1 day in Venice
½ day in Florence
½ day in Chianti
2 nights in Rome
The Antiques Diva™
Last January finds notes scrawled of frantic to-do’s before our move from Amsterdam to Berlin and one day is circled with a giant red heart that reads “Going Away Dinner with IWC Officers” as I remember all the ladies who showed up for my last dinner in Amsterdam before moving. We took over the restaurant in a gaggle of laughter and friendship and fun.
ear births and my new agenda is a blank page, I pick up my pen – a red felt tip – and write confidently my plans for the future.