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Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates

Dear Diva Readers,

Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates, Italy ,Pots

For hundreds of years the best terracotta in the world has come out of Tuscany. From floor tiles and roof tiles to sculptures and decorative pieces, the Italians have used their natural resources along with an artistic perspective to craft exceptional products which are known worldwide. Perhaps the most popular terracotta items associated with Tuscany are the pots and jars which often grace Italian gardens. Originally, these were created from the rich clay of the surrounding hills for agricultural use. They were used for storing water and olive oil, and after being left exposed to the elements, these pots developed a rich patina which makes them perfect decorative items today whether you own a Tuscan villa or a ranch home in suburban USA.

Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates, different pots

Italian terracotta pieces from Impruneta and Siena are arguably the best, as the land in these areas is naturally rich in iron, copper, calcium, and aluminum. Clay from Impruneta is a rich red color blue to the concentration of iron in the earth, while the crete Sienese is a softer yellow color due to the gray clay in that area.

Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates, lided Pot

Terracotta has been made from the earth in these Tuscan hills since Etruscan times—before Christ—and the tradition continues today. The hard gray earth is mined, then ground into a powder which is mixed with water to make the coarse bodied clay. After it’s put through the firing process which helps it withstand extreme temperatures, the clay develops a pale terracotta color. Clay from Impruneta is higher in iron than clay from Siena, and the resulting terracotta from Siena is more refined which gives it a smoother texture. Although terracotta from both regions can withstand cold temperatures, it is wise to shelter them in extreme winter climates where temperatures drop below 10 degrees fahrenheit.

Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates, Italy ,Olive Jars

Traditionally, olive jars are glazed on the inside and have a very distinctive shape. The large oval bodies taper at the base, which allowed the jars to be stored upright in clay or metal rings and also in wood braces aboard ships when they were being transported. Many of these olive jars also have handles at the top. Olive oil must be stored in a cool dark place in order to preserve it, therefore the jars made perfect sense. Since they are fashioned from fired-earth, they make ideal planters today and that is what many people use them for. Due to their shapely bodies and lovely patina, they can also stand alone in a garden, grouped in threes or flanking a pathway.
When searching for antique terracotta pots it’s important to note any details or markings. Antique pots usually have the name of the kiln and the estate for which they were made, often with the family crest!

Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates, Italy ,Pots with family name

Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates, Italy ,Pots Impruneta

Decoration on large pots are rare as these were created as functional pieces, but the agrumi pots are often adorned with swags. These pots were traditionally placed on pedestals in formal gardens during the summer, then rolled into the “limonia” during the winter.

Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates, Italy ,Terracota pots for indoor

When clients come on an Antiques Diva Tour in Tuscany, they often find terracotta pots to use indoors as well. Large or small, simple or ornately sculpted, these pots make perfect decorative accents. Our Diva Guide can also take you to small potteries which dot the Tuscan countryside between Florence and Siena. These artisans often have original molds which they can make replicas from, giving you the option to purchase matching sets of pots which can be harder to find if you’re looking for antique pots. However, several of our antique sources have antique pots from Italian estates just waiting for a new home. Their crusty exterior, aged by years of use and exposure to the elements make these vintage and antique pots all the more desirable!

Sourcing Tuscan Pots From Estates, Italy  house clearing pot sale

When a Tuscan estate goes up for sale, there is often a house-clearing sale. This is the best time to find antique terracotta jars and pots! They are often tucked away in corners of the villas or stored in out buildings and haven’t seen the light of day in years. These forgotten treasures can be plucked from obscurity and given new life by the discerning customer with a keen eye. But how can you find these house-clearing sales and what do you do if you are only in Tuscany for a few days? And most importantly, how do you get these pieces home? That’s where we come in. Through our Buying Service, we can help you source these pieces and liaise you with a shipper to get them home sweet home. Our Diva Guides are constantly on the go, shopping in stores, warehouses, private estate sales, and flea markets, covering urban and rural areas, and can take your shopping list with them, being your eyes and ears on the ground. Whether you’re searching for a few pieces or want to fill an entire container, we’ve got you covered.

Ciao for now,

The Antiques Diva®

Consignment Shops in Tuscany

Dear Diva Readers,

W 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!

Hay fork

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.

Antique ebonized and gilded salon suite

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.

price tag

old trunk

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!

19th century dinner service

antique linens

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.

18th century walnut chairs

19th century Italian carved wood and gilded mirrow

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 atinfo@antiquesdiva.com. We’d love to custom plan a shopping route that’s perfect for you!

Ciao,

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®

Antiquing in Tuscany

Dear Diva Readers,

M amma Mia! If Heaven were a place on earth, I’m certain it would look like a Tuscany! Who hasn’t dreamed of taking a trip to Tuscany? From sipping gorgeous Tuscan reds to soaking in the vistas and villas – it sounds like perfection! Add hunting for antiques into the mix and you’ve got the recipe for the perfect holiday! But if you’re want to find vintage and antiques treasures where should you focus your energies to find diva worthy treasures and what sorts of pieces will you find once you get there? Our Tuscan Diva Guide Susan gives us her top 5 types of places to go antiquing in Italy!

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1. Architectural Salvage
With so many large and lovely villas set in sprawling parks and gardens coupled with abandoned Tuscan farmhouses dotted across the landscape, it’s little wonder that there is a wealth of Architectural Salvage materials to be found. Regal marble bathtubs and delicately carved sinks (just perfect for a powder room), old weather worn barn doors… still complete with original locks and hardware, soft grey ‘pietra serena’ stone fireplaces impregnated with decades, if not centuries of smoke, garden statuary, terracotta tiles and worn stair treads… each piece has a story to tell.

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2. The consignment stores
For the die hard flea marketer and bargain hunter there is no better place than the consignment stores. The thrill of uncovering hidden treasure and the satisfaction of getting a bargain to tuck into your suitcase is exhilarating. Often old estates are cleared and you can really find some gems buried under the clutter; from signed oil paintings and watercolours for less than €50, mid century glass going for a song, crystal drop chandeliers (as well as extra crystals so no need to worry when you find a great pieces with missing ones) and furniture too. Once we had someone find the most delightful ‘Murphy bed’ that folded out of a gorgeous carved wood cabinet… it weighed a ton!

3. Little stores along the road
Of course the beautifully decorated antique stores filled with elegant pieces of 17th century furniture, old master paintings and richly gilded mirrors are intoxicating, but we like to get off the beaten track and explore the Tuscan countryside, climbing ladders in barns stacked sky high, picking our way through private collections and visiting restorers who always seem to have something hidden away. We’ve unearthered some real treasures; huge terracotta oil urns, bread chests (every home should have one!) and rustic painted furniture… just to whet the appetite.

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4. Flea markets
The weekend flea markets are a must, usually held once a month, each falling on a different weekend, old books, textiles, religious artefacts and great agricultural pieces to repurpose. Depending on weekend we might hit Lucca, Florence or Arezzo. It’s fun meeting all the characters and really are the perfect place to find small pieces too to take home to friends as unique gifts or to keep and use as house gifts, though I have to confess we have found some pretty big ones too… a 5 foot high shield for one.

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5. Florence
… it’s impossible not to have it on the list, a renaissance city with precious works of art and fine antiques. But really what I enjoy are the vintage stores full of designer fashion, Gucci, Ferragamo, Pucci to name just a few. But perhaps rather unexpectedly it’s also a great source for mid century pieces with amazing prices as it’s still not fully appreciated in Tuscany. There’s nothing better than spending an afternoon in the Oltrarno browsing… and trying hard to be restrained at the irresistible.

If you would like information on taking an Antiques Diva Buying Tour in Italy, email us at info@antiquesdiva.com. We’d love to help you source antiques in Tuscany!

Ciao,

The Antiques Diva® with help from her locally-based Tuscan Guide La Dolce Diva – Susan!

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Travel Tuesday: The Antiques Diva’s Favorite Places

Dear Diva Readers,

When being interviewed one of the questions I am most frequently asked is “If you had to choose one favorite place in the world, where would it be (and why)?” Such a tough question, but there are things I love about each place I travel.

As an American who has lived in Europe nearly 14 years (5 in Paris, 4 in Amsterdam and currently reside in Berlin) I have to say Europe is my playground.  As the owner of Europe’s largest antiques touring company I travel in 7 or 8 countries each month.  Waking up I never know which language to greet the day!  Saint Augustine said, The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”  If that’s true my life is a well-read novel… to choose only one favorite place feels quite simply an impossibility.

Top Travel Destinations, Paris, New York, Tuscany, Oklahoma, Thailand, Asia, The Antiques Diva, Toma Clark Haines Interviews

Top Travel Destinations, Paris, New York, Tuscany, Oklahoma, Thailand, Asia, The Antiques Diva, Toma Clark Haines Interviews

I love different places for different reasons. I grew up in Oklahoma  – and I love the serenity of slipping a saddle on a horse and riding across the salt plains.  In Paris I slip into my European life like someone else does their favorite little black dress.  I was born for Paris and it is here I feel most at home.  I dream in French.

tuscany, Top Travel Destinations, Paris, New York, Tuscany, Oklahoma, Thailand, Asia, The Antiques Diva, Toma Clark Haines Interviews

And I love New York. The excitement. The lights. The feeling that I’m in the center of the world that’s really just a small town where everyone seems to know everyone else. Meanwhile Tuscany takes me out of the city and reminds me of my country girl roots.

Top Travel Destinations, Paris, New York, Tuscany, Oklahoma, Thailand, Asia, The Antiques Diva, Toma Clark Haines Interviews

But to escape from reality I go to Asia which feels like a mysterious wonderland so foreign, pushing me out of my comfort zone and out of my own skin.  My husband and I area heading back to Thailand for our big vacation this year to go elephant trekking in the Golden Triangle and shopping in Bangkok and Chiang Mai.  (Note: Watch this space – with the help of some of our locally-based Thai design and antiques industry friends we’ll be sharing some shopping tips this summer on Where to Antique and Shop in Thailand).

All said and done, at the end of the day, it would be impossible to choose one favorite place.  There are too many pages in the book of life to read.

Happy Traveling,

The Antiques Diva®

Group Tour to Tuscany

Dear Diva Readers,

I’m delighted to present a special opportunity to join The Antiques Diva & Co in Tuscany on a Group Tour!!!  Only a few spaces remain so act quickly!  While  you know we don’t offer group tours ourselves – specializing instead on private one on one customized buying tours for our clients, from time to time we are called up to help other tour companies fulfill their tours as their local agents on the ground!  We’re working behind the scenes with Red Shed Tours to fulfill their Tuscan Trip this November 2013.    And you, dear readers, are in luck… there are just a few spots available in this upcoming Italy Tour November 1 – 10, 2013 during the Olive Harvesting Season.  You’ll not only get to antique, but also do a wealth of cultural excursions.  This is the ultimate Girl’s Trip!

Red Shed Tours has booked the family agritourism estate of Antiques Diva Guide Susan P –  a gorgeous  17th C villa in the heart of Tuscany.  Perched on a hill, nestled on a lovely olive oil estate, the property offers dazzling views of vineyards and villages in every direction! The villa has been lovingly restored by your Diva Guide herself with the highest standards of comfort and beauty. Each sleeping room is unique, spacious and includes a private bath. The villa has several large living and dining areas with fireplaces, as well as a professional kitchen. There is plenty of room to find private spaces for contemplation or to gather to visit and laugh.

Red Shed Tours really wants to help you capture the spirit of the Tuscan countryside and impart renewal and serenity.  This trip will be slow paced and relaxed. Departure times will allow you to enjoy an early morning walk or just sleep in. But Buyer Beware – be fully warned this trip is going to be sooo good you may not want to leave Tuscany!   We’re also organizing one heavenly day simply drinking in the estate while enjoying a “sip and dip” vista postcard painting class (with wine!) and, later, an evening cooking class in our villa.

We’re thrilled to share with you our favorite Tuscany flea market in Arezzo!   As always, we will have our local guides and interpreters to help you get information and the best prices. We will also be visiting several “secret” consignment and local antique shops in other cities that only locals can find.

Joining a Red Shed Tour means that you will be taken care of every step of the way, with the very best that Tuscany has to offer. As Red Shed Owners Valarie and Michelle explain, “We have found the best guides, best accommodations, and have planned the best experiences that we were able to uncover. You will have special tours of San Gimignano, Sienna, Chianti, a full day in Florence, a half day in Rome and so much more!”

Interested? Here are the details….

November 1st – 10th 2013

10 days, 8 nights $3745 Double Occupancy

(Sorry, no singles rooms are available on this trip, unless you wish to pay double. If you are traveling single please let us know and we can suggest a roommate)

Included in tour price:

7 nights private villa double occupancy

1 night airport hotel double occupancy

All airport transfers from Rome and transportation within Tuscany

8 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 4 dinners

Local Italian and English speaking guide (and antiquing expert!)

(extra interpreter at the flea market)

Private contrada guide in Siena

Cultural guide and tour in Florence

Half Day Rome Tour with Driver Guides including entrance fee to Colosseum

Pre-Party, orientation and Red Shed Tours Escort


Tours and Experiences:

Arezzo Flea Market

“Secret” Consignment & antique shops

San Gimignano visit and shopping

Wine school with dinner (fun, even for non-drinkers!)

Chianti visit, Winery tour and dinner

Local Olive oil tasting with lunch

Florence Tour and free time

Rome Tour (half day)

Sip n Dip Painting class

Italian Cooking Class by a local chef

Siena “secret” contrada Palio tour

 

Not included:

Airfare, mandatory cancellation insurance, meals not indicated

Physical Expectations:

You must be in good physical condition to join this trip. This is not a physically challenging trip, but Tuscany is VERY hilly and most of the villages are at the top of the hills (parking is at the bottom) There will be plenty of walking uphill, walking up multiple stair cases, walking over uneven pavement and walking and standing for extended periods of time.

This is the ultimate Girl’s Trip! Truly enjoyed with moms, sisters and best friends.  For a detailed itinerary please email RedShedAntiques@gmail.com or call 817-310-6006 telling them you saw this tour on The Antiques Diva blog.  A $750 deposit is required to confirm your spot on the tour.  Only a few spaces remain so act quickly!

Buon Viaggio!

The Antiques Diva® & Co in conjunction with our friends at Red Shed

Other Notes:
Please let us know if you are interested in future dates to Italy.

If you have a group of 10 – 12 who would like to travel together, we would be happy to arrange a tour around your preferred dates.

Contact us if you would like us to plan a similar tour for a personal trip or a trip with your husband or a group of couples.

Visit www.RedShedOnline.com to see information on our other Woman’s group trips to Paris and Provence.

Arezzo Flea Market Tips

Dear Diva Readers,

Mamma Mia, I rarely blog while I’m in the midst of doing a tour, preferring usually to wait til I’m home afterwards.  But we’ve got a white-label tour in Italy with Red Shed Tours this week where we’re acting as step-on guides for another tour company who specialize in group travel, and yesterday we were in Arezzo. Arezzo inspires me and has me spinning around in circles…. LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL.

In fact if you’ve seen the movie Life is Beautiful, you’ve already got the town of Arezzo in mind. It was filmed here. This ancient Tuscan city with its Roman ruins, medieval walls and Renaissance architecture has always been a magnet for art lovers and it’s home to many famous artists. In fact have you heard of the Vasari passage in Florence? Well you can visit its designer’s home in Arezzo! Giorgio Vasari, who conferred with the Medici family in Florence, designed the famed but exclusive corridor that runs through the Medici’s original residence at the Uffizi, now the renowned picture gallery to their new residence at the Palazzo Pitti. It was built just above the Ponte Vecchio bridge which at the same time was filled with Butcher’s shops so they could walk above the rif raf of the city and avoid any unpleasantries. Also in Arezzo you can visit Piero della Francesce’s magnificent frescos at the Basilica of San Francisco.

Normally Arezzo is a quiet and tranquil city…. Except for the first weekend of the month when The Antiques Diva & Co storms into town all a gaggle!!!  500 vendors take over the Piazza Grande, sprawling into the surrounding streets and alleys from north to south, east to west. A quirky cast of characters set up shop and fill your ear with elaborate stories about their treasures.

Arezzo really is an Aladdin’s cave where you can find antique and vintage furniture, fine and costume jewelry, wonderful paintings at a steal, religious artifacts, crockery, glass, kitchen and cooking items, silver, ceramics and books. In short at the Arezzo Flea Market you can find anything and everything from the serious antiques to fun collectibles. It’s practically impossible to go home empty handed.

In Italian, though, when it comes to bargaining you need to remember the Italian method is not aggressive… it’s more sympathetic in tone. As it is in most things in Italy it’s based upon a rapport, so patience is needed. First you ask the price. Then you pause to think. If you feel the price is fair – you pay it. No bargaining for sport. Then if you really do want it, ask for a better price, and if you’re buying more than 1 item you’ll increase your odds of getting a discount. Vendors will always give you a receipt at the Tuscan flea markets as there are controls in place by the government to ensure they do. Because the items are classified as “used” there will be nothing to claim back at the Tax Refund office when leaving Italy as used items in Italy are VAT exempt.

Cash is king in the flea market scene… but some vendors will take credit cards. These are minority and cash will always get you the best price. All over Arezzo on the main roads you’ll find ATM’s dotting the side of the street so getting money from the machines wont be a problem. But come prepared. Did you know in Italy there is a legal limit to how much you can withdraw per day? The maximum limit in Italy to withdrawal from your bank (regardless what your bank tells you your daily limit is) is 250 Euro – so you’ll want to plan ahead to make sure you have the cash needed to shop the Arezzo Flea Market.

Arezzo 2015 Dates:

January 3-4, 2015

January 31 – February 1, 2015

February 28 – March 1, 2015

April 4-5, 2015

May 2-3, 2015

June 6-7, 2015

July 4-5, 2015

August 1-2, 2015

September 5-6, 2015

October 3-4, 2015

October 31 – November 1, 2015

December 5-6, 2015

 

Happy shopping!

Ciao Bella,
The Antiques Diva®

The Marionette Kings

Dear Diva Readers,

While my Antiques Diva Guide in Italy – Susan – and I were out shopping in Tuscany recently doing hard-core research for an upcoming Antiques Diva Tour I snapped a photo of some incredibly charming, toy-like crowns in the window of an antique and vintage shop.  A month later while sorting through the photos they caught my eye again and I jotted Susan a quick email, asking her to refresh my middle-aged memory as to what these cute crowns were… alas, I fear it’s time to face the inevitable, I’m creeping into middle age and my memory has gone down the toilet!  Susan,” I wrote, What are these and Where did we find them!! I love them!” Susan’s reply had me spell-bound and I had to share with you the story that unfolded leaving me utterly intrigued. 

Susan wrote, “We found these in that little courtyard just off Via Di Fossi in Florence – this courtyard is just one of the little surprises you find in Tuscany if you know where to poke your nose.  You spied these at the very back of the long tiny narrow shop and I think you took this photo as we peered thru’ the glass and saw an Aladdin’s cave packed with curiosities. On a table lay a stack of tin crowns… they were almost full-size but not quite and they were placed far away from their owners who lingered in the corner with beady eyes staring out at us”.

This was sounding ominous… I’m often snapping photos and being yelled at after-the-fact as many a vendor in foreign locales doesn’t like you taking pictures of their inventory.  But I didn’t remember being yelled at by an Italian dealer and I usually remember the good tongue lashings.   As I read on, I discovered the crowns in-animate owners hung on strings in the back of the shop.

Susan explained, “Tucked away in the corner there hung several Sicilian Marionettes, finely chiseled faces, curved mustaches, long dark hair, plumbed hats and headdresses, though covered with dust they still possessed their arrogant and haughty air.”
 

These crowns I adored belonged to the famous Sicilian Marionettes – known as Pupil Sicilians!  And then Susan went on, enthusiastic in her reply, “But these are so much more than mere puppets! They can stand 1.20 meter in height fully (nearly 4 feet)  regaled in elaborate period costumes, finely crafted coats of arms, velvet cloaks, brocade dresses… and crowns! I know how you like the crowns, dear diva” and I could almost hear her chuckling as she typed. 

Photo from Flickr –

These puppets were not only for the story telling – they offered the people of Sicily so much more than we could imagine!  Susan explained, “When many folk were illiterate or books were only for the elite, way before the age of television, when transport was by mule or horse, little theatres would travel from town to town, re-enacting and telling historic epilogues of battles, chivalry and heroism, where honour always prevailed, stories based on local folklore and comedy, the spirit of rebellion and idealism of the Sicilian working classes of the XIX century gave honour and hope. Scenes were highly animated with wonderful theatrical effects, played vivaciously in Sicilian dialect. Typically, the marionettes and their theatre depicted medieval characters and legendary events based loosely on history. There’s Orlando (Roland), one of Charlemagne’s knights, and the Norman knights of King Roger of Sicily. And Saracens (Moors). Baroque paladins, really, since their costumes are often more reminiscent of sixteenth century decoration than medieval armour and clothes. More recently, the puppeteers adapted stories of the Sicilian aristocracy (such as “The Baroness of Carini”) to their tiny stages. As folk art, the productions are typically expressions of the popular perception of personages and events rather than faithful chronicles of history and literature. That was always the idea of this kind of entertainment. It wasn’t meant to be informative so much as inspirational”.

photo from Italy Beyond the Obvious

 “Inspirational?” I pondered, but leave it to Susan to explain before I’d even had a chance to write my query, “Inspirational in the sense that spectators might in some way compare the stories or characters to their own lives. Puppet theatre sometimes provided an innocent alternative to the passion plays of the Church. It could even be mildly revolutionary, though most themes served to idealize the nobility which controlled Sicily, reinforcing the strictures of a feudal society that existed in the countryside. While it eventually became a popular entertainment for children, it appealed to adults, too. Though with the advent of TV, computer games and other distractions, the poor ‘pupi’ have been forgotten but there are still some places where you can see them today.” 

Palmero

Utterly enchanted with my Antiques Diva Italian Guide’s tale of these Marionettes I’m having buyer’s remorse that I didn’t purchase a crown or two!  But now I’ve a new obsession – I want to go see a Sicilian Marionette Show!  Back to Susan I queried, “Where oh where can I pursue this new interest?”  And without a moment’s hesitance she responded with a Diva-Worthy List of Marionette Details:

Palermo – the capital of Sicily hosts the Museo Internazionale delle Marionette Antonio Pasqualino (the Pasqualino family are Sicilian puppeteers still active today) and the Museo Etnografico Siciliano Giuseppe Pitrè. A Sicilian puppeteer still active today is Mimmo Cuticchio, who also appeared in the film The Godfather: part III

Messina – in this Sicilian city, an active puppeteers family are the Garganos

Catania – there is a theatre, called Teatro Stabile dell’Opera dei Pupi, in the cultural centre ‘Le Ciminiere’.

Acireale – in this Sicilian town, in the Catania province, there are the Museo dell’Opera dei Pupi Mario

Grasso and the Theatre ‘Teatro dell’Opera dei Pupi’ dedicated to Emanuele Macrì

Caltagirone – this town, in the Catania province, hosts a theatre which is also a museum: Teatro-museo dei Pupi Siciliani

Randazzo – a small village on the Etna, in the province of Catania, Sicily, displays a collection of ‘pupi’ in the Museo Civico Vagliasindi.

Ciao Bella,
The Antiques Diva®
With a little help from your Italian Diva Guide, Susan P

The Arezzo Flea Market

Dear Diva Readers,

The ancient Tuscan city of Arezzo with its Roman ruins, medieval walls and renaissance architecture was home to many famed architects and artists alike – Piero della Francesca, whose murals adorn many of Italy’s great churches and Giorgio Vasari, creator of the Medici corridor that runs across the Arno – to name just two of Arezzo’s famous artisans.    Arezzo has always been a magnet for art lovers.  Susan P, my Antiques Diva & Co colleague in Italy offering Antique Shopping Tuscan Tours explains, “It’s no less so today – when the first weekend of the month the town centre is transformed into one huge flea market with over 500 vendors.

Antiques Diva Tuscan Tour Guide Susan P shopping in Arezzo

Susan advises Italian Flea Market pilgrims to browse the stalls climbing up to Piazza Grande and San Francesco at your leisure, taking time to chat with the vendors, lingering over their Italian accents.  “You’ll enjoy the cast of characters hawking their wares,” she explains with a twinkle in her eye.  The vendors love to share stories of their treasures – some of which are even true!” she adds, noting “Some stories the vendors tell have to be taken with a pinch of salt.”  But what salt it is… regardless of pedigree, the treasures in Arezzo abound – whether vintage pieces from mysterious scientific instruments to antique toys and furniture, fascinating paintings and religious relics to second-hand crockery, glass, kitchen and cooking items.  The market is filled with all varieties of silver as well as a slew of vintage and antique ceramics and yellow-paged books perfect for decorating your shelves. In short, Italian Diva Guide Susan P promises, It’s impossible to go home empty handed!”

On my last trip to Arezzo, this Little Piggy came home with me!

“Oh the things you will see,” sighs Susan P, Tuscan Antique Shopping Tour Guide

“And that’s just the Flea Market in Arezzo,” she exclaims, “There is much more to discover once you venture off the main arteries from a gallery of small antique shops, to lampshade makers and great hardware stores.”

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BOOK A SPECIAL ANTIQUES DIVA PRIVATE SHOPPING TOUR IN AREZZO! 

Email info@antiquesdiva.com for more information

Arezzo 2015 Dates:

January 3-4, 2015

January 31 – February 1, 2015

February 28 – March 1, 2015

April 4-5, 2015

May 2-3, 2015

June 6-7, 2015

July 4-5, 2015

August 1-2, 2015

September 5-6, 2015

October 3-4, 2015

October 31 – November 1, 2015

December 5-6, 2015

Ciao Bella,
The Antiques Diva®
(seen below, shopping in Tuscany)

La Dolce Diva’s 5 Favorite Things About Tuscany

Dear Diva Readers,

Today whilst I’m on holiday enjoying the Croatian Riviera for a month-long break this August, Diva Guide Susan P who leads our Antique Shopping Tours of Italy shared some Tuscan Tidbits for The Antiques Diva® & Co blog.  

When I asked her to share with me her 5 Favorite things in Tuscany, she said:

  • Exploring the dusty white unmarked roads in the heart of the summer
  • Dedicating Sundays to mooching the flea markets and salvage yards
  • The passion and dedication to food, the kitchen and cooking.  The importance of togetherness at the table
  • The olive harvest and going to the mill
  • The effortless way in which modern and old is juxtaposed

What are your favorite things about Tuscany?

The Antiques Diva®

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The Antiques Diva & Co offers custom planned Antiques Buying Tours for tourists and trade professionals. Whether you’re looking to buy one specific piece or wanting to fill an entire container, our personal shopping antique buying guides share their vast knowledge of secret sources to take you to all the right places.

The Antiques Diva & Co is a LAPADA Approved Service Provider 

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The Antiques Diva & Co is the Official Tour Guide of Paul Bert Serpette at The Paris Flea Market

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