"A" is for Arezzo and Antiques

Antiques don’t particularly excite me, yet I love the Arezzo Antiques Fair. I planned this trip around a visit to the Antiques Fair, even though it meant shaking off jetlag and jumping out of bed early on my first full day in Italy.

Arezzo is a small city in Tuscany about an hour north of Benano. On any regular day, it’s a lovely place to visit. On the first Sunday of every month and the preceding Saturday, however, this otherwise quiet little burg hosts a sprawling antiques market and bustles with activity. Hundreds of vendors come from all over the country, and many thousands of people, many with dogs on leashes or babies in strollers, come to buy — or just look. The city is jammed with booths and tables, and the crowds can be thick. Paradoxically, the mood is chill.

This was my third visit to the fair and my first time by train. The direct, albeit not nonstop, train from Orvieto made it a wonderfully easy and relaxing trip. Even better, the Arezzo train station is a very short walk from the town’s main piazza. I can’t imagine ever deciding to drive again.

My chosen schedule reflected my eagerness for the fair, and I was lucky that  Olga was game to go along with my “the early bird gets the worm” madness. Not only did we get to the Orvieto station with plenty of time to enjoy a cappuccino before our 7:20 train, but we got to Arezzo even before many of the vendors were ready for business.

But it was a bright and brilliant spring morning and I was back in Italy! So I suggested we do what I always do when there’s time to kill in Italy: go check out a church. We opted for the Cathedral of St. Donato because it’s at the top of the town and abuts a lovely, quiet park with a knockout view of the fresh and verdant countryside.

Beyond the church and park, though, antiques are the name of the game. Vendors stand near their tables, piled high with their wares, and engage lookers with the same  friendliness as they do serious shoppers. They are happy to educate the lookers, and mamma mia, did we look! We looked at linens, coins, furs, jewelry, maps, paintings, things worn around the necks of livestock (my Italian failed me on this description), wrought iron accessories, intricately carved boxes, and furniture.

Oh, the funiture! There were upholstered pieces, lots of armoires, table and chairs, dressers, and nightstands. The styles ranged from rustic–even primitive–to ornate and refined. There was outdoor furniture and indoor furniture. There was furniture I loved and furniture I hated. It was mind-boggling.

Although I didn’t know I needed it until I saw it, I found the perfect bucket for the hearth in Benano. The kindly and laconic vendor suggested a price and, when I didn’t nibble, explained that it was from the late 1700’s and came from the Veneto region of Italy, where it had belonged to a noble family. As I looked it over, he pointed out the evidence that it had hung over a fire and showed us that it had been hammered by hand. When he suggested a price that included a “first sale of the day” discount, I could resist no more. Isn’t it pretty?