TO MARKET, TO MARKET....ANTIQUE MARKETS IN ITALY

During the first weekend of each month, treasure seekers pack up in their cars and head out to the markets around various parts of Italy. Key areas to note are Tuscany and Umbria. As could be said for both the regions regarding their wines, they have something different, yet wonderful, to offer.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting both the Arezzo and Pissignano market. Luckily, due to popularity, Arezzo has expanded their market in recent years from the first Sunday of the month to include the first Saturday, as well. So on Saturday, we went!

The Arezzo market is really the market for any market-lover. Fabric? Check. Antique furniture? Check. Handcrafted jewelry? Check. Paintings? Check (more than you can even count!). I have to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed, but after a glass of wine and a piadini from a local restaurant, I calmed right down and could focus on all that the stalls/shops had to offer.

Here are a few tips on visiting the Arezzo market:

  • Come early! Parking is bear, but there is a free parking lot with escalators to the top (Arezzo lays upon the top of a hill). The free lot is on Via Pietri.
  • Bring trunk space. This is the kind of place that you may find a piece of art that you just have to ship home, so come prepared.
  • Wear your walking shoes. There are 500+ stalls in this market that span throughout the town. To see everything, you will want to walk...and walk...and walk some more.
  • Take a few moments to appreciate the town. Arezzo is a town steeped in history with incredible churches and architecture. If you aren't looking to leave with a souvenir, there is still a strong chance that you can enjoy the site-seeing within the town!

Next up was the Pissignano market. This was a completely different feel! I was a little bit spoiled after Arezzo, especially considering that their market happened in the Piazza Grande. After an incredibly scenic ride through the mountains of Umbria, we rolled up to the Pissignano market parking lot. Luckily, we beat the crowds and plenty of space was available. Also, since this was not held on the town streets, there was no requirement to pay for parking.

Pissignano was a completely different ballgame. The walkways were sand (now mud, due to the rain the night before) and the stalls were all along a man made path that ran parallel to the city street. These stalls were either tents or makeshift tables, and the vendors toted wares that looked more like yard sale items. To clarify, I am not knocking this market! Pissignano had a different focus and audience, and I would say that my expectation was a little different since I had visited Arezzo the day before.

Here are my tips for attending the Pissignano market:

  • Take your time through the stalls, since they have smaller items and you may find treasures among busy and cluttered tables.
  • Dress casually. I dressed up, thinking there would be restaurants and places to site-see. There are stalls selling 'porchetta' sandwiches and a few restaurants along the way, but this is not in the center of a town. I would suggest dressing as you would for a yard sale or a flea market.
  • Bargain with the vendors. Since these are not typically tied to stores, there may be more flexibility with the prices, so try and haggle!
  • Again, wear your walking shoes. This is not as expansive as Arezzo, but it is quite a hike to get to and from the main parking lot to the end of the stalls. Be prepared to walk and carry items back to the car.
  • Bring cash...just like with any outdoor market, most vendors won't take cards.

These are just two markets in Italy, but there are many more! I hope that these tips can help you prepare for any of the markets that pop up. The most important thing to note is that timing is everything. Make sure that you verify the dates of each market and get there early enough to beat the crowds!