Guide to European Flea Markets: What & How to Buy?
Many heard about benefits from buying on European flea markets and those magical treasures that may be discovered there, but a few really know where the best flea markets can be found and how they should be explored. That is why we have decided to make a photo report on one of the sweet flea markets located in sunny Italy and share a few tips on making purchases there.
Once a month almost every self-respecting Italian town organizes Mercato Antico, Mercadillo Antoquariato or Mercarino Antico, i.e. a flea or antique market. It is most commonly practiced on Sundays – on the first, second, third or last Sunday of every month. Each community has its own schedule and nuances, so you’d better check the timetable in advance.
Antique markets of Italian provinces would win your heart immediately with their genuine charm. Prices are very adequate and sellers are pleasingly welcoming, friendly and very flexible in respect of pricing.
On the day of the event the main street or central square of the town turns into an incredibly happening spot. Starting at 5 o’clock in the morning the trucks, pickups and trailers of dozens of sellers converge at the location, where they place their tables and unpack their antiquities. First visitors arrive at approximately 9 o’clock. Here you’re more likely to run into tourists, but the locals are also fond of visiting such events.
While tourists are more interested in small-size and lightweight pieces of art, interior and household items that can be easily taken away, local people can take interest in an antique dining suite, a gorgeous cupboard of the 18th century or even an immense old cast-iron stove.
Trade won’t stop till the sun sets, in the finest traditions of markets: buyers are underbidding, while emotional Italian sellers are telling incredible legends about their goods, holding up for a higher price. Potential sellers would leave to come back later and finally reach a compromise. After purchase you may get some small gift for free, a kiss and a warm hug, and it will seem like you’re saying goodbye to an old good friend.
Bulky items are usually displayed in a special spot, under a light mobile awning (depending on the weather). Here you may find antique wardrobes, chests of drawers, marble fireplace surrounds, beds, arm-chairs, chests, tables and chairs. Small-size things are most commonly arranged on folding tables or right on the ground.
So, what treasures can be found here? Actually, anything from an antique headboard made in the 16th century and brought from a Venetian palace to a luxurious dressing table, silver cutlery, small jewelry boxes and vintage costume jewelry. The most impressive is the variety of furniture and truly old pieces of interior décor. Here you may find amazing antique doors, marble fireplace surrounds, handmade tiles, gorgeous mirrors in golden frames, arm-chairs, sofas, cupboards and wardrobes, chairs and tables.
If art is what makes you tick, your attention will be caught by works of infamous Italian artists in luxurious frames and versatile marble sculptures. There is a wide range of pieces of arts, crafts and furniture related to absolutely different styles and historical periods – various old frames, crystal chandeliers of 18th-19th centuries and lamps from 1950-1970s, nightstands, coffee tables and chests of drawers painted in the second half of the 18th century, French console tables in style of Louis XIV, Gothic dark carved furniture from the 15-16th centuries, tapestries and Persian rugs.
Sometimes you may come across rare items that can be hardly pictured in a modern household: for instance, a barber’s chair of 1930s, a dentist chair, a slot machine, a metal infant bathtub or church items. On the other hand, there are thousands of small household items that would look absolutely great in a contemporary interior: Limoges and Wedgewood porcelain, silver and silver-plated cutlery and tableware, jugs, tray, sugar bowls and serving plates.
If you’re searching for an original gift, a European flea market is probably the best destination for such hunting. An English marine spyglass labeled “1915”, a retro-style radio receiver or a gramophone with an impressive horn can impress most demanding men. While a Limoges porcelain jewelry box, a fairy-tale hand mirror or an exquisite bronze candlestick with an angel would please any woman.
Here you can also find things made by local craftsmen: metal letters, paintings and household items. For them such a market is a perfect place for finding new customers, while buyers get a nice chance to learn more about local traditions and crafts.