Antique Markets in Umbria
One thing I love about Italy generally, and Umbria specifically, is its profusion of markets. There’s nothing I love more than flipping through old postcards for affectionate musings, or unfolding linen see if handmade lacy treasures lie beneath. For those with a penchant for pondering the age of antiques, or even those interested in the downright bizarre, Umbria’s markets are a veritable treasure trove. Old or unusual things just don’t seem to hold the same value as they do in the United Kingdom, so don’t be surprised to find – amidst the bric-a-brac – a real bargain.
During my last visit, I decided to drag myself from sleep on a Sunday morning – and at 8AM no less – to make the drive to Città di Castello. Umbria’s most northerly city lies some 50 miles from Casa Rosa, and takes just over an hour to reach by car. It promises an enormous selection of stalls packed with second-hand finds when you get there. Weekly markets are held every Thursday and Saturday, but the huge flea market (called Fiera del Riggattiere) is held on the third Sunday of every month. It is open between the hours of 8am and 8pm (even I was late arriving at 9:30!), but it’s best to get there early for the spoils – and to avoid the midday heat.
From glass and ceramics to puppets and postcards, you’ll find just about everything here. There are stalls selling old farming equipment, others spilling over with linen, and some selling jewellery that’s travelled from all corners of the globe. Battered suitcases and shoes; vintage toys and trinkets; paintings and photographs; you’ll need a few hours here just to make a survey of the setup. My personal highlight was a hand-painted, miniature theatre: replete with little puppets donning removable Venetian masks, hand-sewed clothes and shoes, it had a stage curtain and myriad backdrops. The stall-holder told me he had found it in an attic. Neither of us could be certain when it had been made and played with in its heyday – but it was clear the theatre had seen at least 65 years in the dark. Rough around the edges but a truly beautiful thing, I asked the price with a gulp. Only £25.00. I now sit writing with a sigh, as I didn’t buy the theatre. I was already laden with too many goodies.
If you need a refuel after all that browsing, there are a handful of little cafès where you can stop for a panino and espresso mid-morning. When you’re back on your feet, taxidermy ferrets and deer feet, an old prosthetic leg made of metal and a number of handmade religious artefacts are just some of the more unusual finds to expect. One particularly interesting thing to look out for are the anatomical ex-votos, or votive offerings. Usually made from pewter or silver-coated copper, these little wall hangings take the form of a body part – anything from a leg or heart to the lungs and lips – and were popular in the 19th century in both Italy and France. Given to offer thanks for grace received, or offered as a plea for recovery, they’d be hung on the walls of a church or person’s home, to remind others of the grace of God. Corresponding to the body part suffering from illness or accident, they’re just one example of Umbria’s variety of fascinating antique finds.
Most things are reasonably priced, but there’s always the option of shaving a fraction off the tag if you think it’s a little too expensive. Don’t be surprised if a stall-holder refuses your request, however: haggling at markets isn’t a given in Italy! Happy hunting.
Guide to Umbrian Markets
- Amelia – Last Sunday of the month behind the Roman wall.
- Assisi – Every second Sunday of the month in Santa Maria degli Angeli.
- Bastia Umbra – Every Sunday before the 21st of March, June, September and December, in Piazza Mazzini.
- Castiglione del Lago – The third Saturday of the month, from April to September, in Piazza Gramsci.
- Città di Castello – The third Sunday of the month in Piazza Matteotti, town centre.
- Foligno – Every second Saturday of the month in the town centre.
- Gubbio –The third Sunday of the month in the town’s main piazza.
- Marsciano – The first Saturday of the month, in the old town.
- Narni – The third Saturday of the month in Piazza dei Priori
- Orvieto – Every second Saturday and Sunday of the month in the old town.
- Perugia – Last Saturday and Sunday of the month in Piazza Italia, the old town (during the summer months) or Rocca
- Paolina, mini-metro station car park (during the winter months).
- Pissignano – The first Sunday of the month, in the old town, Via Flammina.
- Spoleto – Every second Sunday of the month in the historical centre.
- Terni – Every second Saturday and Sunday of the month, at Largo Ottaviani, near Piazza Dalmatia.
- Todi – Every second Sunday of the month in Piazza Comunale. There is a larger market held during the last week in March.
- Trevi – Last Sunday of the month in Piazza Mazzini, town centre.