I’ve been thinking about the highlights of my time in Tuscany and have concluded that it would be impossible to pick a singular favorite thing. The places and experiences that were amazing, magical, awe-inspiring, and memorable are just too numerous. If I was forced to pick one, though, our excursion to shop at a flea market in the walled city of Lucca would have to be a contender.
First of all, the city itself was impressive. It is similar to Barga, with its narrow streets, richly colored buildings, light-filled piazzas, but the scale is so much larger. While Barga is quaint and slow, Lucca is energetic and lively. And the intact Rennaisance-era wall, that is so thick it now accommodates a walking/bike path on top, is a magnificent to see.
Permits are required for cars to enter the city (to control the traffic on the slender, pedestrian-dominated streets), so our bus driver dropped us off just outside the main gate.
Lucca grabs your attention immediately with beautiful architecture painted in varying shades of yellows, creams, peaches, pinks, and beige. Some are saturated and warm while others are faded, but they all seem to coordinate, making Lucca very photogenic.
Bikes, one of the primary modes of transportation within the walls, are leaned against almost every building, waiting until their owners are on the move again.
While the streets and buildings delight, what got my heart beating faster was the site of vendors setting up their spaces. The flea market in Lucca, which is the 2nd oldest in all of Italy, takes place the third weekend of each month and, my fellow antique lovers, this is an event worth planning your trip around.
After feeling slightly disappointed with the high-end prices of the Paris flea market, I didn’t know what to expect from Lucca. Dana, our trip planner, assured me I wouldn’t be dissatisfied and she was right. There were a variety of vendors from those with pristine European antiques with appropriately high price tags to those with bargain bins and prices that were so low; it was almost torture to someone who was limited by available space in a suitcase.
There were plenty of “smalls,” though, that would travel nicely.
I loved picking through the stacks of linens.
One vendor had hemp sheets that were dyed in delicious blues and grays…
I carried out my plan with furniture. I stole away a minute with each piece I loved, took a picture, and then walked away. I wished I had the connections or logistical genius to make it possible to get a few pieces home, though!
I especially loved these cornices and even came back to them a few times, wondering if I could take a couple of them to a post office and ship them home.
And this rustic shelf had me sighing…
The color and those pegs!
I seriously thought about shipping that one, too. I had saved a nice amount for shopping and planned to ship something if I absolutely had to have it. But as much as I loved these pieces, there are many businesses that import European antiques, so I know I can find things like this in the US, even if they are few and far between.
Since I couldn’t take it home, I think I might try to make one!
Anyway, here are some other furniture pieces I admired…
These French chairs were child-sized!!
And, I had to laugh… all flea markets have the “tube sock guy” and the one in Lucca was no exception!
Once my bags were weighed down with purchases, I started paying more attention to the city. We walked a little slower, and I took more pictures of the buildings.
We sat down at a cafe to have a simple lunch, but it was the need to rest and escape the heat that drew us to the table more than hunger. The sandwiches were great, though!
Grabbing a table at a cafe is also the only way one can gain access to a public restroom!
After a leisurely lunch, we explored the city a bit more.
Dana showed us a circular piazza that was a Roman Amphitheatre dating back to 3 BC.
The city was built up around the amphitheater, but you can still see portions of it incorporated into the walls of the “new” structures.
In addition to the shopping the flea market offered, stores lined the streets selling anything and everything – clothing, kitchen wares, art supplies, books, antiques…
There was even an entire shop dedicated to truffles. I had to walk past that one quickly because I could hardly handle the thick aroma wafting out of the open door!
And, of course, there were leather goods. About every other shop sold leather, but we walked ten minutes through the streets to find a family-run business Dana has purchased from over the years – Officina Della Pelle. They offer same-day monogram services on all purchases, and when you buy from them, you know you’re buying local Italian leather pieces. Just about all of our group had leather on their shopping list, so a large portion of our group took over the store right when they opened. I wanted to hit the flea market first, so I went to the store later in the day…
I was planning on purchasing leather in Florence, but their leather was irresistible. I also liked the fact that I was supporting a family-run business, I knew that the leather wasn’t made in China and it was, indeed, actually genuine leather. I had been warned about imitation and imported leather sold in Florence to tourists.
One of the brothers who owns the business was monogramming the dozens of pieces our group purchased in the morning. He was literally sweating and stopped briefly only to show me the developing blisters on his hands from all of the work. He smiled about it, though, and couldn’t hide the fact that he was thrilled about all of the orders.
I am a bit of a leather snob and a bag junkie, so this place was a slice of heaven for me.
Not only did they have purses, briefcases, and wallets, but they had hand-bound notebooks, pencil rolls and cases, and other leather pouches that are perfectly suited for art supplies.
It was hard to focus and not grab every bag I loved and could find a use for, but I showed some self-control and only bought a few things that were on my list.
In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share all of the goodies I bought at the flea market and in the shops in Lucca…