On our way home from lunch at a local vineyard, Dana asked if we would like to stop by a thrift store to do a bit of shopping. Was this even a valid question to ask of a bus full of antique lovers?
The answer, of course, was an enthusiastic yes.
Our bus pulled up to the thrift store, Ti Riruso Mercantino, a little after 3:00 in the afternoon, which was well-planned timing since the shop opened at 3:00. Or, it was supposed to.
When we arrived, the doors were locked, the lights were off, and the place was empty. Dana and a few women hopped off the bus to check it out. The gate to the lower level of the shop was also locked and any efforts to get in touch with the shop owner were fruitless.
More women got out of the bus, which was increasingly stuffy sitting in the afternoon sun, and peered through the windows. A couple even debated climbing over the gate to see if the proprietress was in the lower level and perhaps lost track of time.
Let me tell you, it was hilarious watching all of these women glue themselves to the glass, willing the shop to open.
Before breaking and entering was brought up as an extreme yet plausible solution, a woman pulled up to the shop in a small car. She looked bewildered at the herd of shoppers waiting to get into the store and left her car parked crooked across two spaces, keys in the ignition. She scurried to door to unlock it and then moved out of the way as we flowed into the store like a river just released from the confines of a dam.
The issue created when a large group of women who have similar styles shop together became evident almost immediately as the small space was filled with frenetic energy along with all of the used furniture and accessories. We were going to go for the same things. One woman snagged a large wooden dough bowl (actually an olive bowl) that was clearly hand-chiseled and wore a rich patina for only €65 (about $77) and all of the women in close proximity sighed with disappointment.
Another group of women huddled around a stack of olive sacks priced at €8/each, picking out their favorites. Realizing I was missing the boat on the olive sacks, I called out, “If there’s one left, save it for me!”
As we spread out through the store, though, the atmosphere relaxed. I think there was a collective realization that there was enough good stuff to go around and we were all limited by what we could carry in our suitcases, anyway. AND we were going to a flea market the next day, so we couldn’t fill up all of our free space in one shop.
I spent time digging through the stacks of linens. There were shelves filled with vintage and antique hemp and linen sheets. Some were plain and worn and others were monogrammed and embroidered and in crisp condition. It was hard for us to believe that these were just their “thrift-store-worthy” old sheets and linens. But, they were.
I ended up getting an antique linen pillowcase that was monogrammed and had a pretty crocheted edge.
It’s a standard sized pillowcase, but it looks charming used on a small throw pillow with the extra fabric folded over.
I also bought a monogrammed linen sheet with crocheted trim. The linen is so soft and worn that it feels like flannel.
And I did end up with an olive sack with pale blue stripes…
I’ll use it for a sewing project when the right one comes along. It was pretty stained, but I soaked it in OxiClean and that removed the worst of the stains. There are still some faint ones and the blue ink ran in a few places, but that’s just a part of its character and history.
On the corner, there are stitched letters and a number which identify the farm and the crop lot.
And, I also found two original oil paintings…
The frames are dirty and dated, so I’m going to replace them, but the paintings are treasures. They are very impressionistic and loose and I like that they capture scenes from Italy (assumingly).
As a bonus, we learned that anything that had been in the store for more than three months (noted on the tags) would be discounted 30%. I ended up getting the pillowcase, linen sheet, olive sack, and two vintage original oil paintings for €68.
Everyone bought something and we patiently waited in the long line as the overwhelmed shopkeeper checked us out one by one. We hugged our finds close…textiles, an enamel lunch pail, copper pots and trays, a linen nightdress, Italian crystal chandeliers (one was only €6), and I think the wooden dough/olive bowl was held with particular intensity.
We knew as we filed back onto the bus, that we were completely crazy for being so excited to shop at a foreign thrift store. We were picking through the unwanted and discarded with the kind of enthusiasm that is typically reserved for Black Friday. Some things had been languishing in that shop for a long time (the pillowcase I bought had been there for over 2 years), but they now had a fresh and eager audience.
Many orphaned belongings found a home where they will be enjoyed and cherished as unique souvenirs from our time spent in Tuscany.
And I’m sure the shop owner had a banner day!