thrifting in tuscany

Marian ParsonsAll Things Home, Antiques37 Comments

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!

thrifting in tuscany

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37 Comments on “thrifting in tuscany”

  1. “Sigh” just reading the beginning and knowing you were going in a thrift store, in Italy had my heart racing ….how exciting. All your finds sound fabulous.

  2. That’s called hitting the jackpot for less than $100! Lovely finds! And wonderful souvenirs! Thanks for letting us continue to savor your fantastic trip!

  3. That picture of all the ladies peering in the closed thrift store is classic! Well, thankfully the owner showed up just in the knick of time and it looks like you scored some great finds. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that there would be thrift/consignment stores in Tuscany.

  4. I agree to the above comment, sigh….I can understand the excitement by all those ladies peering in the window. Thank God for thrift stores all over the world!

  5. Hi, love the pic of everyone peering into the shop and your treasures. I am going in December to Florence. What town was the thrift store located in? I would love to find an olive sack. I can’t believe you got the 2 paintings in their frames in your suitcase!!! Haha!! You guys had such a great memorable time!

    1. I was able to fit the paintings in my laptop bag! I even fit a small ironstone tureen in there (I haven’t shared that, yet.)

      The shop was near Barga, so it’s probably about 2 hours from Florence.

    1. Hi Susan,

      I had that issue a while back as well and it really slowed down the page loads for me here on my country speed internet.

      So I downloaded a free add blocker & now I enjoy Miss Mustard Seed without distractions!

      1. Would you share the name of the free ad blocker, please??? The adds are overwhelming even on my suburban-speed internet.

  6. Not sure I understand all the thrifty shopping, guess I am not into old things unless they were handed down from my family…

  7. Oh! Marian! Those antique linens are just beautiful! So happy you found them! Have a great weekend! Blessings!

    1. Add sine kosher salt to the soaking solution. The secret is to walk away. I think you already know that!

  8. What a great story! I’m sure the shop owner was as surprised with the mass entrance, as you all were to find these gorgeous treasures in a thrift store! I’ll have to tuck this bit of information away if I ever go to Italy!

  9. I like your new profile photo ! Hair style is great for you!
    Thick coarse hair here.. Should have all the advantages but is sometimes a battle
    The stop at the thrift was great fun!

  10. Souvenirs from the thrift store are the only ones I like any more. I’m ruined for retail! So many fun items from thrift stores while on vacation: a huge brass Morrocan tray from a VA Goodwill, vintage watering can also from VA. vintage cranberry glass etched 1894 from Mackinac Island, fantastic antique scale from a horrific W VA thrift store. What’s worse, I’ll buy someone else’s souvenir from my local thrift store if I like it! That wonderful mug I have from Rome, the beaded lizard from Mexico, a hand-painted Greek tile, several pieces of original beach art….all someone else’s cast off souvenirs at my local thrift store.

  11. What wonderful finds! I just loved all your finds Marian, especially the paintings. These thrift store finds are truely the best sort of souvenir. I have cornishware salt & pepper shakers, a antique Dundee Marmalade jar & a darling vintage French coffee pot found similarly at various travel destinations. They so beautifully remind me of those special places each time I see them. I’m sure your finds will do the same for you. Thank you so much for sharing this.

  12. Lucky you ! they are beautiful did you ever come to cape cod last year as I swear it was you in our shop ! gatherings on 6a in Dennis ?

    thanks Marion

  13. Love love love! There’s something about our travel treasures, isn’t there?! There’s a wall in my living room with a large shell and I can see it daily … a leaf from hawaii, plate from Greece, hand-painted mug from El Salvador and many print, watercolors, and sketches from other places. My memory of Italy reminds me our yours! It’s a print in an old frame I bought at a garage sale around the corner, but it looked like the small towns we went thru. I also pick up a scarf during each trip, finding myself saying thruoughout the days I wear it, “I got this in Ephesus”, etc. 🤗
    So glad you had this time and the memories love on in the treasures you have surrounded yourself with!

  14. What great finds!!!!, I’m sure the thrill of the hunt is ten times as exciting in Tuscany!!!, so glad they left you a grain sack!!!!

  15. What lovely paintings! You will be reminded of your adventure in Europe every time you look at them.

  16. Just as I had decided I cant spend money on Italy next year, you come along with a great story and I start running the numbers once again! Have been thinking I should travel by ship and it would give me hold space for treasures! Thanks for sharing your travels.

  17. One of my favorite finds was while on a tour bus through Italy. We stopped at a gas station for fuel and there was a little store attached selling used things. I bought an old alarm clock that had birds painted on the face for 10 euros. I love it and every time I see it it think of that trip. I prefer shopping in thrift stores and flea markets for my souveniers! The thrill of the hunt and finding that unique thing that was previously loved by someone else really does it for me!

  18. What fun to thrift in Italy!! I love to seek out thrift shops, flea markets and antique malls when traveling. Provides a whole new setting for the “hunt”.

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