Sunday, January 8, 2012

La Feria Antiqueria

It was a cold, damp, grey day here in Arezzo - it felt just like Seattle!  Also just like Seattle, the bad weather fell on a weekend.  This is too bad because this weekend, as on the first weekend of every month, the center of town and the Piazza Grande are taken over by La Feria Antiqueria.  This is the largest antique fair in Italy and one of the biggest in Europe.  With over 200 antique dealers from around the continent, it’s become a world-renowned event.  As a collector of anything antique or historical - furniture, art, old keys, tools, ceramics, books, corkscrews, watches – anything, you’d be in heaven.

You never know what you’ll find.  Every month we wander through the fair looking at all the stuff for sale with no intention of buying anything. This time though we found these two small glasses for our evening vin santo (a sweet dessert wine).  Having the proper glass for this post-dinner treat makes it all the more delicious!

The fair was started in 1968 by Ivan Bruschi, a local antique dealer and collector.  He started out in the business at his parent’s antique shop in Florence when he was 15. His home in Arezzo was his shop as well as a showcase for his very eclectic collection – ranging from the prehistoric to the early 1900’s. After his death a few years ago, his home was turned into a museum, which we visited with our school recently.  The collection covers 3 floors and is truly amazing.  One could spend days in there examining everything.  The website  displays some of the collection.  It's a bit challenging to navigate but it’s worth the effort just to sample some of the stuff.

One of the coolest pieces we saw was a wooden vote counter (unfortunately they wouldn’t let us take pictures).  At first no one in our group could figure out what it was, but when it was explained to us we were all amazed and impressed by its simple ingenuity.  It’s a hand-held device made from wood with one opening at the top and two compartments below.  Picture a large tin can on its side with two longer, more narrow containers (roughly the size and shape of a Pringles can) affixed to the back side of the can.  You stick your hand in the opening at the top and inside you find it divides into the two longer compartments.  Depending on whom you’re voting for you drop a pebble into one side or the other. With your hand hidden from view you are assured the privacy of your vote.  When everyone has voted the two parts are taken off (they unscrew) and the pebbles are counted.  The one with the most pebbles wins.  You probably had to open your hand before you voted to show that you only had one pebble.  They wouldn’t have wanted anyone to fix an election, right?  Hmmm!

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