Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vintage gifts in Rome and the countryside

What was  Christmas shopping like in Rome 30+ years ago?

 As part of  the Italy blogging round table about gifts, I  offer  a  look at  gift giving in Italy in the past and how we can recapture the spirit of "olde Italy"  today.

 Take a walk down memory lane with  this, my first article published on the English language press in Italy, for  which I received   15,000 lire, a princely sum in those days.

The theme of this vintage article: how to save money by  investing  in intelligent gifts, rather than just   mindless spending, is still valid.  In fact nowadays it is fashionable  to be thrifty.  

 Useful,  practical gifts are happily received   and many shops in Rome and other cities are  promoting  this type of  holiday gift-giving by issuing  gift certificates.

Food products and cooking classes  make excellent  practical gifts. 
Speaking of   food...what better  gift than a few litres of  this year's extra virgin biological olive oil from one of the small, independent producers or cooperatives in the  Vetralla area.  

Lighting of  the Christmas tree 
Here are some photos  taken today (Dec. 10th )  at the Olive Oil Festival here in Vetralla.     

 This year several stands are selling another speciality of  the area : chocolate in its many shapes and forms  

delicious chocolates made in Vetralla

liqueurs include limoncello 

Antica Latteria production

plants and handicrafts, Il Cerchio

 Ask  your friends  who produce olive oil   if they have any new oil  for sale. 

While  in Vetralla  stop by  Libri di Natura, the only  shop  still open in the historic center, near the Duomo,  for  stocking stuffers , period  prints especially  those  featuring animals  and   birds, as well as  hand made  jewelery and antique  glass.
silverware  from the past

vintage coffee makers and potato mashers

angels for Christmas

Who remembers using these  ink pens?  I do...
During the Olive Oil Festival (this weekend Dec  10-11) )  several bancarelle and artisans shops offer handmade and vintage items.   Just a few euro and lots of nostalgia.  
bell tower of San Silvestro,Rome

waiting for  passengers in Piazza di Spagna
 It was sad to see that  almost every one of the  places mentioned in the 1978 Christmas shopping  article has disappeared.

Taking a stroll to Piazza S. Silvestro I learned that the huge Remainders bookshop  closed about six months ago. 

Thankfully  the Anglo-American bookshop  is   nearby on  Via della Vite   and  still flourishing. 
Besides the usual books in English  about Rome, they carry  Etruria Editions  latest  publications.

To re-live the atmosphere of   vintage Christmas shopping stroll through the centro storico and  enjoy the Christmas lights and crowds.

The large malls and shopping centers  are to be  avoided  and preference given to  independent,  local shops.

Spanish Steps-high profile shopping area
angel  via del Babuino 
The prices in Rome's  touristy Spanish Steps area (also  known as the English Ghetto) have  always been  above most budgets.  

   Budget antiques can still be found  in  Vignanello near Viterbo where country auctions draw dealers and collectors from all over  central Italy.

 The specialists source antique  furniture and art objects here then resell them  in their   High Street  antiques  shops.  
   You can check the catalogue online to see if there is anything that interests you  or special  people on your  gift list.

general view   Eurantico 
Murano  glass 
kitsch ceramics 


 Remember that  old saying --- one (wo)man's junk is another's treasure?     Next door  to the auction center   is a non-descript doorway  leading into a series of tiny rooms filled with shelves and boxes of  old books, magazines  and knick knacks.  

If you have time to browse and don't mind getting your hands  dirty  you might find a gem...maybe  one that will make someone very happy at Christmas.
books  at  bargain prices

Irish guidebook 1953 - 2 euro
Mussolini  glass  1940 -  30 euro
 Mario among his books and knick knacks

P.S. I came back  with  4 books (spending 8 euro in all), including
  a perfect  first edition of  "A Time in Rome" by E.Bowen


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Grazie, un servizio stupendo!!!

    (owners of Eurantico auction house)

  3. How right you are Mary Jane to suggest that cooking classes make a wonderful Christmas gift!
    Flavor of Italy's cooking classes are completely hands on and we prepare a great variety of dishes. We decide on what to make along with the client's input. Everything we prepare uses fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. Our cooking school is reachable by Rome's public transportation system.
    For those who haven't booked elsewhere, we also have a bed and breakfast, and 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, which are spacious and charming. We have a lovely pool, a wood-burning pizza oven and fabulous views of rolling hills, reminiscent of Tuscany. At the same time, the Vatican can be seen from our property and all of Rome's marvelous sites are at your fingertips to visit each day should you choose to leave the peace and beauty of Flavor of Italy during the day.
    We suggest that our guests rent a car to get around and fully explore all that the Lazio region has to offer.

  4. To think I still use those items that are considered vintage. The Napolitana coffee maker and the potato mashers (more a potato ricer) are my favourite items in the kitchen.