Sunday, December 2, 2012

Money Saving Christmas Shopping in Italy

Fighting off the commercialism  of Christmas is easy  in small town Italy where the buzz words have always been  handmade, local and  thrifty. 
We are mailing out signed copies of our books  daily  to be sure they arrive in time for the holidays. You can save on postage costs to USA by  ordering  a copy of Etruria-travel, history and itineraries  together with a copy of Olio e Ricordi in Cucina.  Order directly through my website.  

Here in the hill towns of Etruria,  an hour north of Rome along the Via Cassia,  the atmosphere is light years away from the frenzy of  commercial malls and big city mega stories.

With the olive harvest just finished, these first weeks of  December  are dedicated  to celebrating the new  extra virgin olive oil. 
In restaurants and homes, bruschetta doused with the new oil is offered and  in former churches, cantinas, piazzas and tiny artisans’ workshops  there are  markets and exhibits of  objects created by local artisans.  

Anna Meloni crafts  macrame jewlery 
elegant pieces  by Marisa 
Diana Biscaioli 's  designer objects in felt
In the past 24 hours we visited the first of  these  artisans’ shows. As Christmas nears several others will be happening on weekends  in Viterbo and surrounding towns.   felt vase covers 
 If you know of other Christmas fairs and artisans'  exhibits  in  other  parts of Italy, please tell us about them in a  comment at the end of this article

Yesterday we drove to the next town,Capranica, just as the Christmas lights were being  turned on, creating  a holiday atmosphere for  the craft show in the ancient church of San Francesco. 
view of Capranica  historic center
Overlooked  by the 15th century double Anguillara funerary monument, were  tables  full of   locally produced crafts in wool,  felt, ceramic, wood and sculpted  stone.

Anguillara  double funerary monument 

elegant  cradle and table 
Daniela Andreotti's ceramics 
Roberto Ceccarini of Artepetra 
The excellent prices are a further  benefit of buying locally and directly from the artisans themselves. 

With little or no overhead, the crafts people can offer hand painted cushions at 10-20 euro, ceramics and paintings at 5 to 20 euro, hand fashioned jewelery  and key chains  starting from  5 euros.   

Besides  olive oil, the area is also famous  for  hazelnuts and derived products, samples of which were offered  at the stands of    local farmers' cooperatives.   Christmas baskets  of  gourmet food   are an intelligent gift to suit anyone on your gift list.
hard to find apples

From Caprarola, crafts and edibles

crafted leather  earrings and pendants 

fashion accessories by Laura 

Antiques  and vintage objects  are  often  found in these pre-Christmas  markets.

 I found a vintage straw-work box from Russia (10  euro) to add to my collection of boxes. 

Fiorella  came from Canino  with antique boxes  and knick knacks  
Copper, glass and  other  knick knacks  as well as  decorated furniture, vintage clothing, bags, books and jewelery beckon  from various shop fronts along the main street of Vetralla. Next weekend (Dec 8-9)  the fair  will be repeated. 
Daniela Carnevali's floral compositions 

Cristina's vintage  clothing

There are always surprises during these weekend festivals: a group of parents had set up a bake sale  in the town hall to benefit their kids'  school. We happily purchased a crostata, biscotti and  cakes  wrapped in cellophane. 

Piazza S. Egidio, Vetralla 

Copper  pieces, La Fenice of Fiorella Tassoni

Simona & Simona crafting Christmas ornaments
Another  unexpected  vision was this vintage fridge topped by an antique map of New England. 

What better way to  keep warm than hand knitted wool and mohair  caps, gloves and  scarves like these found next to   wood and ceramic crafts made by members of the same family.  

Iria's wool caps 

wooden owls  



  1. Thanks for the tips, good article and ideas.

  2. Lovely post with some great gift ideas.

  3. Thanks Pete, Paolo and Anon. for your comments. Awaiting some input from readers about Christmas artisans' fairs in this and other parts of Italy.

  4. Wonderful that you are publicizing the artisans. I always love the big Rocca Paolina Christmas fair in Perugia.

  5. This looks like so much fun. I love poking around the little towns like Caprarola and Capranica and picking through markets (before a good lunch). Was in Caprarola last spring but now it seems long ago.

    I posted a story about the day on my blog:

  6. Thanks Elizabeth ..when is the Perugia Christmas Fair?

  7. Thank you Judith, loved your post on Caprarola.

  8. Fabulous post. Just wish we were there to take advantage of it.

  9. Hi Mary Jane, I've written about a few other Christmas markets and artisanal fairs in Lazio on my blog here:

    Always good to spread the word about these things :)

  10. Very interesting post Mary Jane. Bitter oranges are called Seville oranges in England too, although the ones in your photographs aren't the same as the ones I know that have a lot of pith and thick peel for making traditional English marmelade. They have hardly any actual fruit, just lots of pips. I'll try your recipe for oranges on bruschetta, it sound delicious. Christina