Saturday, February 23, 2013

Antiques are for Poor People Too

If you  like the TV show “A Caccia di  Tesori”  (Treasure Hunters) where "pickers" Frank and Mike  dig through old houses and  barns  searching for  antique objects  which they in turn sell for a profit, then this week story is for you.  Share with your friends who are collectors, especially those planning a trip to Italy.

1940s bedroom ensemble and chandelier 
Back in the  70s and 80s  the  Viterbo area was  the perfect hunting ground for  dealers and private collectors, especially young couples  trying  to furnish a  first apartment  with  taste but little cash.

This is an article written back in  1980  in which I gave tips on where  to discover inexpensive  antique furnishings in the Rome area.

It is still true for  the numerous second hand markets, restauratori, raccogliatori  and rigattieri   along the Via Cassia between Rome and Viterbo  are  the living proof. 

There is a large market  in Capranica, another  at the entrance  to Vetralla  and several others in Viterbo. (Coming next-San Pietro Restauro in Viterbo)
which  Singer  sings to you ? 
lovely wood cabinet, price tag 100 euro 

 “During the week the local people  bring us  stuff they clean out from their cantinas and  attics, then on the weekends  the romani arrive  to  buy.“explained the manager of one shop. 

Its  a win-win  situation for  them:   50% of the selling price,  the original owners who supply the merchandise   are happy to eliminate surplus  furnishings and the out of town buyers are delighted to have sourced  original  antique pieces, often to be restored. 

The century-old  bedsteads and wardrobes  fly out of the shop  allowing  the young owners (previously unemployed) a pretty good living. 

1930s vanity table 

On my most recent visit I noted some gold-rimmed dinner plates bearing the mark of the Richard Ginori factory which  had  just closed  after 300 years: 3 euro each bought me a piece of history.  

Hanging  out of reach was this carved, gilded  19th century mirror  with original mercury backing: a great buy at 15 euro.

old repairs on the back of the mirror 

new home  next to fresco by Valerio  Cugia and  icons 
After  the dust and grime  of decades was removed it now has a place of honor on the library mantle. 

The large warehouse is chock full of carved wooden bed frames, wardrobes and  nightstands  as well as old Singer sewing machines, classical chests of drawers and good solid tables  not found at Ikea. 
solid table  going for  100 euro 

 There are shelves full of tiny objects  much sought after  by  travelers, old records, typewriters and fridges from the 50s.
 Frank and Mike  would love this place.

Feel free to share with friends (click one of the icons below) and to subscribe  by leaving your email at the very bottom of the page. 
Comments (commenti anche in italiano), questions, suggestions  are welcome. Looking for something specific?  


  1. When driving through Sutri, make a stop at Sarah Bannister's beautiful shop

  2. This is a great alternative to constantly seeing museums and historic sites...
    can you include methods (in addition to driving) on how to get to these locations? train, the dreaded bus, ....
    thank you

  3. You might be interested in the Antiques articles on my website too ...check them out.

  4. Lee, the dreaded bus from Rome Saxa Rubra makes stops all along the Cassia, right in front of Sarah's shop in Sutri, and next to the Soffitta della Nonna in Vetralla.A car is best so you can buy and bring things back with you. Get together a few friends to rent a car and make it worthwhile.

  5. Mary this is perfect timing. My mum is coming for a visit and is intent on decorating my house. I have no designing skills, but she does and she wants to hunt for antiques. I have no idea where to go. Thanks for this! Sarah May

  6. Hi, the writer is the manager of the flea market La Soffitta Della Nonna of Vetralla. Ringraziola Mrs. Mary Jane for the beautiful article that he has spent. You can visit us every day except Tuesday from 10.30. Our store is located on the main street and therefore very easy to find. The closure is at 19.00.

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