Treasure Hunting at Italy's Premier Antiques Fair

Lisa Hix and Hunter Oatman-Stanford of Collectors Weekly went to Mercanteinfiera in Parma. It’s the largest antique fair in Italy, a country where antiques for sale can be several hundred years old. Over a thousand vendors filled the 45,000 square meter market space, selling goods with classic names like Murano glass, Fiat race cars, Fornasetti porcelain, and even reliquaries containing pieces of saints.   

For first-time attendees, the fair’s crucial first two days can be a bit of a shock. “It’s like the Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan,” explained Iacopo Napoli, one of Mercanteinfiera’s project managers. “People wake up early in order to be there first, in order to grab the best pieces.” And grab they do, which is why Clark Haines believes serious buyers need a savvy local at their side, like her Diva Guides.

“In Italy, to get a good price, you have to have a conversation forever,” Clark Haines says. “As an American, when I want a price, I say, ‘How much is it? Will you take a better price?’ Deal done. That’s it—three seconds. But that’s not how you get the best price in Italy. For an Italian, before you even ask how much it is, you ask eight other questions about the piece. You’ve talked about the history, you know where it came from, you know what it does. You’ve talked about the vendor, where the vendor’s from, what the vendor had for dinner, what the vendor’s sister ate for dinner, is eating tomorrow for dinner, and then you discuss the price. It’s all about the conversation.”

Take a virtual tour of Mercanteinfiera and see plenty of pictures at Collectors Weekly.

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