Fleas are bilingual

So the last Sunday of the month here in Florence is reserved for the big antiques flea market. Staged over several blocks surrounding the Piazza del Ciompi, hundreds of vendors set up with acres of, well, stuff.

Davis and I took a wander over and had a blissful time poking and prodding the merchandise that ranged from old tools, mid-century furniture dreck, vintage linens (some with spectacular hand embroidery,) odd lots of silver, jewelry, vintage bags and shoes (read : "rid hard and put up wet,") "advertising" art (pages torn out of old magazines) and some...but very few...lovely prints. I particularly enjoyed one stall selling vintage fur collars and cuffs (like a particularly lovely Tiffany blue set I should have bought to finish Bethy's sweater, but oh, well.)

We were struck by similarities here and at home seen at these sorts of swop meets. First, the vendors share a certain quality of bored, cynical disinterest. They've seen it all, been everywhere and know buyers are greedy, stupid or crooked. Stall proprietors seem, more often than not, likely to sit, bundled up in coats and fingerless gloves low behind their tables smoking, peering over the top of a newspaper at the fondling masses. Waiting for interest or attempts at theft.

Buyers seem to fall into several camps, the astute, the effete and the clueless. (Where I count myself, incidentally, particularly as one attempting to bargain with little Italian especially with numbers...)

Despite the inevitable seediness of it all, observing a culture through its cast offs and collectibles is fascinating. And worth doing.

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