Many people come to Arezzo to witness the beauty of Piero della Francesca’s frescoes or to see the birthplace of poet Petrarch or Vasari, the Medici architect. Some people revisit the places in Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, which was filmed here, while others come for the medieval joust, which pits rival neighborhoods of the small city against each other twice a year.
In my opinion, the best time to visit is when the Fiera dell’Antiquariato comes to town. For almost 50 years now, on the first Sunday of every month and the Saturday preceding it, close to 400 antique dealers line the streets and piazzas of the historic center with their stands, collectibles, charm and personality. Everybody steps out to enjoy the aria di festa and take part in the celebration of art, design and commerce.
Paola de Juliis, a bubbly ambassador for the city, with access to unique homes, ateliers and workshops off the beaten path, never misses a Fiera. ‘It’s a chance to exchange ideas, to see old friends and make new ones, to see the city in a new light and rediscover its intricacies.’ Her current favorite pieces are two bronze Canova lions from a Florentine villa that were cast in the very same mold that the sculptor used in the late 1700s.
The range of objects is vast: dressers and cabinets from the 1400s, old doors, clothing, bijoux, jewelry, china, books, prints, musical instruments, scientific tools, antique linens, artwork. Several vendors specialize in post-war modern design pieces—there’s always a range of wild and whimsical designer light fixtures. Local, high-quality artisans are permitted to sell their contemporary handicrafts at the Fiera, too.
The history of Fiera dell’Antiquariato is closely linked to one singular Aretine individual, Ivan Bruschi. A passionate and eclectic collector as well as devoted citizen and antiques dealer with a shop in piazza San Francesco, Ivan imagined a fair similar to the Portobello Road antiques market in London he so enjoyed. The first session of the fair took place on June 2, 1968; in his lifetime, the fair grew from a small gathering of specialists to a large, international celebration. Ivan Bruschi died in 1996 and left the fair, the shop and his stunning home-museum directly across from the Pieve on the Corso Italia to the Banca Etruria. Today, the fair is governed by a group of advisors from Arezzo city council. The Casa Museo Ivan Bruschi and Ivan’s antique gallery, meanwhile, have been lusciously renovated by the Banca Etruria and are now managed by Lucio Misuri.
The Florentine and The Tuscan Times have a unique connection with the Casa Museo Ivan Bruschi: director Lucio has allowed us to host our monthly meetings of The Tuscan Times Book Club there, bringing vivacity and good conversation back to this unique and elegant with its eclectic collection.
‘The Book Club is the perfect activity for the Casa Museo—this is not a dry museum, it’s a place of dialogue and ideas, we offer thematic visits for both adults and children, we welcome people who want to learn as well as expert antiquarians.’ Lucio has three favorite pieces in the museum collection: a bust of San Giovannino from 1490 and two small jewelry coffers inlaid with ivory and wood and carved in Italy around 1450, judging from the couple’s clothing and their gallant pose.