Adventures in Ascoli Piceno – Vintage finds for Villa Veneto

Every third weekend of the month there is the antique fair in the main Piazza of Ascoli Piceno.

I love the antique markets in Italy, but I don’t get to go as often as I’d like to, weekends always seem to be so busy.

This month however, I was determined to go. I needed to start browsing for our next project, Villa Veneto.  I had it all planned out, be on the road by 12.30 and home again around 6pm, just as the light is fading. I don’t know if it’s an age thing, but I find it more and more difficult to drive in the dark.  I crawl along like an old granny, nose pressed against the windscreen, blinded by those dreadful neon headlights.

I asked my friend Eddie if she wanted to come along too, she loves to see what I’m buying but always makes a hasty retreat when I start my negotiation with the stall holder! I also wanted her to take some photos and video footage, she’s becoming quite the professional.

We set off at 1.45pm, not a great start, but there wasn’t too much traffic around, the Italians were all still eating. Ascoli Piceno is a great place, but I have never entered or exited the same way.  

Those of you who have read my previous blogs are familiar with my sense of direction, it’s not great, well, none existent really, but this time I really thought I had cracked it.  After a slight detour, I parked in a resident only space, where we were politely asked to leave and directed to another car park by a lovely man and his dog. When someone kindly gives me directions, I repeat them back, thank them and head off. Then something strange happens, I make the first turning, no problem and then my mind goes blank, was it left or right at the church, straight across at the traffic lights? We never found the carpark but as we were heading along the one way system for the second time, Eddie spotted a free parking space on a small side street.  I impressed myself by doing the perfect parallel parking and without the help of a friendly local holding up the traffic and guiding me in. This scenario always brings me out in a cold sweat.

We headed straight for Piazza Popolo, with its impressive architecture and travertine floors, one of the most impressive towns in Le Marche and the perfect place to browse antiques.

We stopped off at Café Meletti for a light lunch and a glass of wine. The weather was warm, and we sat outside….. a wonderful place to people watch and check out the stalls from a distance.

I noticed some interesting pieces of furniture and we quickly paid the bill and headed straight for a pair of liberty period chairs. I had bought a few pieces from this trader before and he always has a great eclectic mix of furniture.  On closer inspection, the chairs were just what I was looking for, elegant comfy and velvet, with nice button detailing on the back. A couple of liberty glass wall lights also caught my eye. They were in great condition and would be perfect in one of Villa Veneto’s bathrooms, either side of a mirror.  A small circular wooden table was hidden at the back of the stall. It was the ideal size to place between the two velvet chairs in the entrance hall.

I arranged for Fabrizio to deliver the furniture the following week and we set off again to explore the other stalls.

I lose all sense of time while strolling round antique markets. I have learnt over the years to scan each stall, look a little closer and then dive in, checking to see if the mirrors are bevelled, turning chairs upside down to see if the seat is falling out underneath and counting the crystal drops on the chandeliers.

I saw a beautiful wall clock laying on a table. The stall holder was extremely enthusiastic about its chime but didn’t seem to be able to find the key to wind it up.  I told him I would return in half an hour to check it out. I found a beautiful sideboard with ornate detailing, and although I tried to convince myself this piece could work in the dining room, I knew in my heart it was too big and heavy to work in this elegant Villa.

We headed back to hear the clock chime. To my surprise, it was all packed up and ready to go. I looked a little puzzled, but he assured me everything was good. I told him I wasn’t going to buy it until I heard it chime. He unwrapped it and fumbled around with the key….. it didn’t fit, he tried to force it. Obviously, it wasn’t the right key.  I thanked him and moved along to the next stall.

A lovely liberty style lamp wearing a hideous shade was looking at me, I moved closer. Although quite old it was in good condition and had nice dimensions.  I work with a local artisan who makes wonderful lampshades in every size, shape and colour and knew he could make something more in keeping with the base. It was very heavy, so I paid for it and arranged to collect it later.

I spotted a couple of small chairs, covered in a sickly yellow, aged fabric, but the shape and the slender black legs were interesting. They both needed a little TLC and recovering but would be ideal to place in a couple of the bedrooms. I knew just the person to reupholster them. I have worked with Fabrizio for years, recovering chairs, sofas and headboards of all different shapes and sizes.  I bought the chairs and suddenly realised unless someone had kindly hitched up a trailer to my car, I couldn’t buy anything else, we were full.

We set off to find the car, balancing chairs, mirrors and lamps between us. Time had flown by and it was now dark, not a problem I confidently announced to Eddie, I remember the way home.  We set off along the one-way system and saw the green road sign for the A14. A slightly longer route, but almost in a straight line.  

We chatted away in the car, happy with our purchases and adding more to the wish list. We drove on for about twenty minutes, we were still in the centre of Ascoli, which we must have circled several times.  I assured Eddie we would behome soon. I can’t really explain what happened next, one minute we were in a busy town and then we were literally in the middle of nowhere. I must have found a short, cross country route.  Up and up we went, Eddie looked a little worried, the sat nav had given up and we didn’t have a phone signal. It was pitch black, not a flicker of light to be seen, or any other vehicles on the road. We bounced off the tarmac onto a white gravel road and still we were going up.  Eddie looked a little pale, maybe it was altitude sickness, I opened the window, but it didn’t seem to help. I was trying to play it cool, but I did get a little worried when I saw a signpost for Rome.

To cut a very long car journey short we arrived home two hours later than we should have.

Another adventure over and we had a car full of treasures for Villa Veneto. We were ready for a glass of wine.

Please contact Dawn for more information on Villa Veneto and their special pre-launch price. /


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