The first friend I made upon arriving to Germany, B, will be leaving this summer, off on another adventure. She’s been doing a lot of traveling this past year, squeezing as much traveling into her time left here (seems to be a pretty common occurrence with people). B has been a great friend, for many reasons, one of which is her travel advice. She has also introduced me to several different shopping opportunities that I’m not sure I would have discovered on my own. The Homburg Fleamarket and most recently, pottery shopping in Italy.
B had a desire to go to a region in Italy know for it’s pottery. Since the local travel agency didn’t have anything slated as far as tours went, she decided she’d plan her own trip. And since, a single car couldn’t fit her friends that wanted to go too, she went a step further and chartered a tour bus, then proceeded to fill it with other – shopping minded – women, for a crazy 48 hour shopping excursion. The plan was pretty simple, save money by leaving Friday night, arriving in Nove at 6:00am on Saturday, shop until we dropped, dinner in a neighboring town, then drive home Saturday night, returning early Sunday morning. Simple, right?
Everything went according to plan, until we were just outside of Stuttgart. The entire autobahn was a parking lot. Soon, word spread between the truck-drivers (and to our bus drivers) that there had been a fatality car accident (please drive careful!!!).
It took us over two hours to be detoured off of the highway. Back roads and another detour pushed our arrival time back even further. I believe we ended up in Nove sometime around 9:00 am (memory fades, and it could have been closer to 10:00). B was on top of things, and had rescheduled and notified the shops of changes to our schedule. In the end, I believe we only ended up missing one, or possibly two, shops that we had originally been scheduled to visit.
One perk to our delay was driving through Austria as the sun was rising. I wasn’t sitting in a position in the bus that made it possible to take photos, but let me just say the scenery was breathtaking. Snow capped Alps, low grey clouds hugging the highest peaks, timbered villages and buildings. I can’t wait to go back and visit that country in earnest. As we descended into northern Italy, the green of the Alps gave way to golden fields, sun bleached valleys that hid castle ruins, and a turquoise river meandering past towns and villages. Italy, at least the part that we were in, reminded me so much of northern California – just older, and richer in history.
So, while I was happy just to see new places and check off a few more countries, we were women with a mission. Before I get into the details of each of our stops, I need to point out that some of the shops don’t allow photography in the stores or factories. Several of the places we stopped at are suppliers for places like Tiffany, Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Williams-Sonoma, etc., which is one of the reason to go shopping here, you are buying direct from the supplier at a cost much lower than retail. Unlike Germany, many stores do accept Visa and Mastercard, though, not all did. And, if you were paying with cash, more often than not, you received a discount, up to 10%. For me, personally, I had a budget of 200€ for the entire trip, to include food. I stayed under budget and didn’t feel limited at all in my purchasing ability. Let me add that I didn’t set out to purchase a whole new table setting (though several on our excursion did). I was searching for items that were indicative to the area and some deals that were just too good to pass up.
Our first stop – and the only one on this tour that didn’t allow photography – was Elios.
Elios ceramiche had a showroom on the first floor, with more of a warehouse on the top floor. Here I picked up a plater and cake stand. Though I can’t recall the exact price now, I know it was less than 30€ for both pieces (roughly $40). Elios had a selection of items that were very much to my liking (Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn styles), but not knowing what to expect, I was pacing myself. If I do every return here, I will save more of my budget for Elios.
Larry SKG Ceramiche was the next stop. The items here were not in my taste. If given enough notice, this shop will make custom plaques and tiles for you. I heard it was very popular to have a family name or address tiles created. I didn’t spend much time here. Since we had parked between two locations, and there was rumor of a coffee shop close by, I made my way up the road a bit to the next stop; but not before stopping quickly in the road for a shot of some poppies.
Ancora was another favorite of mine. Initial I walked passed it… well, I walked past the man that was telling me to enter his shop, because further up the road I had seen this building (below). Upon arrival, I soon realized that “crazy Italian” was really trying to get me to the correct store, not trying to usurp his competition. (There is no Ancora website, though, there are several business listings through various websites.)
The owner was very hospitable to our group. Here I picked up one of the items the region is known for, the chicken pitcher. The story goes that a field of chickens woke up a prominent family during the night, alerting them to approaching assassins that a rival family had sent. The chickens were celebrated and commemorated with chicken pitchers. They come is all sorts of sizes and colors, decorated simply or elaborately. This one now watches over our dinning room. Soon, these two hand-painted plates will also adorn my dinning room wall.
One of the things I enjoyed about our stop at Ancora was the encouragement I received to explore the factory. The owner told me they had been in business since 1946 and had recently downsized to the smaller location due to a decrease in demand that followed the creation of the European Union (EU) and the Euro currency.
Next door to Ancora, I stopped in the small cafe to grab a cup of coffee and some pastries to bring home to the kids. I also, briefly, assisted in an emergency when two cyclists were hit by a car (go-go 1st aid training!). Once I saw that someone who spoke Italian knew to keep the injured man on the ground (out of danger), and immobile, I left the growing group and watched from a distance. There was nothing I could do, not knowing any Italian and I didn’t want to be in the way; an ambulance arrive at the scene soon after I left it. Both cyclists appeared to be ok (the first walked away from the accident with a few scratches, the second had some minor wounds to his face/mouth, but was coherent the entire time). By the time we left the shop, the accident had been cleared up. Ancora had been an exciting stop.
Devis Ceramiche was our next stop. It took us a bit to find, as the sign was obscured by a gate, but eventually we pulled in and were again, warmly greeted by one of the owners. The ceramics here were beautiful, just not my taste. Though, there were many who were re-boarding the bus with packages in hand.
Bottega del Ceramista was our second-to-last stop for ceramics. We were dropped off in the parking lot here, then the bus met us less than a block away at our final ceramic destination. I enjoyed Bottega del Ceramista a lot. There were many items here I could have happily walked away with. It’s a good thing I was committed to my cash only budget or I may have overspent. A lot of the pieces here were more contemporary or modern, though there were still a lot of the traditional Italian ceramics, as you can see from the photo below.
To give you an idea for the scale, I am just under 6′ tall, here, the top two shelves were above my head. At Bottega I purchased a small disk with a painting of the town on it, and the poppy painted roof tile, another one of the items the region is known for (seen below in the really bad quicky phone photo).
V.B.C La Ceramica was by far, the largest of the factories we visited. V.B.C. is the place to go if you want to purchases entire place settings. They had a large selection, supplying many high-end/popular retailers. I saw several woman from our tour leaving with boxes of dishes. This was certainly the place to do it. Here, I purchased a bowl set, something for our family to use for popcorn and snacks. I just chose bowls, but there were full place settings in this style and colors.
My last purchase was this tray. Aside from it’s large selection, V.B.C. is also known for it’s letter tiles – where you can make custom signs – many people create their family name; and for mosaic pieces. Now, they’re not actual mosaics (broken tile and grouted) – they’re formed pieces and then hand painted. They had a variety of tiles, pitchers, platers, bowls. I liked this platter (17″ x 12″) because it reminded me of Van Gogh’s sunflower paintings. It works nicely on a credenza with Starry Night hanging above on the wall. V.B.C. was another fun place to explore. I poked around the first floor of the building where the shopping take place (on the second floor). I also discovered another building that was set up as a showroom, though I couldn’t enter, the shutters were open and I leaned in to snap some photos of the large rooms filled with beautiful pieces of ceramic.
When I was done exploring Ancora I wandered a up the street. I didn’t have much time though as we would soon be departing for one more stop. This time, not for pottery, but for purses, at Francesco Biasia in Dueville. I wish I had had just a bit more money because shopping at the manufacturer made purchasing these high end items a steal. There were many women leaving with 1, 2, 3… I think I even saw someone leaving with 5 new purses/bags; and at the prices, it really would have been very easy to do. As it was, I really couldn’t justify another purse, and was quite content with my other purchases. I didn’t take any photos at Biasia. I looked around for a bit, but spent most of the time on the bus, trying to rest up for our dinner stop at Marostica.