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Attention shoppers--Italy and Provence

Old Aug 15th, 2003, 06:33 AM
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jmv
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Attention shoppers--Italy and Provence

I'm helping a friend plan a trip to Italy and Provence. She's asked me what's the best things to buy where she's going and since I'm not much of a shopper, I thought I'd best ask for help before advising her on this one. She'll be in Lake Como area, Santa Margherita/Portofino, Provence/Gordes, Cassis, and French Riviera near Nice/St. Paul. Anything special she should be looking for? Thanks for your help.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 06:56 AM
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Provence is known for lavender (in sachets, perfume, soap etc.), soap and provencal fabric (best known name Souleido) which is made into table cloths, place mats, totes, skirts etc. Many of these products are now readily available in the U.S, though, if you live in a major metro area. Even some of the provencal china I used to buy there is now sold here. The best idea IMO is wine which is MUCH less expensive there. One of my favorite brands is Domaine Ott which has champagne and a good rose wine. It is expensive here. Also packaged food stuffs like herbs de provence for cooking, olive oil, olives etc. Any of these things can be bought at a regular supermarket.

There is a Galleries Lafayette dept store in Nice if she's interested.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 07:00 AM
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I just remembered dried flower arrangements are another typical provencal item but not easy to pack!
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 07:26 AM
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We bought a table cloth at market in Arles as it appeared to be treated somehow to make it indestructible. It is! I wish I'd bought more as gifts (will next trip!)
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 07:36 AM
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I bought some (made in Provence) from the "French Country"catalog. There is an 800 number ask for it. Maybe someone else will post the number.
Olive oil from both places will be less expensive than here.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:35 AM
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The catalog is French Country Living. I love it and bought some of the Provincial pottery in it that I just couldn't carry back-it is more expensive but no outrageous. I also found some great table clothes at the Arles market-they are cotton and more sublte than the bold patterns on some of them-one word of advice-dryclean them since one of mine faded even in cold, delicate. Also, we purchased a traditional French nativity scene with clay santons about 2 inches high. There is a store in Arle right off the main square with tons to select from but I saw them all over Provence. We also brought olive oil and wine back at way cheaper than home.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:58 AM
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Neither my wife nor I are big shoppers, but we had a great time at the Cours Saleya, the flower market, in Nice. The Cours Saleya has to be the mother of all flower and spice markets. Great piles of aromatic, colorful herbs and spices are heaped on the tables, along with buckets of flowers. There is also an antiques market one day, I think, a week. A local snack food, socca, which is sort of a chick pea based pizza, is also worth trying. The streets leading to it are filled with discount shops with stacks of provencal fabrics, napkins, tiles, etc. The latter aren't top quality, but they're decent and the prices are great. We bought napkins and tiles, along with herbs. Cours Saleya is marked on maps and is in the old city.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 09:14 AM
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Thanks everyone. I appreciate the suggestions and will pass them on to my friend. More still welcome.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 01:54 PM
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From Provence, agree with Olive Oil, pottery (I bought a fantastic handmade bowl at the Gordes weekly market), wine, and tablecloths (although I've noticed that some vendors have been jacking up their prices and sacrificing quality -- be sure to look around).

For Italy, my boss spends a month every summer around Lake Como and always gets clothing, jackets and purses there.
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Old Aug 15th, 2003, 08:53 PM
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Como is the capital of silk! There are dozens of stores and outlets in the center of town near the lake with outlets that have bargain bins with scarves, ties, etc at incredible prices.
ties can go for $7 up with quality you will find at most US department stores.
Watch out for the dates on olive oil.
It should be fresh. Probably not the best choice to haul home, but balsamic vinegar that is aged over 20 years is worth the haul, but shop before you go.
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 05:34 AM
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Good point on shopping before you go. Helps to know whether you're getting a deal--or not. Thanks again for all the helpful suggestions. I love the market in Gordes but am content to just look at all the beautiful color. Glad it's also good for shopping.
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Old Aug 16th, 2003, 07:47 PM
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There is beautiful faience made in Moustiers-Ste-Marie, in the Provencal Alps. Wonderful little village; worth a day trip.

Also, re Provencal fabrics: Souleiado is
probably best known (Pierre Deux here in USA)and also most expensive. I like Les Olivades, also found in almost every town (inc. Paris); slightly less expensive, and it
launders beautifully. Some of my table linens are 10 yrs old and still look great. And the treated fabrics, mentioned above, or "impermeables", as they call them, are super for casual use--just wipe off to clean them.
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Old Aug 17th, 2003, 04:58 AM
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Right about the wipeable tablecloths from Souleaido. Don't ever dry clean them or you'll ruin the fabric coating.

The cheap fabrics are not worth buying because they contain too much polyester, which holds spots & stains.
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