buying souviners and art

Mar 2nd, 2015, 07:11 PM
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buying souviners and art

Hi everyone!

Planning my trip to Paris, Venice, Florence, Positano and Rome. Just was wondering whether anyone had any tips for me on where to buy cheap local art (paintings, masks, vases, etc.). Anything specific I should know?

Also, is it true that many places will ship wine/balsamic vinegar home for you? Is there a large fee for this?
meaganc is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2015, 07:54 PM
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You are not going to an area of Italy where high quality balsamic vinegar made according to traditional standards is produced. I would be extremely wary of anyone in Venice, Florence or Rome telling you it is the real stuff and they will ship it for you. Excellent balsamic vinegar comes from Modena, and it is simply a fact of Italian culture that local producers guard their treasures very jealously. Many people travel great distances to Modena to taste and buy the quality goods, and only small amounts are made. So the reputation in Modena depends on having the best kept in Modena.

Otherwise, you will be surrounded by an overload of cheap ceramics, masks and paintings in the places in Italy you are visiting. If you want quality hand crafted items, they won't be cheap in price.
sandralist is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2015, 09:24 PM
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If you're on the Amalfi Coast, Vietro Sul Mare is the place for ceramics - it's on the southern end of the coastal drive, close to Salerno.
Blueeyedcod is offline  
Mar 2nd, 2015, 09:45 PM
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"Cheap art" is an oxymoron. You get what you pay for, and the good stuff is expensive. My wife is a glass artist. for example, and when people are shocked at what her pieces sell for I have to tell them how long it took to make the piece and explain it takes between 500 and 600 hours in a kiln to fuse and anneal a big work.

You can sometimes do well, however at flea markets and auction houses like Drouot in Paris.
nukesafe is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 01:42 AM
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Real balsamic vinegar is also very expensive. The stores that sell it near where I live keep it locked up. Unless you're rolling in cash, you couldn't buy enough of it to make it worth shipping.

If you want the stuff called balsamic vinegar in most stores, you can get it anywhere, including outside of Italy. You can also get the real balsamic vinegar outside of Italy from specialist importers.
bvlenci is online now  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 03:08 AM
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If you find good quality balsamic vinegar here is a great list of recipes from a producer I buy from.
nochblad is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 03:25 AM
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Buy it at home. Or buy a tiny bottle of the REALLY good stuff and bring it with you.
Art is art--if you see something you like at a price you like, buy it and enjoy it.
Gretchen is online now  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 03:38 AM
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I agree that the value of art is not determined by its price, one way or the other. I have seen some very expensive stuff in galleries that I'd be reluctant to call art.
sandralist is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 03:43 AM
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If you are tempted to buy a tiny of bottle of true, traditionally made balsamic vinegar, then I suggest you look for it in Florence or Rome at a very, very reliable vendor that you've identified ahead of time through research. But I still don't recommend doing it. A lot of the tiny bottles I see marketed are really just a tourist item of no particular quality, and you still don't get any closer to tasting what an amazing thing the (expensive) real deal is.
sandralist is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 04:10 AM
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If you want souvenir art, you should probably focus on works on paper: drawings, water colors, prints of various types. Both modern and antique items are available at affordable prices.

If it matters to you, if you want something other than a decorative piece, watch out for printed "prints" and the newer "giclees". "Giclee" means "ink jet printer".
Ackislander is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 05:12 AM
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You'll find "artists" near many major sites. Often they will (dishonestly) represent prints as "originals" or limited. (Near the Castel Saint' Angelo a person selling prints even pretended to be painting them.) Nevertheless, if they appeal to you, who cares?! I have many prints, etc. from my travels and treasure them for the memory and/or look, not the dollar value.
Bitter is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 06:38 AM
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""Giclee" means "ink jet printer"."

too funny.
Bitter is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 07:04 AM
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>>>Also, is it true that many places will ship wine/balsamic vinegar home for you?<<<

If you are from the US, you first have to check your state alcohol laws as some states don't allow alcohol to be shipped.

Real balsamic vinegar is available all over, but is expensive. Like wines, there are labels/seals designating what you are buying. You don't just have to go to to Modena (although you would have more choice there) to get it as you will find it distributed in most of the cities on your list if you look. Here's an article explaining what to look for on the bottles.

>>>If you want souvenir art, you should probably focus on works on paper: drawings, water colors, prints of various types.<<<<

Printers are so good these days and allow so many kinds of papers, that many of the street art watercolors are actually just copies. Look closely if that concerns you.
kybourbon is online now  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 10:11 AM
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I think you will be stunned at the cost to ship.

One suggestion for a souvenir would be silk scarves. Weigh nothing and take no space in luggage.
Dayle is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 11:13 AM
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In terms of buying local art - only buy what you like and want to put on your walls. Assume it has no intrinsic value and that it will never appreciate in price - but is just something that you like looking at and a reminder of your trip.

We frequently buy "art" often water colors from sidewalk artists, photos or similar and hang on the walls at home where we enjoy looking at them. Another good place to buy things is local or government sponsored crafts co-ops. We have some very nice seriagraphs that we bought in a co-op in Copenhagen - at very reasonable prices. We never buy "art" in "galleries" - since unless you spend a very significant amount what you are buying is the same as what you get on the street but "galleries" will charge much higher prices.

If you are serious collectors - of course ignore the above - but it sounds like you are putting the art in the souvenir category.
nytraveler is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 11:13 AM
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I repeat my advice that you are more likely to be making an expensive mistake to buy what is sold as balsamic vinegar in other regions of Italy. I have a very strong suspicions that people who tell you that you can buy it anywhere have never been to Modena and doesn't know the difference. It is very narrrowly true that local products such as wine and vinegar and what have you get exported or sold in places far from the point of origin. People have seen them on shelves and proably have even bought them. If you know your vendor, you might get a quality product. But while I realize it is hard for people to accept that Italy does not have the same system of "money can buy you anything, and the more you pay, the better it will be" -- but it doesn't work that way. If you want to understand why the great balasamic vinegar of Italy is great you need to go to where it is great. That is Modena. The same is true for many prized wines of great value (the value being more than monetary).

I also reacted to the term "cheap art", but the truth is, when I reconsidered, that not all talented people are in a position to command a great price for their painting or glassmaking, and it is possible to buy work of talent and insight for not much money. Also, how many hours someone whole apsires to art spends creating something is unimportant to its value as art. Many of the greatest artists have dashed off paintings and now they sell for bazillions. I see much in th souvenir shops I would not call art, but I also see much that is not laborious "craft" that is not art either because art is not craft. (Or else a photo couldn't be art, could it?) Perhaps you'll make your own disocoveries.
sandralist is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 12:10 PM
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I think your outlook and advice on buying art vs. souvenirs is very well balanced and insightful, nytraveler. Well said!
nukesafe is offline  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 01:35 PM
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I read that Beyond the Olive article. It explains the whole process of making the authentic traditional balsamic vinegar, and states that 100 ml of an 18-year-aged traditional balsamic would cost about $183. Then you click on the link balsamic vinegar, and there is nothing like that for sale on their pages. People who didn't read the whole article carefully would get the impression that these "chocolate" "balsamic vinegars" for $15 are the real thing.

Anyway, you can see from the article that $183 will buy you a bottle of the real thing so small that you could put it in a zip-lock bag and carry it in your hand luggage. If you can afford two of them, let your husband carry on the second one. Don't risk shipping them!
bvlenci is online now  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 01:39 PM
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There was an article in the New Yorker a few years ago about a town in China were they specialize in producing original paintings of scenes in Europe to be sold to tourists in the piazzas. They have schools that teach young people, mostly women, how to paint. Each person is given a painting to copy, over and over. No two are exactly alike, so in a sense they're all authentic originals. The painters didn't know the names of the places they were painting, not even the country the scenes were in.
bvlenci is online now  
Mar 3rd, 2015, 02:34 PM
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They may not be your style, they are expensive, and you must make sure they are the ones made in Italy, but the painted trays you find in Florence are beautiful. They are very light, some kind of wood. I have two huge ones that I bought nearly 40 years ago. They have been used and abused, had liquid spills and much scrubbing, and still look remarkably good without a single chip.

Florentine paper stationary is beautiful also.

If you go to S.G, there is a nice art co-op with work by local artists.

In the AC area, you can find lovely inlaid wooden boxes. They are hand made in a small factory in Sorrento.

Cameos are popular there also, but I do not know much about them.

DH used to always look for silk ties and leather belts in Sorrento and Venice.
Sassafrass is online now  

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