Monday, April 29, 2013

The Annual International Handicrafts Fair in Florence Italy

The Mostra Internazionale dell'Artigianato at the Fortezza di Basso is an annual week long fair running since 1931 with the aim of showcasing local artisans as well as others from all over the world. Why am I blogging about this event?  Well, I'm excited to tell you that I WAS THERE, last week as part of my vacation in Florence, Italy.

It takes place in several buildings at the Expo Center in Florence.  The first small building we came across was filled with local food products from the region.  We sampled cheese and wine but ended up buying chocolate to bring home.  

Formerly a fortress, one of its ancient rooms was filled with recycled art, clothing, jewelry, and home decor.

But the main event takes place in the Spandolini Pavilion.  The entry level featured arts and crafts primarily from Italy though we found a few artisans from other parts of Europe as well.  As is typical, there were several jewelers, but with very unique designs.  I bought a leather band for my motorcycle riding husband from Eggskinlab. Her style is much different from leather crafters I've seen locally and she works almost exclusively with black leather.

                                                       Bethany & Eva trying on funky hats.

I don't know why I thought steampunk was primarily a US thing.  I was surprised to see "A Casa de Momma" jewelry and this fabulous steampunk belt/corset. 

 Jazz Steampunk has an Etsy shop and was there from the Netherlands.  But Kizzy's jewelry was very close in style to Jansjems.  She spoke very little English and but when I handed her my card she laughed and said "no copy" very clearly.  I didn't bother to tell her that my work is already pretty similar.

There were several Italian ceramicists represented and found that most painted in the styles you can find all over Florence and the Tuscan region.  But the work done by the brothers from Caltagirone, Italy, was different, antique looking, and so much more special.  I had no intention of bringing home any ceramics.  I put Spanish ceramics in my carry-on after a trip to Spain and worried the whole way that it would break.  But my daughter who was there for a couple of days bought me a lovely smaller piece as a gift.

This was a huge space so we were very surprised to find that there was yet a lower level.  Downstairs was set up much like a bazaar. The floor was broken up into quarters--French, African, Indian, and Asian.  The Asian part was pretty much set up like the gem shows I attend with table after table of gemstones and pearls.  The French offered lace and fabric.  

And yet, there was an upper level dedicated entirely to food--Asian, Italian, Indian--packaged or cooked to order. To give you some idea about the size of this event,  I found out that this floor was almost 20000 sq.' and it was smaller than the other 2 levels.  Fortunately there were sitting areas spread around and the furniture was pretty interesting and made of recycled cardboard.

In addition to all of this, there were other smaller buildings here (think the Big E grounds) that had events like cooking demos.  There was also a puppet theater, a food court, and the ubiquitous gelatto stand. 


  1. WOW!!...That seems like a place you could spend days of fun at and never put in dent in your 'looking' time! :-)) By the way, I love the hats and your vase! :-) Thanks for sharing!

  2. What an amazing festival! Thank you so much for sharing!

  3. Yes, Deb, there's lots to see. That's why it's there for 8 days. We never got to the smaller buildings but what we saw took all day.