I went to Italy with the intention of finding some really good, old stuff.
I've come home from Italy without finding anything.
Well, of course, that's not true in the metaphorical sense. I re-discovered friendships and cemented old ones. And I saw lots and lots of good, old stuff. I just couldn't get any of that into my suitcase. Italy is just chocked full of old stuff--thousands of years-old stuff, in fact. And pardon me if I've misunderstood all the issues of Progressive Architecture and Elle Design, but supposedly it's also full of really new, groovy stuff--Italian designed shoes and clothes and light fixtures and hip, chrome, minimalist furniture. Italian design. So, somewhere around that country, I thought, there would be at least a couple centuries worth of stuff floating around somewhere in between, you know, Marcus Agrippa and Donatella Versace.
There had to be someplace where Italian women dump their old Prada shoes and Mussolini-era cigarette lighters? Those mimimalist apartments and sleek pied a terres have to be scraped out of the old, minimalist stuff to make way for the new minimalist stuff, after all. So where did it go? Oh, I ran across a few little chi-chi "antico" shops with pricey-pricey marble busts and Napoleonic-era commodes and the like, but where were they dropping off the used Virgin Mary statues and the scuffed Tod's loafers?
We didn't spend all our time in the touristy spots--we got lost quite a bit and I kept peeking around because, naturally, I wanted to find the thrift stores. You'd think I'd have run across even just one little consignment shop where Roman housewives dumped off their old Alessi coffee sets and 1980's era Memphis knock-offs. I tried to ask a few Italians where these shops might be, but my Italian is not so very good. "Anticos? Si! Si!" and they'd point out the fusty marble bust and commode outlets. I'm not sure I could adequately describe that I wanted used shoes and second hand crap. And even if I had, the responding expressions intimated that this was not something that should I should want to have known willy-nilly. "She says she wants to buy and wear old women's clothing and garbage shoes that a man didn't want to throw away? It's crazy, I know--just give her prosciutto and smile."
So, I never got to paw through piles of used Italian crap--which, if you expounded on the line of reasoning that other American tourists put to Italian food, or lifestyle, or healthcare, or anything else you might name--would be soooo much better than piles of used American crap.
The prosciutto was great.