SInce September 2005, The first Sunday of every month has developed into a special day in the port city of Brindisi. Special because Corso Garibaldi – the main artery that runs through the center of town and ends at the port – changes from it’s usual sedate Sunday morning-self, into a crowded thorough-fare of merchants and stalls who are selling everything from antique furniture to old records, books and more. And with that arrive the many people – young and old – who come to enjoy the sights and sounds of what’s going on.
Just a flea market you say? Not quite. Flea Markets are old hand-me-downs, this is a more upscale affair.
The Antique Market is the brain child of one man – Local merchant Luca di Giulio.
Sure it’s a bargain hunter’s dream, if searching for an old phonograph or chandelier is your idea of a bargain. But the big benefit of the Antique Market is that it’s gets people out of their homes and into downtown Brindisi – a city that for the most part dries up over the weekend.
Comments di Giulio, “…Families come out to the market to look at what is displayed or just to go for a walk. But the important thing is that THEY COME OUT. And the store merchants have a chance to open their stores an extra day during the week. So the spill-over crowd can do some shopping as well.”
The reality is, with 2 huge shopping malls in the immediate area, small shops like those that line the main drag in downtown Brindisi get hit the hardest. They just can’t compare with an “all-under-one-roof” shopping outlet where shoppers can find quality and quantity.
The Brindisi Antique market – for one Sunday out of the month at least – provides a shopping alternative. On this particular Sunday I noticed a little bit of everything. Antique furniture, paintings, records, WWII paraphernalia and books. The antique, the odd and the downright obscure. All available for a price. And trust me, arriving at that price is half the fun of being here.
The “art of the deal” was never like this. Haggling over the price is a tradition as old as italy itself. More often than not you’ll barter back and forth, up and down and in the end all you save is maybe 50 cents. But you walk away feeling like you got the best the vendor. Donald Trump would be proud.
Adds Luca, “…We’ve tried to make it as convenient as possible. Vendors can rent a table for 7 euro and stay the entire time (from 8am until 2pm). And really there’s no limit to what they can sell. But it has to fall within the category of “antiques”. Otherwise people are going to be cleaning out their garages and that’s not really what this is about…”
Word of mouth has done more than any full-scale publicity campaign. When the Sunday market kicked off 7 months ago it could be contained in an area less than 100 yards long. Now the number of vendors – which recently numbered119 (up from 69 at the outset) stretches from one side of town to the other, as sellers from neighboring towns come to the market to showcase their wares as well.
Another positive effort was initiated as a result of the market’s popularity: Eleven of the city’s most popular restaurants offer a fixed-price multi-course meal for 10 euro a person. So when the market wraps at 2pm, visitors can segue into any number of local restaurants for a great meal that usually would run anywhere from 25 to 35 euro a person.
“..The response has been tremendous…” adds di Giulio excitedly. “We originally tried this with the intention of doing it only on market days. But the turn-out has been so great that it has become a Sunday mainstay now for the last 6 weeks. We’ve received great support from the restaurants and from City Hall. And of course the people who benefit the most are the people that come out…”
The Brindisi Antique Market has pumped some much needed life into the city center. A second market – one that will showcase handcraft items like decoupage – is set to premier on the third Sunday of the month. So every other Sunday there is a draw to pull people in, who might normally just stay home. Luca has coordinated with the Brindisi City Hall to obtain the necessary permits for the next several months.
Remarks di Giulio, “…it’s kind of complicated acquiring the proper permission and whatnot. But in the long ruin everyone has been very supportive”.
Whoever coined the phrase, “Build it and they will come” certainly knew what they were talking about. Thanks to one man’s vision and enthusiasm, The Brindisi Antiques Market has evolved into something the entire city can be proud of.