Along the main, paved road that winds through the Tuscan hills between the A1 Autostrada and the town of Chianciano, there is an antiquariato. I pass this way fairly often, as the route takes me to Montepulciano – the gorgeous, fortressed hill town we frequent on our tours, and home to some of our dearest friends.
This is by no means a fancy antique store, but instead a collection of lots and lots of old stuff: some of it fairly old, some of it antique and some of it ancient.
We try not to stop here too often, because where others see piles of old junk, we see treasures. History, stories and treasures, in the form of broken windows, rusty headboards and obsolete grape presses. I’d take half of it home with me, if I could.
Today, though, we made a purposeful visit – on the lookout for specific treasures: a door that might become a dining table and a contadino ladder to climb up into our olive trees. Along with Lino (the owner – who just turned 80) and his friendly assistant, we dug through piles of doors – measuring, thinking and chatting our way to just the right one. But will it actually become a table? Or will we keep it “as is”. Hmmm….
While being thoroughly distracted by a sea of demijohns and an antique carpenter’s bench from Cortona (that we might just have to come back for), we happened upon some shelves for our cantina and an oh-too-perfect table base, expertly crafted with dowels instead of nails.
And finally there they were! The beautiful contadino olive tree ladders – handcrafted from acacia wood and wonderfully gnarled and crooked.
With no way to fit any of these finds in our car, so it was time to discuss price and delivery with Lino – who felt door to door delivery for €10 was fair. 🙂 Afterwards he talked a bit about his recent health problems. Battling pancreatitis the last months has left him weak physically – and in spirit. He said coming back to the antique store these last weeks has been wonderful, and I don’t doubt it for a minute.
His eyes lit up as I rummaged through the contadino ladders, searching for one with just the right feel to it. When I spotted it, I pulled it out, leaned it against a wall and looked at Lino. His smile was contagious. “Bella,” he was all he said. And it truly is.