Set in the exhibition center of Parma, in the north of Italy, Mercanteinfiera is the largest antique tradeshow in the country, and one of the most important in Europe. Just to put things into perspective and numbers: Mercanteinfiera hosts two exhibitions every year, has three dedicated pavilions with more than 1,000 stalls spread over 45,000 square meters (almost 500,000 sqft) of exhibition area, and welcomes almost 60,000 visitors for every edition. As an old song said, there you can find everything “to glorify your regal abode”, from antiques and retro-modern furniture to vintage apparel.
Most of the fair is dedicated to antiques. Two pavilions are entirely filled with antiques and retro-modern or re-edited antiques. There’s an incredible variety of furniture (even from the Middle Age) and you can find really unique pieces with flair. If you’re in a bit of a hurry, having a look at the exhibitors’ list before getting in, is a good way to save you time. But if you’re an antique enthusiast, just take your time to wander in each pavilion. You will feel like walking in a museum or in an old (and wealthy) private property from the 18th-19th century.
Antiques are, for many visitors, the highlight of the Mercanteinfiera. However, the pavilion my heart really beats for is the third one, which hosts 900 booths dedicated to design, jewelry, and vintage fashion. It is a smaller area and it can be visited in one morning if you walk at a good pace.
Mercanteinfiera is a high-level trade show, so do not expect to find “special bargains”. The exhibitors know the value of their goods (they are collectors and dealers themselves), so they’re the worst to haggle with if you want to get a good price. Anyway, most of them are willing to haggle, especially fashion exhibitors. The Design Classics and Vintage Fashion Pavillion do not have a large selection of items (there are more important fairs for that in Italy) but it is nonetheless a good one: no major dealer is ever missing the Mercanteinfiera.
Each stall offers the best of vintage apparel and accessories by Italian iconic designers such as Versace, Ferré, Armani. You can also find French designers too, like Chanel and Louis Vuitton for the most part, and other wonderful clothes from all over the world. There are also huge booths entirely dedicated to sartorial masterpieces by old and unknown Italian tailors (men and women). Last but not least, my true love: accessories. Leather bags from Tuscany or true iconic pieces by Hermes, as well as wonderful designer shoes and hats from every decade and lots, lots of vintage sunglasses!
Accessories, if you know how to pick them, are a good way to make a bargain. Some are reasonably priced, thereby allowing everyone to leave the fair happy with at least a small purchase. Furthermore, accessories are the best way to give a vintage look to your outfit: even though you’re wearing an H&M suit, a pair of vintage sunglasses or an eccentric bag will do the trick and draw attention!