The 8 Ways the 80th International Handicraft Fair Amazed Me

By Rachel Bimonte (Roger Williams University)

Do you ever feel the urge to go somewhere or do something that you know other people would not normally do, but you are intrigued?

That is how I felt walking to the Fortezza da Basso in Florence, Italy to see the International Handicraft Fair. I had no idea what to expect but I was extremely interested to see how yet another event held in Florence would blow my mind.

Stepping into the fairgrounds, I would often ask myself – where in the world am I? This cannot still be Florence!

To give a scene of inside the grounds of the Fortezza da Basso, there were tents, buildings, pop-up stands, and food stands. It was amazing!

I walked into a Coop grocery store that was set up just for the event where tastings of prosciutto, cheese, wine and truffle oil were taking place! I also walked into an archeological museum that also had specialty clothing items such as jackets and hats. I saw a large shopping area where people were displaying their handmade jewelry, scarves, knickknacks, and clothing. There was another building that housed beauty and wellness items and finally, an entire food and beverage section where people from all over the world showed specialty food items that could be bought or tasted.

I was so amazed by the many displays at the International Fair that I came up with 8 of my favorite spots in the fair:

  1. One of my favorite places was where I actually walked in first: this was the pop-up Coop store that had specialty groceries and tastings and where there was a big crowd of people. In there, many people figured I spoke Italian because I do not think it was a big tourist spot (and I do speak a little) but definitely not at the pace the workers did! However, it was fun to try some cheese samples and practice my listening skills!
  2. My second favorite spot that amazed me was outside of the archeological museum – here there was a man playing a piano outside and it was really unexpected but fabulous.
  3. The third spot that amazed me was inside the large shopping area. In here, there was everything from scarves and bracelets, to front doors for purchase and a popular video game store selling swords! It was hard to imagine I was still in Florence but this made me wish I had saved my souvenir shopping for this part of the fair!
  4. The fourth spot I really enjoyed was inside the beauty and wellness area where I saw little cupcakes that were actually handmade soaps! They were very adorable and smelled really good.
  5. The next spot was in one of the tents that housed very vintage clothing and bags, it was cool to see a huge display of items that were designer but vintage as well. Here I saw a wall of Converse sneakers in some of the most interesting patterns I’d ever witnessed.
  6. My next favorite place had to be in the food display – of course! I saw vegetables that were actually made into roses using cucumbers and carrots. It was refreshing to see vegetable art rather than the typical chocolate art (which I still do love!)
  7. Inside the food area there was also a sitting area where people could sit on comfortable bean bags and look at art that was displayed on the wall. People sitting there looked so relaxed – like they were going to spend all day there (which is definitely doable).
  8. The final spot that I loved definitely signified the entire event. Outside the food area were flags hanging of all different countries. At the event there were artisans from over 50 countries so it was only right to show the diversity that was at the event.

This was a really special place to visit as an American, and Italian or from any country in the world. It is amazing to see the items that people create and display with such passion and heart.

I am really happy that this was my last event in Florence I went to before I head back to the United States and it was really special to be one of few tourists among many locals there.

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