A Guided Antique Tour in Parma Unveils Exceptional Finds

Interior designers always tell me about finding fabulous antiques for their clients in Europe. It always sounded exciting but at the same time overwhelming: finding reputable dealers, getting a decent price and, most importantly, shipping the pieces back home. So, I jumped at the invitation from Toma Clark Haines, CEO of Antiques Diva & Co, to participate in the spring VIP tour at Mercanteinfiera antiques show in Parma, Italy, one of the biggest antiques shows for dealers and designers in Europe, held in the spring and fall.

Italian Treasures Feature

I would be traveling with Toma, the Antiques Diva, and Chiara Zanella, one of her Diva guides based in Venice. The Antiques Diva offers private and customized antiques buying tours in 15 countries: six in Europe, eight in Asia and one here in the U.S. The company pairs the interests of buyers with sellers. Toma and her guides translate for buyers, help negotiate pricing, and assist in coordinating shipping of antiques.

This sounded like the only way I would experience the types of antiquing that designers have described to me. Joining me were interior designer Tori McBrien of Fairfield and Margaret Schwartz, an antiques dealer with a booth at The Antique and Artisan Gallery in Stamford. Without Toma and her guides, visiting 1,000 different vendors—and not fluent in Italian—could have been overwhelming. Nothing could dampen my excitement as I walked to the entrance of this massive fair on the first day. For three days, I would spend hours in the three huge exhibit halls looking at midcentury modern pieces, fantastic lighting and classic Italian antiques and jewelry. Margaret quickly worked the show with Chiara and filled a container with pieces for her upcoming shows and her booth in Stamford. Tori found a beautiful entry hall table just perfect for a new design project. I filled my phone with countless images of the fun, fantastic and beautiful. And a promise to go again, but this time with measurements!

A version of this article appeared in the October issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Italian Treasures.