I have a fondness for other people’s junk. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure and all that. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday morning than wandering a flea market, picking up and putting down bits and pieces of other people’s lives. Budapest has its fair share of markets and, in fact, most cities have regular market days – perhaps a sign that we’re becoming more thrifty? I associate markets with bargains. Good deals. Stuff I wouldn’t see elsewhere. Old stuff that has character. I loathe the Chinese and Turkish tat that encroaches on the traditional fare, preferring plain old junk to new junk any day. So, when in Milan, I had Milanese markets on my mind.
I missed out on Milan’s famous flea market: the Fiera di Senigallia and have made a note to book a return trip that include a last Sunday of any month, to catch the 400 or so antique dealers displaying their wares at the Antiquariato sul Naviglio Grande. This canalside market takes up 2 km of city streets and attracts more than 100 000 people each time. But we did stumble across the Via Fauchet which didn’t have much in the line of old stuff (if you don’t count the elderly ladies elbowing their way through the cashmere cardis) but the prices made my eyes water.
I took my life in my hands to get close to the leather bags on offer. Display samples in an array of colours in real leather. I could feel the adrenaline as I started to mentally check people off my Christmas list and visualise the space available in my suitcase. But then I saw the label – Made in China. Written in Italian mind you, but made in China nonetheless. I’m still refusing to buy anything made in China except when I can’t avoid it. (It’s hard to find a laptop or a phone that wasn’t made there.) It was hard – and as I found myself trying to justify the bargain, I walked away. It’s a slippery slope.
Milan is famous for its fashion and if you had an ounce of style and the fortitude to battle with the masses, you’d easily fill your wardrobe with classic items at half of what they’d cost in a bricks-and-mortar market.