Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Paper Shopping in Florence

No self-respecting book artist could leave Florence without a few sheets of paper. Florence is known for its hand marbled papers as well as those delightful Florentine prints you would recognize anywhere in the world. I confess, I am not a fan of the small prints for my work, so I focused my search on finding some drop dead gorgeous marbled paper.

We had about two hours and five different store addresses to search. Earlier in the day, when we were on the tour, we walked right past Il Papiro, an Italian store chain of lovely papers and handcrafted books, but could not stop without losing the guide. When we finally reached the free time in the afternoon, we used some of it to speed visit the Uffizi gallery, and when we emerged from there we had about 90 minutes left until we had to meet up with the tour group to return to the ship.

Address book clutched in hand, we set off to find as many of the recommended stores as we could in the time allotted. After searching for several, we experienced firsthand the logic of Italian numbering. It's possible to find the street names on a map, but the numbers of the buildings are not necessarily sequential. No. 5 was sometimes next to no. 14, with no. 7 on the opposite side of 14, 4, 6 and 8 where nowhere to be found..... you get the picture. The address is more of a suggestion, and not an actual number on the building. I finally actually found one of the stores, but they did not stock any hand marbles; it was more of an invitation store. Even my husband, who has the best sense of direction on the planet, could not make sense of the addresses. There was no there there!

I didn't really want to abandon hope, but things were looking grim and time was running short, so we began to wander around, and soon streets became more familiar looking ... we had been there earlier in the morning on the tour. I looked up and saw the Vini sign pictured in yesterday's post, and I knew we were close to ..... Il Papiro! Yes, there it was! We dashed inside, feeling smug at our good luck in finding it.

The shopkeeper spoke very nice English, and pointed me in the direction of a huge stack of large hand marbled sheets. While I worked my way down the pile, he demonstrated how marbled paper is made, distracting my husband from the growing size of my stack. Here are a few of the choices I made. The patterns are very detailed but have a soft focus quality to them, and the colors are very beautiful. Full sheets were running in the $12-15 range. The store also has nice packets of smaller sheets in assorted sizes; a great way to obtain many patterns and a wide variety of colors.

With my stash of treasures and less than 30 minutes to spare, we made our way back to the meeting point, stopping for a yummy cool gelato on the way. It was hard to say good-bye to Florence, but we were going on to Rome the next day. Or so we thought.


  1. I think your posts would make a wonderful artists' book...The Hunt for Marbles or How I Found My Marbles and Still Made it to the Ship On time...
    Seriously I am living vicariously through your wonderful posts and have taken the plunge and booked a European Cruise...

  2. When we were in Florence and Venice several years ago, we went nuts buying paper and paper covered things. It's like being a kid in a candy store and Christmas morning all at the same time! And there's something so wonderful about getting the paper there, where it's been made for the last 600 years. Really getting massive amounts of vicarious enjoyment from your travel tales.
    Erin in Morro Bay

  3. Thanks for sharing all your wonderful photos, Pam. The trip looks like it was just amazing! I'm really enjoying all the details and colors that you captured. And this paper is just beautiful. Great blog!

  4. So happy I got to benefit from your paper shopping too Aunt Pam!