UPDATE 2018: I wrote this guide to the best vintage shops in Bologna during my stay there as part of BlogVille, my first trip to a destination as a blogger. It hasn't been updated since 2013 as I've not been back to Bologna to find more vintage shops, but I hope it's still useful. And if you love vintage shopping, check out my guide for finding and buying the best quality vintage clothes. If you're looking for more information about the city itself here's a great post on what to do in Bologna and if you want to explore the region here are some great day trips from Bologna to consider.
A Guide to Vintage Shopping in Bologna
I used to think I had a good nose for vintage shopping, however my snout let me down as it took my BlogVille roomie Erica to tell me that there was a vintage shop literally across the way from our apartment entrance. Penelope Recycling is a rather unglamorous name for a shop full of glamorous things. This is upmarket vintage lovingly selected and curated with prices to match. I hasten to add that prices aren't unrealistic and you are paying for what you're getting; high quality items in excellent condition. This is where you go to buy something striking for a wedding, a party or heck, doing the ironing if that's your thing. These are clothes and accessories to be treasured and enjoyed.
I was also very pleasantly surprised to see a respectably sized corner of the shop was dedicated to men's vintage clothing. Bravo!
Penelope Recycling, Galleria Falcone e Borsellino 3G, Bologna, Tel: (0039) 51 4121894 .
Around the corner is a cute little shop called Memoires, that was sadly closed when I headed there with my camera and a heart full of hope, however, through the window I could see collections of cute brooches, designer silk scarves and lavish beads and pearls.
Although my purse heaved a sigh of relief I am still sad I didn't get a chance to do a little rummaging in Memoires shelves. A little extra research shows that this shop is actually a specialist in vintage posters, artwork and maps.
Memoires, Via de 'Fusari 7/b, Bologna, Tel: +39 (0) 51 223083
This misfortune was quickly erased from my mind when I saw a sign that in vintage shopping terms is the equivalent to a beacon of light for a lost ship at sea: "Mercato dell'Usato". Literally meaning "Used Goods Market" it can be translated in English as "jumble sale" or "flea market" depending on where you're from. I followed the light into a beautiful church courtyard where all four walkways were brimming with vintage goods; clothes, shoes, furniture, books, jewellery... It was heavenly.
The best part of this market was it was organised by the church to raise money for charity work in Indonesia. The second best thing about this market was that everything was cheap, super cheap. I picked up the below items for a total of 6 Euros (though I insisted the kind women kept my change, it's for charidee!)
I can honestly say that I have got use out of all of these already, my favourites being the gold rim coloured shirt which buttons up at the back and the Ducati scarf (Ducati is a local Emilia-Romagna motorcycle company. I can't guarantee that this market will be running every weekend in Bologna, but it certainly goes to show how important it is to keep your ears and eyes open.
Basilica di San Francesco, Piazza San Francesco, Bologna
Riding high on my flea market finds and with their musty smell wafting from my bag carrying my proud purchases I headed into the rough-around-the-edges (and-in-the-middle) Zona Universitaria prompted by a locals' tip off that this was where the best second hand and vintage shops were to be found. I wasn't disappointed.
On Via San Leonardo I found two shops, which could have kept me happy but not poor for hours. Firstly Zenobialand, a shop with multiple personalities, in a good way. Outside were racks of clothes, most of them priced under 10 Euros, to catch my thrifty attention and inside was a collection of charming chintz from vintage luggage, to oriental and Victorian sketches and more clothes hanging on the walls.
Clothes and accessories ranged from recent trends to more classical vintage from the 1960s and 1970s, all was reasonably priced (between 10 and 30 Euros). The lady working in the shop on the day I visited was warm, friendly and enthusiastic about getting the shop reviewed on my blog, but not in a "I want to make money" way, more in a "I like people to come into my shop and take pleasure in all the many things I've collected". Sadly there aren't that many vintage shop owners like that anymore. I may have left empty-handed (which was my intention now any available space in my suitcase had been filled by the flea market visit) but I also left with a happy heart.
Zenobialand, Via San Leonardo 3, Bologna, Tel: (+39) (0) 95 741938
My final find was of a similar style if less chintzy and with a bit more substance with racks of both men's and women's clothes at very fair prices (most items were under 10 Euros with outside racks of men's clothes for 5 Euros).
Two terrifyingly trendy students sat at the cash desk of La Leonarda and were initially a little sceptical when I asked if I could take photos. However, when I started to show an interest in a pair of shoes (I think the walking around the shop wearing them and still taking photos was a clue) they warmed to me commenting on how cool they were and how they wished the shoes had fit them.
These well-loved and well-worn but still well cool beauties cost me 2 Euros. I have no doubt that this is where all the painfully cool students go to update their wardrobes affordably and I am deeply envious of them now I'm many miles away.
La Leonarda, Via San Leonardo 2/2, Bologna (+39) (0) 338 2304173
There is also a huge street market, often referred to as a flea market in guidebooks called the Mercato della Montagnola in Piazza dell'Otto Agosto, however as I covered half of its wide spread I realised that there was little vintage to discover more cheap and cheerful fashion and essentials; this is definitely the place to go to buy a complete outfit of questionable taste including a pair of shoes, a bra and a pair of knickers for under 10 Euros.
And for vintage books, I actually noticed a number of street stalls selling beautiful old novels (mostly in Italian) and of course there are many bookshops in the University area though I can't vouch for their affordability or range.
If you want to see where most of these spots are on a map of Bologna take a look at the real-time blogging I did for TravMonkey one weekend during my stay. It was also the weekend of the earthquake in Bologna and though it was disrupted it was far from ruined. I wrote more about why an earthquake should not put you off going to beautiful Bologna here.
You can read more of my vintage shopping stories in other beautiful places like Rotterdam, Ljubljana, and Edinburgh.
Bird was staying at BlogVille, an Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board sponsored initiative to give bloggers a free nest while exploring the local life. I paid for my own flights, gelato and definitely these wonderfully musty smelling vintage gems. My opinions are always my opinions and this post is full of them.
Frances M. Thompson
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