Isabella Brega, the executive editor of Traveler‘s Italian partner magazine, put together a buyer’s guide to authentic goods in Italy, highlighting 20 places in five different cities where you can witness craftsmanship in its highest form–from marionettes to mandolins. “The story of Italian artisans is one of valuables and values,” she writes.
Here’s a brief look at Touring‘s creative maven and her singular view of the world:
Q: Where do you call home?
A: Milan—urban Italy at its best.
Q: What sparked your interest in artisanal traditions?
A: I studied art history and also earned a diploma in scagliola, an ancient method of producing stucco to resemble marble using selenite, glue, and natural pigments. The art form is widespread in north and central Italian churches from the 17th and 18th centuries.
Q: Do you consider yourself a collector?
A: I own a Neapolitan crèche that is particularly special to me, made of ten figurines I found at different Naples shops. Each figure dates from the 1700s and includes antique fabrics and crystal eyes.
Q: Master craftsmen seem to be on the wane these days. How are things changing in Italy, where many artisanal traditions date back thousands of years?
A: In recent years, it’s been fascinating to see Italian artisans develop new forms of creativity and use technology in the design of traditional handmade objects.
Q: You covered Venice, Florence, Milan, Naples, and Tuscany in your “Made in Italy” feature that Traveler adapted for their February/March 2014 issue. Are there other Italian cities that have thriving artisan scenes?
A: Palermo is justifiably famous for its collectible dolls and colorful horse-drawn carts, but it also has a strong artisanal tradition for jewelry. Turin is where you look for fabrics and musical instruments. All sorts of artisanship thrive in Rome, including mosaics.