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A few of my grownup friends are into antiquing, and hitting up rural auctions for those authentic, pedigreed objects from times past. I, on the other hand, just buy stuff that I like. I like to think of it as ‘fan-tiquing’.  

This little horse is a perfect example –  it is a miniature 3-inch statue inspired by one of the four bronze horses that sits atop the Basilica of San Marco in Venice. (See, my little darling is second from the left!) Now, you would think that I would have picked this up when I was in Venice, and saw the actual horses on the actual Basilica – but that would be actual ‘souvenir hunting’, and since I don’t consider myself a ‘souvenir hunter’, that’s not how it happened.

The original bronze and full-size replica horses from the Basilica of San Marco, Venice

The original bronze and full-size replica horses from the Basilica of San Marco, Venice

Instead, I picked up this little gem one Sunday in Rome, when I decided to venture down to the Porta Portese market, a massive flea market in Trastevere that winds its way alongside the river for what feels like 15 miles. (That particular Sunday it felt like 15 miles because I was a little hungover, not something I would recommend for this type of crowded market, but a fact that came in handy when it came time to haggle. You can read more on ‘hangovers and the art of negotiation’ here – but I digress.)

After an hour or so of muscling my way between umpteen stands selling ‘Italia’ t-shirts and baskets of gitch, I found a section of the market that had some second-hand furniture, tables displaying interesting bits and pieces, and questionable antiques, including this little horse statue which caught my eye. I don’t think I even realized at the time it was meant to resemble the Venetian horses – I just love miniatures and knew it was something that I could fit in a suitcase.

It took some bargaining with the seller, including some nonsense on his part about about how old it was, and that this was its original patina (ha!), but I stuck to my guns and completed the sale, bringing home this tiny but surprisingly heavy little pony.

Porta Portese, the gate that was built in 1644 to replace the ancient Porta Portuensis.

Porta Portese, the gate that was built in 1644 to replace the ancient Porta Portuensis.

It may not be antique, it may not be bronze, it may not even be a particularly good knockoff of the horses that inspired it in the first place, but after years of looking at my Porta Portese horse, I’m still a fan. Not only does it bring back memories of both Venice and Rome every time I look at it, but seriously, what girl doesn’t love a pretty pony?

TIP:  Porta Portese is not for the claustrophobic or faint of heart. But if you have endurance, curiosity, a love of haggling and a pick-pocket-proof purse, wake up early on a Sunday, fortify yourself with an espresso or two at the corner bar and and head out to this sprawling market to explore. As the saying goes, ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ and there’s plenty of both here!

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