Florence Antiques Fair Thrills Art Lovers Visiting Italy
Antique table from 18th century, one of a pair for sale at the BIAF.
Michelangelo's David is a star at the Uffize Gallery, Florence, Italy.

From September 26-October 4, 2015, the La Biennale dell’Antiquariato di Firenze or Florence Antique Biennale (BIAF) will once again thrill the art world elite and lucky off-season visitors to this beautiful center of Italian art. The oldest consistently running art and antiques fair in Europe, it began in 1959 when Mario and Giuseppe Bellini thought to present what would become the the most important antiques event in Italy and one of the most significant in the world.

For a real treat, plan an autumn visit to Italy so you can hobnob with the dignitaries and European celebs who are bound to be at BIAF.

Enjoying the Arts of Florence without Lines

We love that BIAF occurs after the hot, humid summer crush is over, at a time when recent graduates or lucky get-out-of-school art history majors are able to visit the city at its best. But, if you are not able to visit Florence during any low season period (officially November and January-February) and you don’t want to suffer in long lines, get an official Pass to the State Museums of Florence, especially useful for the Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia. From the home page of the website firenzemusei.it, you’ll find instructions for purchasing advance timed-entry tickets to both museums, as well as information about getting a pass if you’ve already arrived in Florence without one.

What You’ll See at Florence Antique Biennale

The 29th edition of the BIAF takes place at the luxurious Palazzo Corsini sull’Arno, one of the most important private collections in Florence, and features many museum loans as well. The Corsini collection was begun by the nephew of Pope Clement XII, Don Lorenzo Corsini, in 1765 and comprises Italian and foreign 17th-century works, as well as paintings of the Florentine school ranging from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Masterpieces include the works of Italian masters such as Anton Domenico Gabbiani, Alessandro Gherardini and Pier Dandini, and the Aurora Gallery and Corsini family ballroom are don’t-miss architectural attractions.

BIAF has gone high-tech recently. Visitors as well as shoppers can use the QRcode printed on the artworks’ captions to view the fact sheets of the individual works, complete with detailed historic, artistic technical data about each piece. Get a data roaming plan for your cellphone to view an entire video catalog of the event on your mobile.

Practical Details for Transport, Lodging during BIAF

BIAF tickets are €10 per person. During this autumn’s arts season, many other special events, such as a film festival of art history documentaries, will be going on around Florence. Visitors will find reduced prices by presenting a valid Trenitalia rail ticket at many venues. And by the way, Trenitalia tickets booked with ItaliaRail for children under 15 (traveling with an adult) are always 50% off, and sometimes free.

Another way to save is the ItaliaPass. The $49 membership fee entitles members to great discounts on everything -— from airfare to hotels, tours to restaurants, insider experiences and upgrades — and covers two adults and two children. “Imagine a private skip-the-line tour of the Colosseum for your family, followed by a make-your-own-pizza-and-gelato class with one of Rome’s famous chefs?,” notes an ItaliaPass spokesperson. “What could be better than that?”

There are also special offers at select luxury hotels during this period, at the BIAF Hospitality Partners page. Using the hotel search engine, Booking.com, we searched for this week in Florence and found that three-star BnBs still have rooms from US$73 per night, certainly a more modest rate than the BIAF partner hotels are offering (but perhaps not as glamorous?) And if you want to get off the beaten path with the kids, head to the Chiostro delle Monache hostel in Volterra, Italy — about an hour’s drive from Florence — it’s a restored 15th century monastery with modernized rooms where you can sleep for even less.

For more information about the show, visit Mostra Antiquariato.it and for general tourism information about Florence, see Firenze Turismo.

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