If I had a magical wardrobe, its door would lead to Parma. Yes, Parma, the land of mythical maialini raised on the whey of hand-molded parmigiano to make prosciutto perfection. No, my wardrobe would not transport me to the heady rooms of a prosciuttificio nor hallowed halls of a parmigiano factory. My Narnia door takes me to Gazzabuglio, a tiny shop in the sides streets of Parma’s centro storico.
Hermès for Days
Gazzabuglio is a play on the word “guazzabuglio,” Italian for disordered mess. This guazzabuglio, however, is very calculated. Part made-to-measure dress atelier, part fantasy closet, Gazzabuglio is packed ceiling-to-floor with an ever-evolving parade of vintage dresses, handbags, shoes, hats, and scarves carefully chosen by Letizia Sabini, a woman so elegant and chic that I don’t know if I should curtsy or applaud.
The designer names are (almost) overwhelming: Chanel, Roberta di Camerino, Cavalli, Carven, Balenciaga, Gucci, Louis Vuitton. But my yearly pilgrimage brings me here for only one: Hermès.
Since Letizia opened her boutique in 1977, she has been one of Italy’s top purveyors of vintage Hermès bags and scarves, representing every era, never mind the shop’s haphazard charm. Collectors quickly understand that Gazzabuglio is for the very serious. Bags and scarves are well researched and in mint condition, and Letizia will discuss every detail of the bag and where it came from.
For the novice like myself, every visit to Gazzabuglio is a lesson in lore and fact. Stitching, numbering, signatures — Letizia unfurls Hermès knowledge as she does each scarf. I am mesmerized but I do not know if it is Letizia who is bewitching me or if my head is spinning from the colors of the scarves.
I leave Gazzabuglio with at least a few scarves and cross via Giuseppe Mazzini/Strada della Repubblica (the large road that splits Parma in half) to Borgo San Giacomo. The narrow street has so many great boutiques – vintage as well as contemporary clothing and furniture, and you’ll find more on its web side streets including Borgo Santa Chiara.
Recharge on Strada Farini, the street is a stretch of foodie spots where you can sate yourself with prosciutto and parmigiano, and more.
Complesso Monumentale della Pilotta, the magnificent complex housing several cultural the National Gallery, the Archaeological Museum, and the Teatro Farnese.
Parco Ducale, Parma’s 52-acre greenery of gorgeous gardens, fountains, and more.
Verdi Festival, an annual month-long fall festival dedicated to composer Giuseppe Verdi. Concerts, operas and more are held in the Teatro Regio, as well in venues throughout the region.
**I’ve had a hard time finding Gazzabuglio in this day of social media, so for a little old school help here’s my Google Map with a few of my favorite restaurants, hotel suggestions and more.
You may have an inkling that I’ve really liked Fathom from the moment it unleashed its gorgeous self on the internet. And more than liking it for the amazing insight, great writing and indelible personalities that contribute to it, I also like write for Fathom.
Originally published in 2012, updated in 2021.