Vintage Italian Postcards

Friday, March 17, 2006

Valley Life article: Italy on postcards

John Tunstill and his wife Liliana have lived in the Upper Tiber Valley for 23 years. The old Monastery dating back to the late XII century, when it was occupied by the Mont’ Ulivetani di Gubbio Frairs, is today a Luxury Country House, La Preghiera, where they live.
This house preserves one of the hobbies of John Tunstill, Vintage Italian Postcards. He has a collection of 10,000 pieces. A passion started nine years ago, by sheer chance.
During his life in Italy, John at the beginning had not much money. So he decided, together with his wife Liliana, to go at the local antique market and fairs, to sell lead soldiers, books and other small antiques. He noticed a large number of postcards on offer in the other stalls and every time he approached with curiosity, he would like to buy one of these, for example of Città di Castello. But his good sense advised him to not spend more money, because of the difficult financial situation.
He noticed that many people stopped at the stand and bought the postcards for quite high prices. So, one day, during one of the trips of Mr and Mrs Tunstill to England to see friends and family people, John knew that many people had postcards sent from Italy. He bought some of these, thinking that one day they could have value at the antique market. When he came back in Italy he sold them at profitable prices at his Sunday markets. Things went well and John bought, sold and exchanged postcards in a big way….and now he has in his collection more than 10.000 pieces!
For many years John’s postcards were in a big box, waiting for organisation. After, when the Monastery came back to its splendour, the postcards were sorted, numbered, catalogued and named.
John’s postcards are from the period between 1885’s and 1950’s. They cover a lot of themes and represent many places: beautiful views from most of the large variety of Italy’s region, Italian industries ( Acciaieria of Piombino, Fiat, and Army Industries of Brescia), Fascist period and Viareggio Carnival. Very interesting are the pieces about associations and institutions such as the Croce Rossa Italiana and the Caritas also, those that recall some disaster such as Messina’s earthquake or the eruption of Vesuvio of 1906; postcards of actors, actress, Siena’s Palio, postcards of the Alpini soldiers and hotels throughout Italy, postcards about Marina Italiana, the Accademia Navale of Livorno, the Italian Royal family, postcards about Città di Castello, Umbertide and the Upper Tiber Valley, Cortona, Perugia and Gubbio.
John is famous for his large collection of toy soldiers that he preserves inside the Monastery, together with books and many other military objects. This small and astonishing museum was inaugurated in the Autumn of 2004 (See the edition Anno I n.9 of Valley Life, “25.000 soldati britannici invadono l’Italia”) .
If you would like to see the museum and you would like to sample the charm of the Old Italian Postcards and also of the large Collection of Toy Soldiers and military objects write to or phone at 075 930 24 28.
On the 20th and 21st of May 2006 the Second International Lead Toy Soldier Convention will take place. An appointment not to lose!