Great pairs of sunglasses are few and far between. Sure there are some nice styles out there but, for the most part, all the quality sunglasses you’re ever likely to own are made by one company. So while most of us desire to be anything but generic, the glasses which adorn our faces usually are. Hence the rise of elaborate, artisanal sunglasses – an ocular revolution, if you will. But these styles too are fast becoming generic as brands are bought up and adornments cloned.

What’s a fashioniser to do?

Book a ticket to Lucca, Italy.

vintage sunglasses italy

One of the many joys of travelling is discovering the hidden gems that a city has to offer. It might be the awesome bar that you keep open until the early morning in the midst of an American city. It could be the best boulangerie in Paris (it’s in the 10th arrondissement if you’re curious). Or it might be that out of the way, unexpected shopping treasure – which is precisely what I walked into while in Tuscany’s Lucca this summer.

Looking for a few new pairs of sunglasses to see me into 2014, I happened upon Ottica Bruno. It’s the kind of ocular store you find in many an Italian town – stylish frames, generally understated, and brimming with old world, genteel service. While on their shelves you will find what most every other glasses store the world over has to offer – to walk into their store is to walk past the usual suspects of modern sunglasses and spectacles – the real magic happens in the back room.

It’s here I found myself, suddenly surrounded by all sorts of frames I didn’t recognise. Why? Because Ottica Bruno is a treasure trove of vintage sunglasses. Vintage Persol sunglasses? Check. Vintage Dior sunglasses? Check. Vintage Rayban sunglasses? Check. Brands you’ve never heard of? There too. And all of them new and unworn courtesy of the fact that, since opening some 60 years ago, Ottica Bruno hasn’t always sold our of their stock of sunglasses. Instead they’ve kept a hold of them, slowly building what may just be Italy’s best vintage sunglasses offering but never inflating their prices.

So while all your friends are rocking ironic Raybans, you can have the genuine article, circa 1980. Personally I opted for a pair of c. 1970s Persol (i.e. a pair crafted when Persol were still Persol and long before they’d sold out to other brands) and the almost forgotten (but seldom equalled) manufacturer Sferoflex. Ottica Bruno‘s genteel service came into play as the fitting assistant tweaked both pairs to fit my face, all the while telling me the history of the pairs I’d picked out, what they’re made of, how they can be maintained (“this pair will outlive you if you bring it back for servicing”), and all about the brands who crafted them.

You can find Ottica Bruno at Via Roma 5 in Lucca, Italy.

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