Sunday, 15 April 2012


Mercato in Italian. 

I love markets, the sight and sound and smell of them. The hustle and bustle. I can't understand it when people get irritated by the crowds as that is part and parcel of the charm in my view. Yes, you get jostled but what of it?  I don't mind a bit of jostle, myself.

My favourite markets are in Italy, in particular the one I go to when I stay with my family. It has all the usual stalls, cheap clothes from China, inexpensive jewellery and hair accessories, handbags and many other sundries. But the stalls I go for are the food ones.

The stalls overflow with whatever is in season, fresh as fresh, and smelling absolutely divine. The vendors who aren't in actual transaction call out there wares often with hoarse voices as they've been moving from town to town every day shouting out the same way. They then pack your carrier bags full. People don't just buy 4 or 5 apples at a time they buy kilos so their bags are groaning with the one item, then they'll buy a whole bag full of freshly harvested greens, and a whole bag of artichokes. A lot of people , men included, pull trolleys behind them so they can fit all their bags into them if they want more than a few different items as each one needs a bag of it's own. You can buy a whole tray of figs fresh off a tree, or large tray of eggs which are generally straight from the chicken that morning.

 Then you go to get the meat. This is sold from vans rather than a stall to keep it more hygienic, though often the vendors have set up a table in front to slice the meat which is direct from a hunk of pork shoulder and other types of meat. Our preferred  meat seller in the mercato, the whole family work at the van and have been for generations, but due to EU regulations now don't rear their own pigs so we don't get the individual flavour that used to come from the particular food fed to those pigs. There is also a large choice of salamis, porcetta and sausages among other types of meat to choose from.

 Then people go for the cheeses, most of them regional but a few from other areas, everyone finishes their main lunch meal with cheese so these stalls are important. My favourite stall of all is the olive one which contains several different types and sizes of olive which are kept in large wooden bowls covered in brine but still fresh. There are a few other things such as various nuts and seeds also on offer in these stalls. I usually go for large green olives with no added flavour or stuffing, and some pistachios.

 All the time as you walk around you see friends and family. Getting the groceries becomes an event in itself, stopping and chatting, bit of gossip, bit of world saving discussion, bit of weather moaning - this last is a big topic favourite. People go to buy at the market but also to catch up with other people, you do see many people, generally older men who just wander around, hands behind their backs till they see someone they know and call out to them, stopping for a chat before moving on to see who else is around, or maybe just to experience the actual market itself.

Italian markets are noisy and crowded and just so full of life.


ayjay said...

I also love markets :) The farmer's market in Madison, WI has forever spoiled me to any other. It's over a mile long and you can get almost anything you want. I think it's where I started to be a foodie... :) Good word!

DayDreamer said...

Well, I guess after walking and shopping for a mile you've burnt off enough calories to eat the treats you've bought yourself, lol.

Jenny said...

Oh, I have market envy! But our local farmers markets are pretty good and get better every year.

Joy Ciaffoni said...

I'm going to Italy in a few weeks. Which town is your family from? I'm so excited about the food!

DayDreamer said...

Jenny, farmers markets are great to visit, you also often know exactly where your food comes from.

Joy, I hope you have a lovely time and enjoy the food whichever region you visit. The town my family is from is Anzio in Lazio, which is right by the sea, so there are plenty of fish restaurants, but people also eat lots of vegetables cooked in many different ways as well as many meat dishes.