Posted by Palma Hansen – Palmabella’s Italy
Want to know Italy? Try a slow stroll through the local market for an authentic experience!
One of the ways that we feel we connect to the “real Italy” is visiting the local market. In the smaller towns, there’s a weekly market day when vendors come into town, set up their stalls, and spend the morning hawking their wares to the local population. The locals show up throughout the market hours, some with small wire carts to hold their purchases and allow them to carry more home, others with very specific intentions: this vegetable vendor, that cheese vendor, a little meat from their favorite traveling butcher, and others just to browse and see what’s new from last week.
The major cities have their markets as well, but they are permanent. In Firenze, there is the Mercato Centrale in the San Lorenzo district. This is a large building, and is full of food vendors, with a little bit of everything, from veggies
If you’ve been over the Rialto Bridge in Venice, you’ve probably seen the market on one end. The vegetables and fresh fish are one of the most colorful photo ops in Venezia! In Rome, the Campo di Fiori is all about flowers and food, and sets up every day but Sunday, only to be vacated by mid-afternoon and returning to a lovely piazza, perfect for a latte or glass of wine and people-watching.
While the “big city” markets are great, it’s the smaller towns’ markets that are fun. We’ve purchased a beautiful copper-bottomed pizza pan in Acqui Termi in Piemonte, we bought shoes when the ones we were wearing were uncomfortable (Lerici in Liguria); we bought food for snacking and food to cook a meal (all over Italy), we purchased Pashmina shawls in Florence for gifts for 8 euros each ($60 to $100 in the U.S.), tablecloths in Viareggio, and spent many more hours just enjoying browsing the beautiful and creative displays the vendors offer. One of our favorite purchases was in Cortona, and we will be reliving the experience when we bring our Palmabela’s Italy group there in July. That purchase was our first porchetta sandwiches from a porchetta truck, and they were/are unforgettably delicious. What better way to celebrate July 4 in Italy than with a little picnic in Cortona! With our group, we’ll also try to make the market in Montefalco (Umbria), which carries everything from tools to tomatoes, and brings locals from neighboring towns.
Many Americans are “going green” and purchasing local products from local growers. Italians have always done this. Going to the local market in Italy is a great way to sample Italian life, because it is an essential part of Italian life. The markets provide so many things: from clothing to food to tools to electronics at reasonable prices. But what the markets really provide is an opportunity for you to experience “real Italy” in an easy, intimate, and inexpensive way.
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Palma Hansen is an Italian-American who enjoys cooking, music, art, and all things Italian. She and her husband, Brad, have been exploring and enjoying Italy travel since 2001. They live and work in Palm Desert, California, and are looking forward to sharing their love of Umbria with travelers who want to experience the wonders of Italy in a slow, personal, and casual way.