This little piggy went to market~


…and there will be no “wee, wee, weeing” all the way home!

It is summer and, besides the HEAT, it can only mean one thing—farmers’s markets! Italy is famous for it’s farmers’s markets that, on any given Saturday, fill every piazza from Venice to Sicily. 

When I lived in Viterbo, Italy, I only went to the Saturday morning market once. It was all right. I know you expect me to say that everything in Italy is “amazing” or “unbelievable” and “not to be missed.” But like everywhere, not everything is the best.

My favorite market to go to, and one of the most famous in Italy, is the market in the piazza Campo dei Fiori (Field of Flowers) in Rome. There has been a market here for hundreds of years, if not for thousands, and when we were there this past November, I could see why.

Rows of tented fruits and vegetables, bucket after bucket of flowers, spices, and oils, along with vans with glass cases displaying cheese, meat, and bread. Tables with books, knickknacks, rugs, stacks of boxed athletic shoes, racks of clothing, pots and pans…you can find a little bit of everything here.

Most of the items are no different than what you might find at your local farmers’s market here, well, I guess we have a distinction between a flea market and a farmers’s market. One implies food and the other implies no food. In Italy, the Saturday market always has both. There is something exotic about walking through a market like this in a foreign country. In America, when someone says to you, “Hey, check out these shoes!” “Come on, you need to see my books,” or “Buy some sausages to take home tonight,” there is something irritating about their hawking; however, in a foreign tongue, how interesting all of those pleas become. Maybe they are enticing you to trade your cow for some magic beans, or if by not understanding the salesman pitch, you bought that urn and polished it too hard, encouraging a hot, tantalizing Italian genie to appear ready to grant you a wish and blink it into reality.

My favorite woman at il Campo this past year was an elderly lady, wrapped in a fuzzy sweater, with a hot pink scarf tied around her neck and a string of pearls. Very fashionable, I thought. She seemed very sophisticated working her cheese wagon—well, van. She would give customers an inviting smile, assist as best she could the non-Italian speaking tourists, and toss her head back and laugh when humored by a fellow Italian.

She was the type of person that I was glad I couldn’t really understand her. It was far more fun to create some imagined truth about her—an heiress down on her luck after being swindled out of her fortunes by a dashing, tall, and dark-eyed stranger at the casino, or maybe she was incognito and hiding from her years as an international spy. Hmmm, international secrets traded at night and fresh mozzarella sliced and wrapped during the day. In my imagination she led a very incredible life. And I am going to keep it that way.

I hope this summer you visit your local flea and farmers’s markets. And when some woman in a t-shirt is trying to sell you her used Holly Hobbies, imagine not understanding a word and believing that inside Holly there might just be some microfilm of the secret plans to the newest Russian weapon of mass destruction…okay, maybe that is too James Bond.

“Goldfinger…he’s the man…the man with the Midas touch…” “Si, signore, 250 grami della mozzarella. Un momento~” 

It could happen.

Ciao, ciao, ciao,


The photos: The market in the Campo dei Fiori, Rome, Italy.

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

  1. Pat JordanPat Jordan07-13-2010

    Love the story of the vendor with the pink scarf…..Remind me to tell you about a trip to St. Barts in 1981, when the only transport was a stinky old cargo boat with no seats. My friend ( the head of the Art department at the New England Prep School, where we both taught) created fantasies about the passengers on the long slow boat from St Martin….. After Spring Break, we returned to our lovely stuffy school. I had forgotten that this was just a game we were playing during our escape from ” the little darling”……well lo and behold….some of our fantasy people showed up right there in our school courtyard in Providence….You’ll have to invite me for Pasta when you return to hear….the rest of the story!

  2. Mark LeslieMark Leslie07-13-2010

    Pat, I can’t to hear more…and was that a nod to radio announcer Paul Harvey (“…the rest of the story.”)? Looking forward to having some pasta, a glass of wine, and sharing a story or two. “I’m Mark Leslie…good day!”

  3. Pat JordanPat Jordan07-13-2010

    Yes….I plagiarized Paul Harvey! mia culpa, mia culpa, mia maxima culpa ( can’t remember how to spell in Latin )

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.