…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 — and it was just 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…”
And just before Shirley Bassey could hit the money note in my mind, the Heiress waited on me.
“Sì, signore, 250 grami della mozzarella. Un momento~”
When I get back to my apartment, I’ll have to see what state secrets she hid in the cheese.
It could happen.
Ciao, ciao, ciao,
The photos: The market in the Campo dei Fiori, Rome, Italy.