Saturday morning … well, ahem, late morning, actually almost noon … and I’m off to do some food shopping. It’s June, it is hot and it finally feels as though Summer has arrived … and there is some kind of Harley Davidson mega-reunion taking place in parts of Rome and the outskirts. Here we are in Frascati … And don’t they look cool! I stop to take these photos but don’t linger because I am off to the Mercato Coperto, the market.
It is very sad for me to have to confess that Frascati’s covered market is not exactly pretty, if anything there is an air of forlorn dilapidation about the place. What used to be a thriving two-storey affair, selling fresh fish and meat and all sorts of good-quality foods, has now been reduced to one floor, with only three fruit and veg vendors. I happened to be in Florence’s covered market last week, the first time for me … and I wanted to weep at the stark contrast between the bustling and almost luxurious quality of Florence’s market compared with the après-nous-le-déluge feel of this once jewel in the crown of a town, nestling in the hills south east of Rome.
The one excellent, and not just good, thing about Frascati’s covered market is, of course, the fact that the hard-working people who sell their wares there are very friendly and kind and lots of fun to be with. Here are married couple Maria and Marco Cerri. She is quick as a flash, charming, spurting out recipes and talking about music concerts as she scuttles about deftly … and he is easy-going and methodical and does not like to be hurried. He is what I would call a Slow Market man … conversation and good manners are of upmost importance. Their veggies and fruits are just the best … and there is often a long queue. Please note that it was coming up to half past twelve when I took these photos and most market shoppers are the get-up-early-in-the-morning eager beaver kind, and would have long been home by now. This is Hakim, the Cerri’s assistant from Bangladesh. There are many Bangladeshis in Rome now. Maria and Marco kindly inform us that they intend to stay open even on Monday’s during the hot summer months. Only an Italian would understand the calendar meaning of this announcement. Traditionally, July and August are the hottest months of the year and most people take a holiday then, shopkeepers included — and large towns used to be quite empty, with so many people off and away to the seaside. It is quite normal for food shops to close during these months, although they have to make sure at least one or two of them are open … for obvious reasons. The rules are put into place by local government and consequently tend to vary from town to town. And here are Angela and Maurizio, the other couple at the market. Very cheery and sweet, both of them.
Angela couldn’t for the life of her understand why I wanted to take a photo but so what! She smiled anyway …
Here instead is a client with an attitude, a signora of an unspecified ‘certain age’ … whose name I shall not reveal but who used to run a very posh clothes boutique up until about ten years ago and who remembers my mother well. “So what HAS happened to your mother?”, she enquired inquisitorially, “She seems to have disappeared from the face of the earth!” she exclaims as though my mother’s whereabouts should somehow be of any importance to her. But hey! doesn’t she look fab, all dolled up even though she is just going to the market?
“Come on!” I encourage her to pose for me … and she complies very coquettishly without the slightest hint of self consciousness. What a great generation!
And here is Patrizia … she and her colleagues run the third and last stall. It’s the biggest too. What amazes me is that though these three stalls are obviously ‘competing’ to some extent, there seems to be no bitching and quarreling between them. I buy from all three stalls. I love the atmosphere at the market!
My next stop is a grocer’s … but on my way I espy notices on a public wall that might appear somewhat morbid to non-Italians, but which I think are a very civilised way of handling obituaries. The notices inform the passer-by of those who have passed away and also give details regarding the funeral service or give comments offering thanks.
Oooops … and here are some more Harley Davidson bikers … probably in search of something to eat. Here is a greengrocer’s … they are open in the afternoons too. And here is my very favourite grocer’s called “Sfizio” … it’s a tiny shop really but full of wonderful food. Here is Nino … he recently became grandfather to baby Flavio …. Here is Elena, one of his assistants. Here is camera-shy Antonella, the other assistant. I love the way they manage to stack so much into such little space!
And here at the till is Daniela, Nino’s wife and proud grandmother. It was she who showed me the photos of baby Flavio.Notice the holy pictures and religious references … even in a shop. We all need protection and guidance.
Just across the road from Sfizio is the Enoteca Molinari.
Here is Nico Molinari … His father died tragically when he was only a lad and his mother ran the shop until he and his older sister were old enough to take over. Theirs are the most honest wine prices you will have the luck to encounter.
Nico and his sister Noemi are very kind and patient with me. Very often, I dump my shopping bags on them because they would be too heavy for me to carry as I walk home. I then do walk home, get my car, drive to their place and load up my car. Also, because we do like our wine, Nico and Noemi are quite okay about us running a tab with them.A parting shot after I’ve bought my wine. Time to go home …
Any wonder I boycott supermarkets as much as I can? It is something I started to do in earnest as soon as I read Felicity Lawrence’s “Not on The Label – What Really Goes Into the Food in your Plate”.
Markets and shopkeepers are the fabric of our society just as much as the CEOs and lawyers and tinkers and taylors, soldiers and spies … What a pity that we do not fete them enough, they certainly deserve our respect.