When you go for a visit to Italy, be sure to ask about the local mercato (markets)in the city you are visiting. You must do a visit to the mercato in Italy! There is usually one in every city once a week. Some even have 2 a week. I love to visit the mercato because you can find a little of every thing. I'm mostly there to check out the food, but I know those that go just for the fashion. I do like to check out the shoes and the clothes, but prefer not to buy any thing. It's all too rushed and frenetic for me.
It's hot and it's crowded in the summertime. People push you around and some of them are smoking cigarettes as they're glancing around the racks of clothes. There's shouting and there's bargaining. There are babies crying and there are lots of cute dogs to check out.
Right around here is where my sister-in-law convinced me to check out these tops. I noticed it was getting chaotic the closer I was getting to the pile. They were these cute bathing suit cover ups. In a few days, everyone will be gone. Italy will practically shut down the month of August. It is time to go to a beach. Any beach will do. Besides visiting the mercato for a bathing suit coverup, did I mention that it is SALDI time in Italy. That means, Summer Sales! Everyone awaits the big day when the stores start the sales. But back to this day at the mercato.
I'm not sure how any one can find their correct size in the midst of arms and material whipping around. There is no organization and I guess that is what is the thrill of it all? My sister-in-law dove deeper around the corner to where she found something she had her eye on the week before. I liked that green one you see on the left on a mannequin. But to attempt to find my size with Italian ladies happily shoving each other around to find their own sizes, impossible. The heat was getting to me and I was starting to not breath as well as I was 3 minutes before. Another puff of smoke in my face and a cigarette dangling a little too close to my son's head. A little mercato claustrophobia? Definitely!
I didn't want to offend my sister-in-law and not keep her company and give her my opinion of the one she was interested in, but I realized I just bought a cover up before going to Italy and really didn't need to spend 30 euros on something I wasn't even sure would fit me. Off I went to check out something more interesting!
The Italian mercato is where everyone catches up with each other. Moms get to see friends they haven't run into in a while. Most Italian women make sure they look really good before going to the mercato. The bella figura is very important in Italy. What is a bella figura? It's all about making a good impression! My mother-in-law would not let my father-in-law go out not looking completely put together. His pants and shirt clean and pressed. Not one stain or wrinkle will do. Dirty shoes? Just this month I watched zia Daniela lecture zio Domenico about how he could not. No, there was no way she would allow him to go to Venice with us with dust on his shoes. Examples of La Bella Figura.
And it's not excluded just to how you dress and look when you go out. It truly is a philosophy on life. It's what makes every thing tick in an Italian's life. It is a little too much to get into here and I may have to make this into another post for a future date.
But really, for me, visiting a mercato is all about the food!! Check out this cheese!
A really great post that talks about the history of mercati in Italy from Paolo of Disgraces on the Menu.
Georgette (AKA: THE Girl in Florence) talk about the incredible Mercato Centrale in Florence.
Katie Parla talks about the Nuovo Mercato di Testaccio in Rome.