“Market day is a good day!” That’s what I like to say to my husband when we head out to one of the local, nearby markets. Throughout Italy, small villages and big cities alike host outdoor markets on the same day each week – and sometimes on multiple days, depending on the size of the town. A throwback to medieval times, local markets – fieri – are a steadfast, popular tradition – and thank goodness!
Although there are many similarities in terms of the goods sold at various markets – fruits, vegetables, kitchen gadgets, clothes, shoes (just bought a pair of fun boots the other day!) linens, cheeses, etc. – there are differences too. Some markets offer more produce, others specialize in antiques and each has its own unique personality.
One of our favorite markets is held weekly in the town of Chiusi (in Tuscany, but near the border with Umbria). There’s a particular porchetta and pecorino (sheep’s cheese) vendor who we like to buy from, and we especially enjoy visiting Valerio’s produce stand. From porcini to pumpkins and apples to artichokes, Valerio has all, but only if it’s fresh and in season. Plus, it’s always a joy to visit with him. (In fact, to read more about Valerio, and how his passion for farm-grown produce helped him through a personal tragedy – click here.)
One of the many things I love about living in Italy is the insistence on cooking with foods that are in season. That means that the produce bins at the market are always spilling over (quite literally) with colorful, beautiful fruits and vegetables – many of which were picked just the evening before. And now that it’s autumn, porcini mushrooms have appeared!
The mushroom of choice throughout Italy, porcini are known for their rich flavor and fabulous versatility in the kitchen, so buying some fresh porcini at the market is a must for me this time of year. (For an easy-to-make porcini dish, click here.)
Of course, there are also those dark chestnuts and fabulous autumn greens ….. Market day is a good day!
Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada where she creates and organizes personalized experiences and specialty retreats in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy, for travelers who wish to be immersed in the history, culture and traditions of the regions.
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