Saturday, October 12, 2013

Firenze: Fare la spesa (do the shopping)

A quaint market on a side street
One of the joys of being in Italy is going to the market, which often means going some distance away from where you live. My favorite open market, Sant'Ambrogio, is a 30-minute walk (each way) from my apartment, so it takes some planning to fit that excursion into my day. But it's well worth the effort! There are many other options for shopping. For everyday items, I usually go to Conad, which is a chain of stores all over the city.

An alimentari in San Niccolo, just for basics like vegetables and winer
There are small alimentari (grocery store) dotted around the city, but the selection of items is limited. Going to the open markets is a way to see Italians at their daily life, and to participate in the ritual of buying fresh food each day.

The open maret at Sant'Ambrogio
At Sant'Ambrogio, there's also an indoor market, where vendors sell all kinds of fresh meats, fish, cheeses, homemade pasta, breads, dried fruits, etc. There's even a small ristorante, Rocco's, where locals eat for lunch, and you can get a pasta dish for only 5 euros.

Anne and I stopped in at Rocco's for lunch.
I buy buffalo mozzarella from this guy
Schiaciatta con l'uva (flat bread with grapes) on the left: a fall specialty.
Bread, cured olives and cinghiale (wild boar)!
Freshly picked olives: cure them yourself!
Porcini mushrooms: make sure they're fresh!
Goat cheese
Once a week, in Cascine Park across town, there's a whopper of a market, one of the largest I've seen in Italy, with just about everything you can imagine. The clothes are often offered at large discounts. For instance, I bought a dress length sweater trimmed with lace for only 5 euros, and three silk scarves for the same price.

Need something for the kitchen?
Tables are covered with everything from bras to tablecloths, jewelry to knives, shoes to lampshades. Next year when I come, I'll bring fewer clothes and buy a new wardrobe at the Cascine market.

he's the "assassin of prices!"
fresh herbs for the windowsill gardens
On many streets, you'll find the illegal sale of items like watches, purses and sunglasses. The vendors are usually from Africa or Asia and don't have a vendor's license. The goods are displayed on sheets, as shown below, so the vendors can easily sweep them up into the sheet and run off when they see the polizia coming their way.

The ever-present, illegal, knock-off handbags
As you can see, shopping is an experience in Italy, and not to be missed!

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