November 1, 2007

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Il Mercato All’Aperto


Who wouldn’t be inspired by this great display of vegetables? I love farmers markets. This one happened to be in Trastevere in Rome. It was our first visit to this wonderful neighborhood and we just stumbled upon the market. Even though we were staying in a hotel and had no means of actually cooking a meal during our stay I lingered there, studying the offerings and dreaming what I would make if I had access to a kitchen.

Whenever we travel to a new city I always do a little investigating beforehand to find out the time and location of their famers market and then I make it a priority to go there. Sometimes it’s just a few booths with one or two farmers and maybe a craftsperson with their wares. Other times it’s a real community event crowded with all sorts of people-some shopping, others entertaining the crowd and some folks simply there to be part of the action.

My favorite market is the one in Santa Bararba on Saturday mornings held in a parking lot at the intersection of Cota and Santa Barbara Streets from 8:30-12:30. This is a market that I would set my alarm clock for! There are probably a hundred vendors there and each booth is more fascinating then the next. Although Santa Barbara is only three hours from my hometown the farmers here frequently have things that I never see at my weekly market. I always take a cooler with me so I can store my veggies in our hotel room until we get home! The abudance of vegetables is amazing as are all the flowers.

There is one booth where an older woman sells the most precious small bouquets of flowers and I always have to have one for our hotel room. Another sells wreaths of varied sizes made with lavendar and other flowers. I can usually find things I never see at home like wild mushrooms or cavolo nero (an Italian type chard) and a variety of small potatoes. In the spring there’s one stand selling only asparagus and three or four sizes of artichokes. In summer I’m tempted to buy tomatoes from every stand that I pass-so many varieties of heirlooms. Fall brings brightly colored squash and gourds in all shapes and sizes. With our mild winters there’s even a great selection throughout those months.

Sitting here writing this I’m wondering how I can squeeze in a trip there in the near future! Until then I will have to be content with my local Saturday market which is really one of the oldest and the best in the San Diego area. Even when I don’t need a lot, I go just to be around all that wonderful produce!

P.S. Next time I’m in Rome I may just have to rent an apartment from Shelley of “At Home in Rome” so I can actually cook a meal after visiting the market!


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