In the markets…
Markets are the mirror of the society, of the different social groups, even if they all have common characteristics and the same purposes. Each market reflects the economy and the needs of the people, as well as the life of the quarter where it is situated.
The markets of my town, Palermo, are characterized by the shouts of the sellers and by the liveliness of the crowd.
Generally, the liveliness of the people is present in all the markets; but, in particular in the cities of the South of Italy, the sellers shout the name of their own typical products to attract the hurried buyers. In other cities of Italy there are markets more silent than those in Palermo. There, the sellers turn to other techniques, if it is necessary, to enchant the customers.
I am that kind of person who lets herself be easily enchanted, in spite of the advice of my husband not to buy things.
I will write about some fascinating markets, overflowing with people, vitality, energy. The elegant Verona, the refined Mantua or Sanremo, the tidy Turin, the beautiful, sad Venice, the commercial Milan, the wonderful, inviting, friendly, chaotic Rome, the contradictory Palermo are cities that give hospitality to many fantastic flower markets. Those markets receive an exceptional number of visitors enchanted by exotic flowers, by scents, by colours.
Tuscany, one of the regions where I have been to often since my daughter started University in Florence, shows its typical goods with pride: agricultural products, handmade articles, foodstuffs, old furniture, old books. Visiting those markets is an interesting way to know places and people.
Just last Friday, my husband and I took our grandchild to a show of period toys for collection in Florence.
The Christmas markets have a charming atmosphere filled with shining lights, festoons, trees, floodlit windows. Fantastic Christmas markets are in Bolzano, Munich, Vienna, Berlin. I think other great Christmas markets are in North Europe!
I visited the market of Portobello Road about 25 years ago. We bought some old, refined ivory and silver objects (at that time ivory was saleable - today I shouldn’t buy it!), some small fine pictures. There, my children and I lost my husband in the crowd… He… guilty… went in a shop without advising… (It happened other times… in Athens, in Moscow…; always for the same reason: his collection of old cameras…) I… angry!!! I think I can compare Portobello market with the flea markets of Paris. All very expensive! Interesting and fantastic!
The markets of the Mediterranean countries are untidier, sometimes dirtier than the markets of the countries in the North of Europe. It is right; all the people, all the sellers of the North smile, invite the buyers with great kindness, but they seem very detached, very distant! Maybe it is an attitude! It is perhaps my opinion! Maybe not correct!
The bazaar Khan el-Khalili, in Cairo, smells of life, the right life! It is a strong, stirring sensation to get in and to go round the narrow streets, where the scents, the noises, the colours of thousands of shops take in the tourist and lead him into a labyrinth from which it is impossible go away, if the visitor doesn’t have any references. When we went to Khan el-Khalili, our reference was a very high minaret and with it the prayers of the muezzin, recited aloud.
Bowls filled up, sacks inflated, wicker baskets overflowing with spices invite us to buy. Cinnamon, black pepper, ginger, cardamom, chilli, curry, saffron, coriander and cumin compose a mosaic of aromatic herbs and colours. Then, the different fragrances of tea, the famous “karkade”, the thirst-quenching infusion of hibiscus flowers…
I remember the winning looks, the fascinating smiles of the Egyptian sellers, ready to attract the attention of the people. It was very difficult to stand up to!
I found the same atmosphere, the identical warmth in Lisbon, Madrid, Seville, Cordoba, Athens, Sarayevo, Mostar….
Markets, their life, the lively discussions, the obstinate bargaining, the waiting, the renunciations, the second thoughts make men equal. There aren’t differences among social classes, ethnic groups or races.
I learnt that!