Meeting Italian Men in my Local Street Market

April 5th, 2007 · Tags: Behind the Scenes · Culture · Discovering Italy · Food · Italy · Milan

We’re going to Berlin in two days – do you have any tips or suggestions of things I shouldn’t miss? Tell me in the comments! And have a good holiday if you get one!

April is not turning out to be as magical as February or even March was, weather-wise. People were ready for a change in season and now Mother Nature has decided we won’t get our wish…just yet.

Walking around the market close to my house a sunny day two weeks ago, I brought out the new camera so I could hopefully get a few shots of the fresh produce and play around. I knew better than to start snapping pictures and waited until I got the eye of someone working in the booth, indicated my camera, and hoped for a nod or at least a smile.

There were many stall workers that wanted to pose for the camera, even though they weren’t my original target. Strangely, it was only the older ones. The younger ones were more skeptical, knowing that the pictures would probably end up in my dining room and not in a glamorous magazine. Worse, I might even be some undercover photographer doing an expose’ on market cleanliness or other corruption.

A few of them even stipulated, “Not of the prices.”

I assured them, “I’m here for the vegetables!”

But the older men asked for their pictures to be taken. Maybe they still have hope of “being discovered” or were at least glad for the attention.

So, here are my Market Men, and their wares.

This Market Man is actually giving us a demonstration, which they often do if they have time, and explaining to us how to use the zucchine as a grenade.

“You pull this pin like this…” he cocked back his arm like he was going to launch it at the next booth over. That booth owner noticed us gesticulating, noticed my camera, and wanted to get in on the fun.

Demonstrating the Zucchine Grenade

“Don’t waste your time with that guy! Come over here! We got fresh stuff!” Luckily, no grenades were actually launched in my presence. I want to get a few of these and make stuffed zucchini next time I go back. I’ve found they are called Tondo di Piacenza or just tondo for short, or sometimes “Eight Ball” zucchine in English. I love their little round form.

Eight Ball Zucchini

This Market Man was giving out samples of melone, canteloupe.

“Can I take some pictures?” I pointed towards the fruit.

“Why don’t you take a picture of him?” His booth mate started laughing.

“Sure…can I?” He nodded his acquiescence, and stood shyly with the sun in his face. I love the little smile he’s giving me.

Convincing with Canteloupe

It was an early morning sun breaking through that day and still casting shadows as it peeked over buildings and canopies. It really lit up the green and red tomatoes he was selling.

Beautiful red and green tomatoes

This guy was by far my favorite. I am actually in no danger of being hit by that flying apple, and he continued to do different poses for me while showing off in front of his customers and fellow stallmates.

“What do you think? Should I throw it? Or just stand like this?” He kept laughing and talking.

Attacking with an Apple

And boy, did he have some artichokes! These are Carciofi Romani, the Roman artichoke variety. Can you see how big they are compared to the apples? I bet one could feed a family.

Roman Artichokes - Carciofi Romani

And Carciofi Sardi, Sardinian artichokes. The annual Artichoke festival in Castroville is going to happen in May – that’s pretty near my hometown. I once even sang a song about it with Burl Ives. But that’s another story.

Sardinian Artichokes, Carciofi Sardi

So, my Market Men, here’s been your 15 seconds of fame on my blog….I hope you enjoyed it!

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17 responses so far ↓

Comments on older posts are closed automatically

  • 1
    Susan in Italy // Apr 5, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    Hey, I think I know some of these guys! You know how they’re at Porta Romana on Mondays, Piazza Piola on Tuesday, Loreto on Wednesdays, etc.

  • 2
    Kalyn // Apr 5, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    Very fun. I must say that when I went to Italy I thought there were a lot of very handsome men there, whatever the age!

  • 3
    nyc/caribbean ragazza // Apr 5, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Sara, did you photo shop those photos:)

    The fruits and vegetables look amazing. I think it’s funny the younger men didn’t want their photos taken.

  • 4
    JennDZ // Apr 5, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    YUM YUM!

    Wow those stalls look beautiful. I just love markets. There is just something so alive about them, and I love the people that sell their wares there – salt of the earth.


  • 5
    sara // Apr 5, 2007 at 8:01 pm

    Have fun in Berlin! Have a Starbucks for me! haha And watch out for all the smoke. :OD

  • 6
    Ms. Adventures in Italy // Apr 5, 2007 at 9:11 pm

    Susan, I know they run around the city all week! We have them on Saturdays.
    Kalyn, that sounds like homework – I’ll start looking for some page turners :)
    nyc, no, I actually didn’t touch these photos one bit! The light was with me that morning.
    JennDZ, I am happy these guys are happy because I could never do this job…I wouldn’t be able to stay put!
    Sara, darn you reminded me about the smoking ban that doesn’t exist there..ugh.

  • 7
    Ash // Apr 6, 2007 at 6:00 pm

    Beautiful veggies! Lovely photos :) Enjoy Berlin. It’s warm in Amsterdam – well, pretty warm, but not as warm as you get down there I think.

  • 8
    tracie b // Apr 6, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    those zucchini tondi are great for stuffing!

  • 9
    Kaffeebohne // Apr 6, 2007 at 8:56 pm

    Berlin has a lot of museums. From atop of the Reichstag building you have a great view over Berlin. You can also visit Hackesche Hfe. You can walk from Brandenburger Tor the big street ‘Unter den Linden’ into the east part of Berlin with Humboldt University, museums, cafes, shops, embassies of various states. Have a look at there is a chapter called ‘visitors guide’. Enjoy Berlin. The weather cast is pretty good for the next days.

  • 10
    nicki // Apr 7, 2007 at 9:52 am

    If I tried to take photos of the fruit boys here they would throw all the fruit at me! One of them already threatened to sue if I put his photo on the blog!!

  • 11
    Susan from Food "Blogga" // Apr 9, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    Oh, I just adore this post! Your photos of the men are fabulous, and I love the amusing dialogue. How bad is it that I can’t wait to visit farmers’ markets when I first visit Italy? Most people want to see The Vatican or The Leaning Tower of Pisa. Me? I’m thrilled with a beautiful artichoke. ;)

  • 12
    David // Apr 9, 2007 at 6:09 pm


    Aside from pretzels. that’s the home of Trippen shoes. My dream is to make a pilgrammage there someday. Have fun…

  • 13
    jackie // Apr 10, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    incredible photos! i love the guy with the flying apples!

  • 14
    Cherrye // Apr 11, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Too cute..I love old Italian men, too!

  • 15
    erin // Apr 11, 2007 at 7:38 pm

    You should make a Market-Man-of-the-Month calendar, like the Priest calendar on Shelley’s site several months back :)

  • 16
    Silvana // May 1, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Your post reminded me of when I lived in Sardinia for about a year. During the winter artichokes are plentiful and folks there eat seasonally. I ate artichokes so many different ways, I couldn’t eat them for years afterward! I love them again now.

  • 17
    Lisa // Oct 2, 2007 at 5:35 pm

    Those green and red tomatoes look absolutely STUNNING. I’m having a blast digging through your archives. Haha.

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