It is Wednesday, centuries-old market day in Anghiari. The main (medieval) piazza, which is referred to as piazza mercatale, has been filling with stalls since before 6 – we have heard the busier than usual early traffic coming down Corso Matteotti this morning. The market spills over this main (renaissance) road, through a loggia, into another more recent, 18th century, piazza that becomes Viale Antonio Gramsci. There’s a mix of stalls – clothes, cheeses and salumi, the porchetta van, and fruit and vegetables. I recognise the same people, located in the same places, from previous stays here. We are drawn, down the street, to the sense of life in this weekly ritual.
There’s a sense of plenty, yet simplicity, in the cheese van that we visit first off – just lots of fantastic pecorinos, and a huge parmigiano regiano. He is also selling noce (walnuts) which are an important part of Christmas meals, and dried porcini, as the season for fresh is over. We visit one of the fruit and vegetable stalls, but I can’t help but notice that they are not selling anything that isn’t in the little shops here – the same fresh seasonal vegetables, can be found, at the same prices, in the shops. Nevertheless, the ritual of the market is clearly an important to the people of Anghiari.
So, now I seem to be back to the shops of this town. It’s not surprising that my first 2 posts from here have been about shopping, and, indeed, food shopping. People here shop every day for food: food is important; it is treated with great respect. And, so, shops are also significant meeting places. There is no sense of people hurrying through, of chores being done. In fact, shops often have a feeling akin to that of the piazza: a space without linearity or purpose, a space of pause, of just hanging out. (The term for that phenomenon of what is, generally, but not exclusively, groups of men, just standing in the piazza is ‘stare in piedi’ – to be in a state of being, on one’s feet.)
My favourite fruit and vegetable shop is a case in point. It is owned by Letizia (‘joy’, in Italian). When I first arrived, a couple of days ago, she greeted me with a huge hug. I have now been introduced to some of the people who have always seemed, from my anglo perspective, to be ‘standing around’, doing nothing. It turns out that they are family and friends, people close to Letizia, and I feel honoured to have been introduced. I just hadn’t got it before!
On our way back up Corso Matteotti, after the market, we stop at a shop a couple of doors down from where we are staying. There is no comparable sort of shop in Australia. Here is another version of the unassuming shop that sells everything. It is small, and located in a Renaissance building. From the outside, it might at first look like a hardware shop in our terms, but, along with plants and brooms, there are walnuts, bags of kindling, baskets, and… And we’re not even inside the shop yet. Everything you can imagine you might need for around the house will be there, in this tiny space. (We bought an excellent kitchen knife, made in Italy, that we spotted in the cabinet under the counter.) Cacti, makeup, lentils and chickpeas, and sanitary pads are all in a line.
This shop is run by a woman who is as hospitable as everyone else we meet, and it too is a meeting place. People are intently discussing Christmas arrangements – material for a tablecloth is being acquired. And when that is completed to everyone’s satisfaction, our hostess is happy to spend time discussing the quality of kitchen knives with us. She has a big smile as she helps me with my Italian.