Even love can be found among market stalls, it can start between a loaf of bread and a steak and go on for almost fifty years. The main characters of this novel are Bruno and Dina, a butcher since he was a young boy and now well known in the whole market, and the owner of a bread and pasta stall, run with her aunt, since the first day Italia market was opened.
A walk through the stalls
“It was October 20, 1950, there was a lot of people, the mayor, a council member, a big crowd. I was 14 years old and I spent the whole day crying – says Dina, who is from Tuscany but moved to Rome after her father’s death – I said to myself, I will not make it here, not even for a day, I used to wake up every morning and cry because I was very shy and afraid of people. Then over the years the market has become my second home and my clients my second mothers, they were lovely with me. One would bring me some sweets, another a small gift. Today, despite my age, I cannot stay at home because I miss the people. So I keep on coming to help my daughter Daniela”.
“I started to work here in '58, before I used to work at a butcher’s outside – explains Bruno, whose meat stall is just a few meters away from his wife’s bakery – My boss had sent me here and I couldn’t believe it because the store was open from 6 am to 9 pm, while here it was just half a day of work. Then I also found my wife here, had children and grandchildren. Now I would like to have someone to leave the business to, because I almost eighty years old, but unfortunately I can’t find any young people willing to take over. I only have someone to help me on Saturdays, because I cannot afford any more”.
Italia market is definitely a point of reference for the whole neighborhood, it’s still a colorful space, crowded and full of life despite the decrease of vendors, which doesn’t save anyone. From 220, as they were at the end of the fifties, there are now approximately 80 vendors working at Via Catania 70, with a wide offering. The shops around the market are many: delis, haberdasheries, pet food, an upholsterer, a shop (Bella festa) selling only balloons of all sizes, shapes and colors and merchandising for all kinds of parties, from children’s to cocktails and graduation parties. And also flower stalls, fishmongers, households, bulk and bottled wine.
In the center of the market, divided by walls built during a refurbishing in the eighties for which many vendors complained, there are greengrocers and fruit vendors.
Some farmers, as Esterina who comes from Palombara with her fruits and vegetables “fresh every morning” as stated by the beautiful wooden sign at her stall. And Esterina with all her signs indicates clearly which are the vegetables she raises, “courgettes from my garden” , “vegetables not treated”, “natural strawberries from Terracina” ... important instructions for those who want to avoid pesticides and fungicides. But also good advices for those who are looking to save some money: “3 bunches of basil for 2 euros”, “for every 10 euro spent, a bunch of rocket for free”.
On Tuesdays and Fridays Italia market keeps open up to seven, like other markets in town, but there are not many vendors staying until late. Bruno complains about it: “Everybody cries there is no work, but if they need to make a little sacrifice themselves, they don’t. There are only few stalls open, so no one comes to the market and my friend Mauro the greengrocer and I play scopa (Italian cards game), there are hung our scores”. So, at the market you can find a wife, but also a partner to play cards with.
“I like so much grandparents' hands. Not only the ones of my own grandparents, but of all those gentlemen and ladies who are very, very old, in fact the hands of the elders. Often when I go to the market with Mommy, I get stuck to look at hands while they work. And if they are old hands, I'm even more fascinated.
When I went to Catania road market, I was conquered by Mrs. Pina's hands. Who – as a job – slips peas. All day long, from morning till night, she cleans peas. And her hands are a little knotty, a little crooked after slipping all those peas. To prevent them from getting all green, Mrs. Pina wears some thin white gloves, made of plastic, as the ones Mommy uses to wash dishes, just thinner. Despite the gloves, I looked thoroughly at her hands and I have to say one thing: with or without the gloves, you could tell those hands have slipped many, but many peas!”.
ALICE' S TIP
Close to Italia's market there are two places I suggest. One is just aside the market, it's called L'altracittà and it's a bookshop, but not only. There are a lot of nice little books, but also a piano, you can find many wood games and accessories that Mummy likes so much and also music even for the youngest ones, including workshops and listenings for "small ears".
For those a little older, let's say 4 years old or more, there is another good place, especially if you like science and technology. It's called Technotown, a play area inside Villa Torlonia, which has a beautiful green garden. But if the weather is not good or it's cold, you can get into Technotown and look at the stars in the inflatable planetarium, or build your own robot and play with it, or put on some 3D glasses to see how earth was born or what happens when a tsunami comes. Exciting!
Just around the corner
Six blocks east of the market, and six feet under the ground, beats the deep heart of the city: to protect it, the MONUMENTAL CEMETERY OF VERANO, the Père Lachaise cemetery of the Italian capital. With its Parisian "twin", it shares the same putative father (Napoleon, who at the beginning of '800 imposed burials outside of town) and also the prestige of the guests: walking among its gravestones is like walking into the history of a city, and of a nation. Going through the last century as you would leaf through a newspaper, the headlines would be dedicated to politics, with the graves of men and women who have marked the birth and the events of the Italian Republic: from Andreotti to Togliatti, from Nenni to La Malfa, from Almirante to Saragat, from Claretta Petacci to Nilde Iotti. But the story of a country can also be told through the major cases of crime. And at Verano rest the protagonists of some of the most dramatic events which have marked Italy in the last decades: the poor Wilma Montesi, killed in the 50s with the first real scandal of the Republic; the young Alfredino Rampi, who died in 1981 (ten days after the fatal accident of the popular singer-songwriter Rino Gaetano, who was also buried within these walls); the student Marta Russo, shot at university in the 90s. And then, still leafing through, after the news, there are the cultural pages: here the Muses mourn Eduardo De Filippo's death, Fregoli, Ungaretti, Moravia, Giacomo Balla, Gianni Rodari. And those who want to follow a fully feminine path, will stumble into the genius of Grazia Deledda and Maria Montessori, the first Italian Nobel women, or in the strength and grace of Sibilla Aleramo's verses or of Alida Valli's interpretations.
But the heart of Verano vibrates especially in the verses and words of those who have spent their lives telling Rome, spreading out pages that would otherwise have been confined in local chronicles. Big dialect poets (Belli, Pascarella, Trilussa), passionate singers (Gabriella Ferri), directors who have immortalized Rome torn by the war (Rossellini), in search of redemption (De Sica), scarred by corruption (Petri). But above all, faces and voices of famous actors: from Ettore Petrolini to ALBERTO SORDI, from Nino Manfredi to Marcello Mastroianni, from Vittorio Gassman to Aldo Fabrizi. And the words on the grave of the latter are probably the best summary of "Romanity", a mixture of fatalism, cynicism and irony that even in the most dramatic moment can make a last joke "Taken away from this world too al dente" (meaning too early). Last but not least, sport. A few meters away from each other rest
Guido Masetti, goal keeper in the first championship Rome won, and the presidents who took the yellow and red jerseys up to the top two more times, making the crowd crazy for happiness: Dino Viola and Franco Sensi. Not to mention the first captain of Rome’s history, that Attilio Ferraris who wanted to carve on the stone his greatest triumph, having written on his grave simply “World Champion”.
But if we had to choose a quote to say goodbye to this place of peace and meditation, we would probably go back to TRILUSSA’s tomb of the poet and read his delicate epitaph: "There's a bee who stops on a rose sprout / it sucks it and flies away… after all, happiness / is a small thing. "
|where||via Catania 70|
|open||Monday – Saturday, h 7:00-14:00 (on Tuesday and Friday until 19)|
|PARking||underground parking to be paid (via Giuseppe De Mattheis), along the road blue slots|
from Termini railway station, Line 649, 673 o 310
|metro||Line B, Bologna (walking distance 500mt)|