One of the biggest culture shocks I experienced when I moved to Umbria from Seattle was something completely unexpected - there were no farmers' markets! Now, whilst living in Seattle, I was a central part of the booming farmers' market industry there - I had a very popular stand called Bruschettina, lines down the block, I even had an employee - the farmers' markets were my life.... So imagine my shock (and dismay and horror) when I moved to a place where, honestly, in America we think we are modelling our markets after, that is barren, so to speak.
Understand that other than bananas and citrus, I had not bought a piece of produce in a supermarket in years. I was dying on the inside... The 'markets' here were what I oh-so- lovingly deemed Socks and Underwear Markets. Basically a bunch of stalls selling knock off clothing and plastic crap. Deep within the rows of socks and underwear, there might be a fruit/veg stand, but you know if they are selling bananas (and they always are) that most likely nothing is local and forget about organic.
When I moved from Foligno to Cannara I had the absolute fortune of discovering Ada. Ada is mentioned frequently on my blog as she was my 'savior.' She and her family have a small farm here and she sells her produce 2 days a week in our town. So that solved my produce predicament, but I was still driving all over the hinterlands to buy meat, cheese, grains etc...
Now, I always joke that Italy follows in the footsteps of the United States (right or wrong), only 20 years later. When the American style big box stores and supermarkets came in, small farmers in the area went out, as did the markets. Slowly but surely, Italy is again following the fashion (better late than never) and catching on to the Farmers' Market trend. What really kills me is when I see Farmers' Market written in English - I just want to scream - don't you know this is your lost tradition?!?! Anyway....
In the past few years, a national group called Campagna Amica has been introducing markets showcasing local products all over Italy... and I am so happy! The first time I went to one I felt all the memories of the Seattle markets rush back because many of the producers in these Campagna Amica markets are already my friends/ trusted producers - now finally all together!
If you are visiting Umbria, please take the time to visit and support one of these local markets, granted they are not the immense banquets of Provence, but it's a start in getting back to our future.
Weekly (not socks & underwear) Markets in Umbria
- Santa Maria degli Angeli (Assisi) - Monday
- Todi - Monday
- Spoleto - Tuesday
- Città di Castello - Tuesday
- Perugia (Pian di Massiano) - Thursday
- Foligno - Friday
- Gubbio - Saturday
- Umbertide - Saturday
Most of the markets run from 8:00 - 12:00/13:00. Perugia also holds an organic market once a month and of course, Ada is in Cannara on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.