Our January Monthly Meeting was an outdoor walking tour of the Mercato di Mezzo in the old centre of Bologna with Maribel * from Taste of Italy.
On our tour Maribel discussed the history of this fascinating market area of Bologna, she introduced us to food market etiquette and gave us other insightful local tips and traditions. We learned about what types of seasonal fruits and vegetables we can find in the market, seasonal recipes/cooking/eating and why to shop in these markets vs supermarkets.
Thanks, Maribel, for taking us :-)!
- Price generally goes by weight (kilo) vs item and all prices should be displayed.
- Provenance should also be displayed – you need to know if its local, Italian or foreign produce.
- When you arrive in a shop/a stall (also at a Doctors office), ask who is the last person in line: Chi è l’ultimo? and keep your eye on that person to know when your turn is near – as Italians don’t like to wait in a line.
- don’t touch anything, ONLY TOUCH the item IF the vendor tells you to pick it up yourself. DON’T LEAN ON ANYTHING and be careful that your purse or knapsack doesn’t knock anything down. You’ll see that some of the shops/stalls have their produce set up rather precariously and you don’t want to knock those down…
- First greet the vendor with a Buongiorno or Buonasera when its your turn; its as if you’ve entered their home.
- Have your shopping list ready – Know what you are looking to purchase before its your turn. The vendor AND people behind you might get annoyed while you are trying to decide what to get.
- Tell the vendor what you are looking for and the quantity – 2 oranges or 200g of prosciutto crudo. When requesting something in weight, be aware that they will get as close as possible to what you’ve requested, when it goes over the amount they usually ask you if its too much- usually when its over 20g.
- If you need something ripe, tell them: che sia pronto da mangiare (oggi, domani).
- In Bologna, when the vendor has set aside the item your requested, he/she will ask: Altro? which stands for: le “Occorre qualcos’altro?” /do you need anything else? At this point you communicate the next item and the quantity you need.
- This will continue for each item, when its your last item and when you are asked Altro? You should respond Altro! this means you are done shopping (and ready to pay).
- Paying: Always keep some coins and a 5€ bill on hand because the vendors in the stalls need the change. They appreciate exact change or payment that requires less change from them. For items over 10€ many will accept an electronic payment but if its all you have, be sure to ask before you order.
You want to avoid paying with a large bill if you are spending very little because they might have to give you all the change they have which is highly inconvenient for them. If all you have is a large bill (compared to what you are spending), you should apologize so they won’t hate you.
- Last tip: Its a good idea to visit each vendor regularly so they will recognize you as a regular customer (vs a passing tourist). Nice regular customers generally get the best produce.