Porta Palazzo Turin, Piedmont, Italy
Each day thousands gather in an immense square in the heart of Turin, Italy. Vendors wake before dawn to set up their stalls, organize their products, and if they are lucky drink a quick coffee before the bustling crowds arrive. Porta Palazzo is one of Europe’s largest open air markets. The scale of this place is almost overwhelming. There are literally thousands of stalls selling everything from the latest in women’s fashion, to cannoli (cheese filled sweets), fresh fruit, to sword fish. If you need to do your groceries and you want fresh local produce at a good price, this is the best place to come in all of Turin. Alternatively, if you just like to people watch (like me) this is also the best place to come. People from all over Italy converge here, Sicilians, Calabrese, Piemontese, and newer immigrants from all parts of the world. The smell of oranges, freshly baked bread, and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese fills the air. You eat with your eyes as you explore the narrow alleyways dividing the stalls. Mountains of fruits, sweets, and bread appear in every direction. Their colours, the reds, greens, and yellows create a rainbow mosaic. As the day progresses the controlled chaos unfolds, vendors call out prices, nonne (grandmothers) haggle for a better deal, and farmers exchange notes in the local Piemontese dialect. The market is divided into different areas as follows: fresh fruit, fish, meat/cheese/baked products, and clothing. Then there are all the illegal vendors in the middle of it all trying to make a bit of money themselves. They sell breads, herbs, clothing, and gadgets from make shift tables. Just before the “market police” arrive to the area someone tips them off and they all melt away into the crowds nearby. The police continue their stroll through the market unaware of the illegal “stalls”. Once out of sight they vendors are already set up again and calling out their specials for the day. No trip to the market would be complete without a stop at one of the bakeries. I gaze at the flowing crowds passing me by and wonder what they are going to be eating this night, then I take a big bite of my focaccia (pizza) and think “… this is it, the real Italy”.