by Melinda Gallo

Showing my friend around the market

Normally I go to the mercato alone. I go to the same vendors and do my shopping. Today, Marta wanted me to show her around. She doesn't live near the market and doesn't know which places are good to buy things at. I've had a few months to learn the hard way. I buy things at one vendor and taste them. If they're good, I go back, if not, I don't.

I first took her to the forno (bakery), on the other side of the market, where they make the pasta fritta (fried bread), which is deep-fried bread with lots of salt. Marta had never had it before because it's not a Tuscan specialty. Unfortunately, today they didn't have any, but they did have cannoli (a Sicilian pastry) that I've never seen there before so I got two to taste.

I took her to the ortolano (fruit/vegetable vendor) and picked out a few things, like the small zucchini con fiori (zucchini with flowers still on them), lemons, and insalata (butter lettuce).

The woman that I've only conversed with briefly, saw me today and said "Amica mia!" (My friend!) I was happily surprised since she's usually pretty busy and stressed out with so many people on Saturdays. The past few times I've been there she hasn't said much to me and lately her mom has been helping me. I smiled back at her and told her, "Buona giornata." (Have a good day.) as I left.

Our next stop was to the macceleria (butcher shop), which was packed. I forgot how busy it is on Saturdays especially around noon. I couldn't see everything in the glass counter because people were lined along it. And for the first time in a long time, I had to take a number. "Ottantatre," (Eighty-three) the maccelaio called out. "Scusa, ma io sono ottantadue." (Excuse me, but I'm 82." I told him. He shrugged his shoulders and said, "Aspetta un po' ti servo io." (Wait a minute, I'll serve you.) He had to help number 83 since he called it and the man showed him his number. I smiled at him and said, "OK, grazie." Another maccelaio came up to me and right before he was going to ask me what I wanted, the other one told him that he'll take care of me.

The maccelaio looked tired today, so I said, "C'č tanta gente oggi." (There are a lot of people here today.) He sighed heavily and said, "E' cosė da stamattina." (It's like this since this morning.) I looked at him and tilted my head. I wanted to give him a hug because he looked so exhausted. I've never seen him like this. Usually, even when I walk by and don't stop, he still says "Ciao" to me with a smile on his face.

I asked for 4 hamburgers that they make with spices, olives, or mushrooms in them and saltimbocca (beef with ham and cheese on top). He weighed 3 of the hamburgers and gave me 2 for free. "Non hai visto niente." (You didn't see anything) he said to me and winked.

We left and I told him, "Buona domenica." (Have a good Sunday), which is especially important for him since the market is only closed on Sunday.

It seemed different at the market today with my friend Marta. People seemed to treat me differently. Maybe they saw me differently with an Italian friend instead of always being alone. Maybe they think of me as being more integrated, more a part of Florence.

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