by Melinda Gallo

Andare al mercato di corsa

This morning Dave and I realized that it's l'ora legale/estiva (daylight savings time). We only found out because our computers update themselves automatically. I had been sick with a cold all last week and hadn't been out of the house in a week and hadn't even gone to the mercato in almost 9 days! Dave has been going to Standa to go shopping for us. I've been missing my trips to the mercato and couldn't wait to go there today.

The sun outside was nice and a little warm, but the wind still hadn't warmed up completely. I didn't know how to dress when I left the house, so I put on a scarf and jacket just in case. Besides, with my cold, I didn't want to get worse. When I arrived at the mercato, which is only about four blocks from my house, I was already sweating bullets, but didn't want to take off my jacket or scarf.

I didn't arrive until a little past 1:30PM. It closes at 2PM, so I headed first to my ortolana (green grocer) because since they are outside all day, they usually are the first ones to pack up and leave. When my ortolana saw me, she said, "Abbiamo i cocomerini se vuoi" (We have the little watermelons if you want). She had to unload them from the cart to show them to me, so I picked one. She must have remembered how I raved about how sweet they were last year. "» l'unica cosa nouva che ho" (It's the only new thing I have), she told me even though she was helping someone else at the time. She knows that I like the new items that come available, like the aglio nuovo (fresh garlic) that I bought a few weeks ago.

After I got all my vegetables, I went in to see my macellaio (butcher), but I was disappointed when I didn't see him. I even tried to look out the back door to see if he might be there, but he wasn't. The younger one, whom my macellaio told me "Ť di spalla rotonda" (is not motivated to work), leaned on the cutting board that is length of the glass refrigerator case and looked at me. I ordered a few things that he packaged up and then left. I like it better when my macellaio is there to help me. One of the other macellai that works there looked over at me and said, "Aspettiamo la primavera" (We're waiting for spring). "Con poca pazienza" (With little patience), I told him. I like him as well, but he doesn't treat me as well as my macellaio does. He has a really heavy Florentine accent that I just adore though.

I went to go get some cheese and milk at the gastronomia (cheese and cold cuts vendor), but they had already closed. It was only 1:55PM, but they were gone. I could've gotten some cheese at the other gastronomia where they also sell fresh pasta, but I ran into the alimentari (grocer) instead. "» chiuso?" (Are you closed), I asked the older woman who has become friendly with me this year. Every time she suggests something to me, I always thank her the next time I come in and tell her how wonderful it is. She's only given me good advice, like on a special salsa piccante (hot sauce) and coffee, and I am so grateful.

"Prenditela comoda," (take your time) she said to me as she sat down in front of the small refrigerator where she was organizing the containers of yogurt. "Non ho fretta di chiudere" (I'm not in a hurry to close the shop). I finally slowed down my pace and had a good look around. I always go to the alimentari as part of my rounds at the mercato and I generally buy things that I need when I see them. I don't make lists often, but I know I always need something from the alimentari, so I just walk through it and see if anything jumps out at me.

On the way home, I went to my favorite forno (bakery) where they make wonderful schiacciata con olio (same as focaccia bread with olive oil) and bought a piece for lunch. Most of the time when I walk by, it's crowded with students getting sandwiches made, but at 2PM, no one was around. I also bought some fritelle di riso (rice fritters) because soon they won't be making them any more: it's a seasonal sweet that they usually only make during the carnevale.

The streets were quiet when I was walking home, which I think is mainly due to the fact that almost everyone was probably home eating lunch. The next time I go to the mercato, I'll make sure I arrive earlier so that I won't be so rushed. It's certainly one of my favorite things to do in Florence and I don't like it when I don't get to enjoy it.

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