by Melinda Gallo

Festa del lavoro

Our apartment is generally quiet, but sometimes in the spring and summer when we open up all the windows, we can hear the neighbors talking, watching TV, and shutting their windows and doors. Today is the Festa del lavoro/Festa dei lavoratori (Labor day) in Italy, so we woke up to the birds chirping, a steady quietness, and sunny skies.

It's always so obvious when it's a holiday in Florence. The city seems to slumber just a little bit. It takes a step back, people go away or stay home, and the air feels lighter.

On Saturday, I went to the mercato to pick up some fruit and milk. I had gone Friday as well to beat the rush. It was partly cloudy, but I opened our terrace door and felt the warm sun on my face. A day to finally dress for the summer, so I put on cotton capri pants, a thin sweater, and white espadrilles.

I made my way to my usual vendors, hoping no one would step on my shoes. Many people had rain coats and jackets on as if it were colder than it was. The weather was comfortable with a warm breeze.

I had to go to a different ortolana (green grocer) because mine had already sold out of fragole (strawberries) and poponi (Florentine word for cantaloupes). Multiple ortolani were selling ciligie (cherries), which weren't available the day before. I was tempted to buy some, but they wouldn't fit into my fruit salad very well.

I told my ortolana on Friday when I went that I had to stock up before Saturday. I told her that it'd be busy. "Non è detto. Qualcuno va via per il fine settimana." (It's not certain. Some people will go away for the weekend.) I figured she'd know better than me since I'm just a customer, but I can say that it was busy enough that I was happy that I did my shopping the day before.

I wasn't planning on buying three poponi for 5 Euros, but they looked so good that I couldn't resist. I was pleased because I've been eating them for three days and they are extremely sweet. And they don't make my mouth itch.

I got my fragole from another ortolano who is probably the most expensive one at the market. He's also the least busy one too, but his regular customers might come much earlier than I do. He doesn't let you touch anything and created a few signs in Italian and English. I stood in front of the cestine di fragole (strawberry baskets) waiting to be helped. A new girl came up and asked me if I had a preference. "No," I said pointing to the one she picked up, "quella lì mi va bene." (No, this one is fine for me.)

I walked over to my pizzicheria (cheese vendor). They're kind enough to put my favorite milk aside for me, but I always have to tell them that if I'm not there by a certain time that they can go ahead and sell it. Sometimes, I'm not motivated to go to the mercato just to get milk especially if we can get it at the alimentari around the corner.

This time I knew I wanted to come back and get some fruit, so I decided to pay for three liters the day before. I had a feeling that it'd be busy, especially around noon, and I didn't want to disrupt them too much by paying for milk they set aside for me. When the older brother saw me, he packed up my milk in a bag in a plastic bag, met me at the side door at the end of the display cases, and handed it to me. "Buona domenica...e buona festa!" (Happy Sunday and happy holiday) I said and waved to all of them.

I teetered home with all my bags and carefully carried them so that the plastic wouldn't hurt my hands too much. I keep thinking that I need to find a solution, but I still don't want to get a carrello (cart). Someone must have invented a type of bag with better, more comfortable, handles.

Dave put all the groceries away in the refrigerator, which was so full with food that we were afraid that the door wouldn't shut.

Now that it's Monday, our refrigerator is almost empty again. I'm looking forward to going back to the mercato, but I think Dave still thinks there is too much food in there. For now, we're enjoying the peaceful afternoon even though there are dark clouds that are threatening us with rain. Unfortunately, we don't get to observe this holiday so we're working.

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