Visiting a market can be one way of baring the soul of a city. As you stroll around its stalls, get lost in the crowds, listen to the lively banter all around you and observe what is going on, you can in fact absorb the most ‘authentic’ atmosphere of any town or city, as well as discovering some of its tasty local specialities.
At the Boqueria in Barcelona, the most famous indoor market in Spain, you will find paella and Spanish ham at any time of the day. London’s somewhat smaller Borough Market offers fruit, vegetables and spices, along with “pie and mash” and some rare varieties of blue cheese.
Italy too has markets for all tastes. At one of Palermo’s oldest markets, the Vucciria (meaning “confusion” in Sicilian dialect), you will find crates packed with oranges alongside beds of ice for displaying fresh sardines. The market stalls are interspersed with kiosks selling street food whilst each vendor shouts out the virtues of the day’s produce.
Quite a different spirit reigns in Venice where, as you approach the Rialto Bridge under the ancient marble columns, you will catch the phrases spoken by fish sellers in their local dialect, and an irresistible mingling of aromas and flavours, sure to arouse your curiosity. No matter if you really have no need to shop, in Rome it is quite customary to saunter round the market stalls “just looking”, and possibly bump into old and new acquaintances.