Welcome to my corner……of the world! It’s a great pleasure to join The Travel Mechanic team as a monthly guest blogger! I invite you to travel along with me through my blog articles and many pictures. My love for travel started at a very early age through the wonderful opportunity to live, grow up and go to school in England. The experience was life-changing, and it was the catalyst for my long-time passion of exploring the beautiful and interesting places that other people call home.
The Markets of Europe
Do you want to look and feel like a native when traveling to France or Italy? Here’s one way to do it – shop every day in the local markets! The following are my hints for shopping like a native on your next vacation.
Hint #1– use a rolling shopper cart! If you are fortunate enough to be staying in a holiday apartment, just look in the closet and you’re sure to find one. Take it and walk purposefully toward your destination – you will feel as if you belong there. Markets in Europe vary from once or twice a week to daily and you will want to plan your daily forays to maximize your experiences.
Hint #2 – go early in the day. Most markets start about 7 am and close by 2pm. If you are shopping after noon, the best goods will be gone and some stands may already have closed.
Hint #3 – be sure to greet the market stall owner! A courteous “Bonjour, Madame” or “Buon Giorno, Signore” goes a long way. The merchant will appreciate the fact that you have excellent manners!
Hint #4 – DO NOT touch the merchandise! Allow “Monsieur” or “Madame” to select the fruit or vegetables and they will choose their finest for you. It is permissible to point to your selection especially if you are not sure of the name.
Hint #5 – Say thank-you and wish the owner a good day. If you know those phrases in the host country language, so much the better.
Where are the best markets? In general, if there is a market in the city or town that you are visiting, it’s good! I’ll share some of the favorites from my experiences in Europe. I can assure you that there are many that I have not yet visited; however, they are on my list for the future!
Paris has many markets and you can go to a different one every day of the week including Sunday! Many are located in the 7th arrondissement not far from the Eiffel Tower. That means that while you are shopping, you can look at the city’s premier landmark. My favorite is the Saxe-Breteuil market for its high quality fruits and vegetables, flowers, specialty salts, patés and wine. That’s your Thursday and Saturday market.
On Sunday, go to the largest market in the 15th arrondissement called Motte Piquet/Grenelle market. It has a huge selection of fresh goods, breads and pastries, clothing and other household goods. A word of caution about produce and meats. They are often found in their more “natural” form – so you may see a cooking chicken with its head feathers! In any market, you will find a food stand with a large rotisserie roasting traditional chicken – poulet rôti. It’s so delicious and not to be missed! Be sure to get some roasted potatoes too.
In the south of France, the Cours Saleya market in Nice is a destination in itself. It’s a daily market, although on Monday it’s an antiques market. The food and flowers market starts on Tuesday. What makes this market unique is the magnificent variety of stunning flowers and bouquets and the assortment of delicious traditional candies and glazed fruits. My beautiful birthday bouquet from the market was a highlight of my visit to Nice!
Florence – there are several permanent markets. They are very large and, in addition to produce and sweets, they feature the specialty of the city – leather. There are many choices from wallets and belts to purses and jackets and coats. Be sure to know what you want and how much you are willing to pay for expensive items. Be an educated consumer!
Mercato Nuovo – fondly called the Porcellino market for the bronze piglet sculpture at the entrance. Be sure to rub the pig’s nose to assure you’ll return to Florence! The market is in a large covered arcade which is a great advantage for getting out of the sun or the rain.
Mercato Centrale – this is now an enclosed multi-level market with stalls featuring many different foods, soaps, flowers on the lower level. The upper level is dedicated to prepared foods from pizza and pasta to sandwiches and seafood entrées. There are dining tables, so you can relax after a morning of sightseeing and shopping; and everyone can choose what they’d like to eat. Afterward, go to the street beside the market and stroll the many stalls with leather goods galore. You’ll also find very nice souvenirs such as Venetian glass wine stoppers and silk ties – all at reasonable prices.
Rome – the city has many permanent markets. Two centrally located markets that I visited are the daily markets at Campo di Fiori and Piazza Navona. Campo di Fiori bustles early in the day with wall-to-wall stalls offering produce, flowers and household goods. You might also find an antiques and book stall too. After the market closes, each afternoon, the piazza goes back to being a gathering place with restaurants and patio dining. The daily transformation is fascinating.
The market at Piazza Navona is an arts market and it’s open from afternoon through the evening. You’ll find hundreds of paintings by local artists and you may find a beautiful souvenir for your home. Be sure that you figure out in advance how you’re going to get it on the plane!
While you’re in Piazza Navona, be sure to visit the magnificent Fountain of the Four Rivers – one of Bernini’s most well-known sculptures. Once again, you can see Rome’s landmarks while you are shopping!
Markets in Europe are a way of life and I’ve visited them in London, Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, Munich, Bruges as well. The most special markets, I think, are the Christmas markets throughout Europe. So far, I’ve visited the Alsatian market set up along the Champs Elysées in Paris. I’d love to visit the ones in Alsace-Lorraine. What’s in my “market” future?
Next year it’s a river cruise to visit the Christmas markets in Germany! Be sure to watch for that 2017 blog! Happy travels to you!