Today’s habit of city living has, I am reasonably sure certain benefits; one has a multitude of cinemas, theatres, operas and museums on your doorstep. One can eat in restaurants offering cuisine from all over the globe, one is a hop and skip away from friends and neighbours, one has gyms, leisure centres and a ready supply of evening classes, taxis, airports and rail stations at hand, but and it is a huge but, one misses out on so very many great things that fortunately still thrive in our delightful region of Umbria, central Italy and my guests at Bellaugello Gay Guest House easily discover.
In my local town of Gubbio, Tuesday is market day. Traditionally this was the day when the Eugubini and contadini came to sell their produce, and do their shopping. This tradition continues, although legislation has made it much harder for individual smallholders to sell their produce, if you look you will still find an example of that delightful three wheeler so beloved of peasant farmers the ‘Ape’ parked up under the ancient stone columns of the loggia dei Tiratori, its back loaded with fresh picked vegetables, the damp earth from the field still clinging to them, this is what life is all about.
Stall holders are here from Norcia, the pork capital of Umbria, the town so badly damaged last year and now under a thick blanket of snow. They have an amazing resilience are trying so very hard to rebuild their lives and keep production of their most delicious prosciutto, salame, coppa, and cheeses. To do your bit to help until you can make it in person to the market you can also buy online from this great co-operative website: prodottidinorcia.it
Our weekly market is also a social event, the old folk come to buy and moreover to meet and chat. Long serious conversations, swapping of family news, maybe a birth in the family, relatives from abroad visiting, a new recipe to share, or simply the joy of still being alive and spending time with contemporaries. I too am guilty of whiling away many minutes in conversation, yesterday by chance I bumped my ex-bank manager. She was promoted, and is now in the big office in town so I see her only infrequently. As well as being in the Bank she has an agriturismo, it was a good way of getting the low-down on how the tourism sector is faring and what news is coming from the banks. I also bumped into a good Dutch friend from the neighbouring town of Umbertide (their market is on Wednesday). We had not seen each other for some time – we both have tourism related jobs so time in the summer for either of us to amble slowly through the market just does not exist. The three of us ended up going down the road to the Bio store where there just happened to be shopping three other friends each from a different village so I sat them all down and we enjoyed Gabriela’s creamy cappuccinos and slices of vegan cake… Just imagine Alec with six ragazze, so weird for me not to have to rush back to work but have time to relax and gossip, it was a hoot!
Anyway I digress, back to the market where you can buy seemingly anything. From livestock, chickens, geese and ducks, there are tractors, rotovators, all kinds of power tools and a myriad of lightbulbs, plenty to keep the macho guy happy. Stalls, traditionally run by Neapolitans and now by Asians sell a vast assortment of clothing, targeted at the pensioner class, the stalls are populated by women rummaging through the big bins full of huge bras and panties and, well I did not bother to look too closely, or to disturb them by taking their photographs, but the chattering women were clearly out for a bargain. You can buy curtains, table cloths, dish-cloths, napkins, bedding and towels, the list goes on and on. On one stall I discovered gay doormats, just had to be bought 😉
Require a pot or pan, that strange gadget for removing stones from cherries, or a strainer to cover the sink waste… all together with cooker parts, vacuum cleaner belts, and an array of gaskets, seals and filters for the Mocha machine are available at the market.
The part that all of my guests love the most is the food. A van drives up from the Adriatic coast, fresh fish from the morning’s catch, another with breaded fried fish, salted Baccalá, and of course the porchetta van. Porchetta is that dish best found in Umbria a whole pig stuffed with wild herbs, principally wild fennel, rosemary and sage and spit roasted. The local ladies buy it by the kilo to take home to serve to the family for pranzo, but for 5 euro you can buy a panino filled with the succulent fragrant meat, some stuffing and if you ask crisp crackling, utterly delicious, proper street food.
Vans drive all the way from Puglia and Basilicata in the deep south of Italy and bring fresh produce. From vegetables to salad leaves, nuts, and tomatoes to cucumbers. Now you will not fins melons or strawberries, or broad beans (fave), it is not their season, you have to wait a few months for them. This is the season for citrus fruits, and despite the recent heavy snowfall throughout the south there was still some nice looking oranges and the sweetest clementines I have bought this year. Oh and those huge knobbly un-waxed Amalfi lemons so perfect for making lemon curd tart or limoncello. Of course you can also buy citrus trees. This vendor comes from nearby Assisi, his citrus trees I hazard from rather further south, here in Umbria we have to over-winter them indoors, and I buy many aromatics and salad plants for Bellaugello from him, they are always great quality.
and of course late January, February and early March are the Artichoke months, they are just tooo goood!
The market held every Tuesday in the Piazza Quaranta Martiri in our local town of Gubbio starts early and runs until just after midday. A mere hop, skip and a jump from Bellaugello, slow the pace, take your time choosing the finest produce, come and enjoy rural life, then bring it back to your suite and prepare yourselves that simple Italian ‘pranzo’ #slowfood #eatbellaugello