Neil was so sweet to let me have a morning to myself not that long ago. I knew exactly what was in order—a trip to a mercatino usato. It was early, and caffe was calling. After the usual cornetto and cappuccino, I decided to explore one of the many markets here in Rome that I had been wanting to explore. Primavalle is a simple zona, but packed full with about 300,000 people.
You won’t find Primavalle marked off as a tourist destination either. There aren’t any major sites to see here. It’s a place where regular italians live everyday life. They are meeting in bars to kick back an espresso and catch up on the latest neighborhood news. They are stopping to say ciao to friends passing along the street. They are shopping for fresh produce and meat to host a family meal. They are picking their kids up from school and taking them for an afternoon gelato snack. They are commuting to and from work in the city center via their cars, on the bus and metro, or on their motorini whizzing by. They are opening up their stores or setting up their stands to offer products to sell to the public.
At the market, I met Fabio, who along with his charming father, Alfredo, who have been running their business together for over twenty years. They are lively, full of character, and extremely helpful. They sell delicious cheeses, salume, and any other quality ingredient you could possibly need to cook a fabulous italian meal. You can be sure I stocked up on all the basics—including proscuitto and Parmigiano Reggiano.
There was so much amazing, in-season, summer produce, I loaded my bags so much that I could barely carry it all to continue on my morning adventure. I bought the most amazing pomodorini you will ever taste, eggplant, peppers, apricots, peaches, and more. Rest assured that I bought amazing, crackly bread as well. To quote one of my kids’ favorite movies (and one of mine, too) Collette describes pane this way in Ratatouille:
How can you tell how good bread is without tasting it?
Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust.
Listen. [bread crackles] Oh, symphony of crackle.
Only great bread sound this way.
I fell in love with this little neighborhood market that day—the delicious fruits and vegetables, the assortment of specialty items, and the freshly made breads and pastas. But more than that, I fell deeper in love with the people that live and work here. No, Primavalle isn’t ritzy or anything spectacular to look at from a historical or architectural standpoint. However, if you look deeper, you will find a beauty that exists all around you! You just have to stop, look beyond, and see what’s really here.
After a fun morning of exploring, I was eager to cook a delicious meal with my foodie finds. I settled on a summer veal roast with celery, onions, carrots, and tomatoes. The next day, we enjoyed a light, vegetable meal consisting of roasted, stuffed red peppers, green beans and a summer salad with cheeses and olives. Buon appetito.