Day 42: life in Italy under lockdown. A walk away from the wildlife side
Today is Saturday, which was the main street market day in my town until five weeks ago. When lockdown began in mid-March, all openair and enclosed markets had to close because it seemed that people couldn’t keep the one-meter distance mandated by the government. On April 10 Rome modified that rule and decided that open-air markets could re-open but only for food. The other things sold in such markets, including the one in my town, were still verboten.
So I walked by the big parking area near my home where the market is traditionally held. One of the vendors imports a brand of taralli from Puglia that I can’t find in any supermarket or specialized food store, and I love to snack on them: better than chocolate and less caloric. I had long since run out and was hoping that stand would be open.
But no. Not that stand, not any stand. No market, period. The region of Lombardia decided not to re-open its markets at this time. Each of Italy’s 20 regions has flexibility in implementing the guidelines issued by Rome, just as US states have discretion in implementing government guidelines issued by Washington (not that there are many of the latter) and the region where I live is being more cautious than some others. For understandable reasons: of the 22,745 deaths to date from corona virus in Italy, more than half (11,851) have occurred in Lombardia.
And yet . . . open air street markets are a fact of life in Italy. (Maybe I should say WERE a fact of life). They have been part of local culture for centuries. As we have seen from countless films, marketplaces were the gathering point for commerce, communication, and cultural exchange in medieval times. In Sicily, with its Arab influence, souk-like markets have existed since the 9thcentury.
They were originally showcases for farmers’ foodstuffs and livestock, and also for handicrafts and specialized items that villagers could not easily or at all produce on their own — textiles, jewelry, ornaments, metalwork, glass, foreign spices, farming equipment.
Data from 2018 recorded about 200,000 registered operators of open market stands, representing 22 percent of Italy’s commercial enterprises two years ago. By then less than 20 percent of stands were devoted to food…