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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Markets in Italy

San Remo Market, all by myself!!!

One Tuesday morning, I woke to the thought I needed to begin my Xmas shopping soon. I wanted to look for regional gifts to bring back home to my family. So, at 8 AM, all by myself, and “Flo”, our GPS, I headed East towards Italy and the famous markets of San Remo. I found it with no problem, about 45 minutes after leaving my flat. I found a parking space immediately, RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET….that, in itself, was a rare find, I am told!
Entering the market area, hundreds of white tents, some large, some small, with tables full of cashmere sweaters, leather goods, pesto sauce and tapinades of all colors of olives, I meandered up and down the aisles, unsure what was a bargain, and what was not. The colors of the pashminas were stunning, and I was able to find my favorite colors and get the price down with little haggling. Of course, when you don’t try hard, you know you COULD have gotten more, but I was happy with the price I was paying. The leather handbags were both beautiful, many Hermes, YSL and Gucci knock offs, but some just traditional styles…as well as the glitzy and flashy styles that are so popular on the streets of Italy and France today. Too many to choose from, so I passed on these for now. While walking through the maze of tents and vendors, there are men, mostly from Africa, with wares on their arms. They are offering copies of designer goods, such as belts by YSL and Hermes, as well as watches by “Rolex”, and handbags by Louis Vuitton….amazing prices, but I had been warned. It is NOT illegal to SELL these items, but it is illegal to BUY them. The fine is steep, 10,000 E…so I steer clear.
I headed inside to the food market there, which is an amazing display of fruits, vegetables, fresh canned tomatoes, local wines, cheeses, meats and fresh pastas. The aroma is just enchanting, with the scent of fresh baked bread filling the building. I picked up some fresh herbs, a lovely bottle of home made olive oil, some fruits and vegetables, and went looking for some meats. I stopped at what looked like some breaded veal, and inquired. The gentleman behind the counter asked my nationality…like he didn’t know when my NY accent asked “how much for these?” He laughed and said, your people do not eat this…and with that he pointed to a picture of a lovely cheval on the wall… A HORSE…ugh!!! It was my friend FLICKA cut up into cutlets, and I thought they would be great for dinner. We did get a good chuckle out of this, and he giggled with delight. Off I went…not looking back to see them all pointing at the American not knowing what was in this display case….
When I meandered back to my car, the lot was so full with cars that I thought I would be there for days…waiting for others to move theirs. But, a “captain” of the lot, came over, took the paper off my windshield, that I hadn’t even spotted yet, and told me, with sign language, to follow him…with my car. He proceeded to move the cars behind, like a rubix cube…and got me out…2 E for all this work. He was a robust Italian with a hearty smile and I thanked him BON GIORNO….Arrivaderci! And off I went on my way, following “Flo” back to Monte Carlo along the grand cornice, along the sea. I did not get to have a cup of cappuccino OR famous Italian hot cocoa, but I knew I’d be back soon.

Ventimiglia Market on Friday….

Knowing I couldn’t stay away long, I headed back to the Italian, French border town of Ventimiglia on Friday, with an English woman who has lived in Monaco for 38 years. She was a local, and had been here many times before. Again we drove along the coast line, which is breathtaking in itself, with the towns Menton in France and Latte in Italy along the way. We even passed through the old “border crossing” here, which is from the post war era, and very ery feeling. Just the thought of having to stop here each time you crossed the border would be very intimidating to come and go as easily as we do now with the European Union. It’s a blessing.
Arriving in Ventimiglia, we parked on the waters edge, and headed up to the tent lined streets. This market was twice the size of San Remo, but the same vendors, or at least most of them the same. Again, there were leather goods, cashmere, silk & cashmere, pashminas, delicacies of local foods, and scarves of silk. You could buy just about anything here that you would like, at a fraction of the price in the stores….especially Monaco. We bought Zara sweaters for 5 E each, along with cotton jimmies for Xmas gifts, leather handbags, and belts….and again, lots of pashminas. We found a great buy at a table full of pashminas for 3 E a piece, bargain!!! They were nice quality, and of course, one can never have too many….so we stocked up.
This trip we stopped for a cappuccino, and it is true, the Italians make a much better cup of java than the French…FOR SURE….This alone was worth the trip. It was a cold and blustery day on the water, so the timing for this cup of coffee was perfect, and warmed us back up.
After leaving the market, we stopped in Latte at the local grocery store, to purchase some liquors, as well as some local Italian delicacies. What fun that was. There I bought some Italian Hot Chocolate to bring home to the US, along with chocolates, pesto sauces from this wonderful ligurian coast, and of course, pasta. This market is only about 20 minutes from our apartment, so I’m sure, we will be back for more.
I have decided that even though it is another 20 minutes down the road, the San Remo market is a much more manageable size, as well as the town is so much more appealing. I think, this is where I’ll do some of my market shopping in the future. Art needs to come and see, so one Saturday morning, I will bring him along as well.

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