You enter Piazza Garibaldi by stepping down stone steps and passing through a series of stone arches. From street level you see the tops of the arches and beyond them, in the distance, snow-capped Apennine peaks. The vast National Park of Abruzzo, a magnet for nature lovers, surrounds the city.
Down the steps, through the arches, you enter a different world. There are about 200 vendors, under a crazy quilt of dazzling canopy colors, selling everything from DVDs to gym shoes, house wares to flowers, clothing to produce. You want a New York Yankee cap? Someone has a deal for you.
We join the other market-goers . . . walking, talking, smiling, enjoying the sun, aromas, excitement and vendor engagement of market day in Sulmona.
Italian vendors reach out to their customers. They charm them, cajole them, spin a playful web of banter and soon you find yourself negotiating for something that you suddenly feel compelled to buy.
My favorite vendor is the fish lady. She has it going on in a brightly painted truck . . . and she attracts a constant stream of customers. She winks, sings, laughs and puts on a great show. Hell, I almost buy a fish.
Sharon is drawn to a regal old woman, sitting alone on a portable chair surrounded be her home-grown wares, using her quiet dignity to attract customers. Sharon buys some walnuts.
We grab a couple of arista panini for lunch. We climb up to the street to a bench on a shaded terrace overlooking the piazza. Some teenage boys are sitting on another bench. They spot us and discern that we’re Americans. They begin speaking with each other in “young, global American” my new term for a patois of American movie sound bites, song lyrics and hip hop.
The panini are tasty and filling. As we pack up to head back to the hotel to check out, I spot a small brass plaque on yet another bench on the terrace. It’s the Sulmona Lions Club. Here’s a city that been in existence from well before the Coliseum days of the Christians versus the Lions to the small-world of global networking and the Lions Club.
Share your experience. What adventures have you had in markets in Italy?