Colours, scents, screams ... and of course flavours. The Sicilian street markets are a chaotic and confusing mishmash that overwhelms your senses, a disorienting and yet exciting experience, like jumping from a rock right into the sea, feeling lost for a moment - surrounded by water - only to resurface soon after.
A true immersion, a dive into the past, in what remains of an ancient world made of daily life on the streets, a lost way of creating relationships and bargains, a world of exchanges (not necessarily trade-related) among the most diverse people. A reality that belongs to the places as much as to the people but, like both, is changing quickly.
The street markets are one of our heritage from the Arab domination and from the suq: the traditional markets full of bright colours and filled with intense spicy scents. Here in Sicily, they are a widespread practice, found all over the island, from the smallest towns to the big cities.
Spice counter - source palermoguide.it
A street market can be easily seen as the truest expression of a town's life. Because of it, we find a distinctive characteristic in each and everyone of them, something that tells one apart from all the others, deeply connected to the traditions of its community. In short, each market is part of the community's history, and therefore of its identity.
Palermo is among the most representative cities when it comes to the street markets' micro-world. A concentration of crowded alleys walked by all sorts of people, Palermo welcomes some of the most ancient markets in all Sicily. Wondering between one counter and the other, walking in Ballarò, la Vucciria or il Capo (just to mention the most famous names), one experiences the strong feeling of having stepped into a parallel universe, or simply back in time: fruit and vegetables, meat and street food, not to mention all sorts of object for any taste or purpose. All of this purposefully arranged on the counters, according to a disposition which is by no means accidental. Big signs with incredible offers, thick and smoky air and a concentration of scents often undistinguishable.
Fish counter - source genteinviaggio.it
On top of all, we can hear the screams of sellers and tradesmen - the so-called abbanniate. These too come from an old tradition of town criers and have the most important function of all: that of attracting potential customers, even more than the goods themselves, of teasing and engaging their interest, of making them think that what they can find on that specific counter is unique and cannot be found elsewhere.
The street markets are truly a unique piece of Sicilian identity, a reflection of its people and of their way - chaotic and messy but somehow prosperous - of living life.
Here on Putia.eu we want to honour this lifestyle and this tradition by doing what we do best: by promoting the talent, fantasy and creativity of our wonderful island.
We have the magic atmosphere of street markets that seem lost in time in the amazing illustrations by artist Vera Carollo, collected in a series of prints that portray the essence of a world that - even in its intrinsically evanescent nature - appears to be fixed in time.
Or yet, the extraordinary collection of notebooks by Edizione Precarie, that take us back in touch with the infinite possibilities of Sicilian creativity. Here it's the traditional food wrapping paper used in the markets that gets skilfully re-invented.
This paper is absolutely unique, in texture as well as illustration: we can find the one used to wrap meat, the one for fruit and vegetables or the one for fish. All of them are part of a century-old tradition that tells stories about the past, its people and their way of living.
The notebooks by Edizioni Precarie succeed in turning tradition into something new and yet with a vintage taste, expression of a past that is not forgotten and embodiment of a kind of creativity that truly says "Sicily", ready to transport this same tradition into a future that will preserve its identity.
What are you waiting for then? Are you ready to dive in the exciting world of the Sicilian street markets?
Foto copertina - source buonalunabeb.it