Friday, September 5, 2014

Five Fun Friday Facts: Markets

Guaranteed Made in Italy scarves that I've seen in the US (Made in PRC)
 "You're not spending money there.
It's all just a bunch of crap*"
~Unknown American Tourist

1. Most cities and towns hold a weekly market. Some may be food only while others may be a combination of food and goods. Others, including the Bologna market, are goods only.

The Red Bus passes the plaza where Bologna holds its weekly market on Friday and Saturday.  Since I was on the bus Saturday, the market was in full swing as we drove by.

"Oh, my gosh!" An American woman said to her husband. "We'll need to find our way back there." You may recall that I mentioned the Red Bus driver didn't make the appointed stops on his route, so the tourist knew she'd have to walk back.

"You're not spending money there," her husband retorted. "It's all just a bunch of crap."  I started laughing and couldn't stop. The first thought that went through my mind was that he was right, and he partially is right. He's also partially wrong.

Need a hat?
I've shopped a lot of the weekly markets in Italy, and the number and variety of products that the vendors sell never ceases to amaze me. I've gone to the Bologna market every week that I've been here, and I've noticed that many of the items are the same, but that many of the items have changed as the season changes. 

For example, when I arrived at the beginning of August, most of the clothing was either cotton or linen, short-sleeved, and lightweight. Last week, long-sleeved and heavier clothing appeared.  A few booths were even selling those bubble-type winter jackets.  Scarves, suspiciously absent for a few weeks, are now all over the place, and today I noticed one booth selling wool hats for women and men (photo above).

When the "Tutti=1 euro" sign goes up, get out of the way.
2. Buyers need to be conscious of what they're buying.  Much is not first quality, but it still may be well-made. It also may be poorly made.

Some of it, as the American tourist said, really is not well-made. Vendors throw a bunch of clothing on tables, and women go running to see what they can pick up for a euro or two (photo above). From what I can tell, most of that stuff has holes, torn seams, and/or no hems. The colors might also be off. One of the scarf vendors had some nicely made scarves for 1 euro, but the only color he had was a horrible orange.

Household goods
Still, there are a lot of booths that sell clothing and items that are well-made. When I was walking around today, I noticed a few booths selling pots and pans that were the same as the ones in my apartment. They're heavy-duty and cook evenly. 

Pottery and tableware
Of course, they cost more than the lighter-weight stuff, but you get what you pay for. In addition to pots and pans, the housewares booths sell a variety of items that include everything from silverware to dinnerware to towels to bedding.


 If you're in the market for shoes, you can find some for as little as one euro, although the more fashionable ones cost five euro. Seriously, some of the better-made shoes can sell for upwards of 100 euro (as can some of the clothing). I'm still not sure that I'd buy shoes at a market, although I see a lot of people trying them on and leaving with them.

Remember that I posted a photo of an item with a TJ Maxx price ticket on it?  I have a better story, but I couldn't get a photo to prove it.  I'm going to try to get a photo tomorrow.
 3. If you need underwear at a good price, you can find it at the market.

A good number of the vendors—and I do mean a good number—sell underwear. You can't walk more than two booths without seeing men's boxers and briefs, women's bras and panties, nightgowns, undershirts, and kids' undies piled on tables and hanging from the tent ceilings. Many also have corsets and such that help women and men suck in the gut a size or two. 

Undies hanging from the rafters

"Look," I heard one lady say today, "Dolce & Gabbana bras." I looked over, and the sign did read "Dolce & Gabbana." Skeptic that I am, I had to see if D&G does make underwear, and it does. I doubt, though, that they'd sell it from a huge, dusty bin for 1 or 2 euro.

 The Bologna market doesn't have anything in the way of food because there is a daily food market a few blocks away.  There are, however, a few vendors who sell fresh flowers (above) for a relative fair price.

4. Markets are normally cash only, and the prices are usually negotiable.

Fresh Flowers
If you go to one of the markets, you can probably haggle over prices somewhat.  The Florence market is one place where they expect you to do so.  I overheard the following conversation in a booth in Bologna a few weeks ago.

A woman was looking at a nice top in one of the booths. "How much?" she asked the guy working it.  He asked his sister, and she told him 25 euro.

"25 euro," he answered.

"How about 15?" the lady countered. Normally, one would go lower than what he/she is willing to pay.

"Hmmm," the guy said.  From his body language, I think he was about to accept the 15 euro. He turned to his sister and said, "Can we take 15 or 20?" The lady and I were standing right there, so he wasn't trying to be coy or secretive.  His sister grabbed the top.

"Are you crazy?" she shouted at him. "I said 25. We're taking nothing less." She shoved it back on the rack.

I left because even if I had wanted something, I would not have bought it from someone with that attitude.

A lot of the booths with better-made clothing have price tags on the clothes, so that and the above conversation lead me to believe that most of the prices are pretty firm.

5. The markets and the area around them are total chaos.

I talked to my son last night as he is in Las Vegas for a few days, and he told me that his plane ride was horrible because the guy next to him kept bumping him.

"I hate when people touch me like that," he said.

"I can't stand when people bump or push me, either," I replied. "Sorry, you get it from your mother. Another great thing I passed on."  He snorted.

The truth is, crowds make me absolutely crazy. I refuse to go shopping on Black Friday because of it. That said, I love going to the weekly markets. There are times that I want to haul off and push someone back, but I try to remain calm as I don't want to end up in an orange jump suit in an Italian prison. Orange is just not my color.

The other thing that drives me nuts at most of these markets is that people stop right in the middle of the aisle, start talking to someone else, and block the way. The two women in the photo above were a good example. I saw them walking up the aisle together when they just stopped and started talking. What you can't see on the left is that I'm against a table, and there are a few people looking at merchandise on the table beyond me. They had nowhere to go.

"Excuse me," I said.  The bike lady and her friend ignored me.

"Excuse me," I said a little louder.  They continued to ignore me. 

I took out my cell phone and snapped that photo, and they huffed off.  Hello. People would like to move.

I also love the idiots that try to ride bikes through the markets.  The place is chaotic as it is, and adding some old geezer on a bike is nuts. At least clueless in the above photo was walking her bike.

One final observation:

When we go to the Sulmona market (Sulmona is the "city" near my grandparents' village.), we notice that all of the men and women dress up. The older women all wear skirts or dresses, and the men wear nice slacks and shirts. I don't see as many people dressed up for the Bologna market, the lady in the photo above being an exception.  Every time I have seen her, she has on a hat, skirt, nice shoes, etc. She is the exception as most of the women wear jeans, leggings, or some other type of slacks here.  And, I rarely see men shopping in Bologna...except for that old geezer riding his bike.

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