Just incase “regular” (ho ho, as if I have any of those!) readers were starting to wonder where my staple holiday subject had got to, never fear – here’s the first batch of lots of market photos!!
Markets in Sicily are a real treat. Due to proximity to North Africa, Sicily has more in common with the souks and raucous trading of Tunisia and Morocco than it does to mainland Italy.
That makes for an sensory overload in terms of colours, sounds and smells. There are lots of places to discover but if time is short then there’s three quite famous ones to seek out – Ballarò, Capo and Vucceria. However Vucceria is now a sad shadow of its former self and the first two are far better.
The first market we hit is Ballaro. Famous for its fresh produce it is believed to be the oldest of Palermo’s Arabic markets.
It’s a rumbustious sprawl of stalls selling mountains of jewel bright fruits and vegetables but also continues into a flea market and antiques section too.
You’ll be accosted on all sides by the “abbanniate” – the Sicilian word for the yelling of the sellers. It is their way of getting passers-by’s attention – and boy oh boy is it deafening!
The derivation of the name of this particular market is unsure but may come from the name of the North African village where most of the Arabic traders working in the market originated: Balhara
Above you can see some of the traditional staples of the market including the surprisingly large swordfish that is a staple ingredient of many dishes.
You can also see the detailed marzipan fruits know as frutta di Martorana. Named after the nuns of the Martorana Convent who first made them they are detailed little delicacies, not only of fruit these days but of cannoli and other foods.
Some of the produce is recognisable such as almonds and other nuts, whereas the giant vegetables below left us stumped. Are they giant runner beans or a type of courgette?
However, after the bustling crowds and traders have left, the rubbish and detritus of the day shows the downside of this vibrant city. It can be dirty, depressing and lawless as well as exciting.