Very early Wednesday mornings in Mesagne, vendors begin setting up their tables to sell their ware at the market. Tents are hoisted to provide shade in the bright sunlight, clothes are hung, jewelry and shoes laid out and produce is brought out crate after crate in hopes of high sales.
While each part of the market fascinates and beckons me, the produce section is by far my favorite. Yes, I enjoy eating but it's much more than that. From still far enough away you can begin to hear the merchants shouting prices, each attempting to be louder than the neighboring stalls. Everything and anything your taste buds desire is laid out in front of you awaiting your arrival. The vendors dare you to come closer to inspect and sometimes offer free samples. These men, women and yes, even children, go from town to town each day, every day. They are not shy, they know their product and most importantly, they know you. They engage you, they make jokes with you, they allow you to bargain with them, they want you to like them as much as you want to like their product. Week after week they will visit Mesagne and having gained your respect and admiration, they come to value you as a returning customer, maybe even a friend.
The rich colors and overwhelming aroma coming from many of the stands sells me each time. Since I am there only in the summer now I grow very appreciative of the fruits and vegetables of this glorious season, which thankfully in Puglia there is plenty of choice.
Aside from the obvious pleasure I receive in purchasing these locally grown and delicious items, I love love love chatting with the merchants. They have always been so kind to me, laugh while I take pictures of their cheese, peppers and tomatoes and I relish in the most honest smiles radiating from their faces.
I don't really know many of these people aside from seeing them each summer and my weekly visit to the market during my time in Mesagne. But I also like to think the better of people in that they are hard working (their job is a trying one), they are proud (they work their land and sell their crops) and above all, they are friendly (very few grumpy merchants are successful).
This guy though, he's my favorite. I look forward to seeing him each year and with every visit I make to the market while in Mesagne. Always ready for conversation and a smile at my camera, I don't visit the market without stopping by his faded orange ape (farm vehicle) and chatting to him for a few minutes before buying something. He's a guy that could tell you a little something I'm sure about anything, his work, his life, the world. He's also special because he knew my Nonno.
Uhm, a life goal attained. After years of mainly photographing his ape draped in garlic, peppers and oregano, I'm allowed to sit in it. He is obviously the sweetest man for humoring me. Future life goal would be to spend a full morning with him documenting his time at the market. Baby steps.
I just love the atmosphere, I don't need to necessarily buy anything, just walking around taking it in makes me happy too.
Many find it easier to shop in the grocery stores about town, I frequent the little shop in the Grutti where our home is in town for convenience and I've known the family that owns and runs the store basically my entire life. There's even a mall on the outskirts of Mesagne that is your one stop shop for nearly everything. Yes, the ease of everything being in one spot and the air condition in the summer is appealing. You won't be contributing to the economy of Puglia though that's pretty certain and the clerk behind the counter in Auchan didn't grow those peaches.