The Wednesday Market in Cagli

by Pamela Lake

Every Wednesday as Cagli awakens, white vans pull into the piazza and surrounding streets of Old Cagli.  Vendors transform these vans into small shops within minutes.  Shop owners from other parts of the region come weekly to set up business in the streets of Cagli.  These temporary shops create a maze of familiar pathways for the residents of Cagli to travel as they seek new treasures.

IMG_0320The market opens for business at 9 am, but by 8 am some eager shoppers are beginning to arrive.  These are the customers who want the best selection–the ones with the most discriminating taste.  They navigate the familiar pathways with skill and precision.  They scan each table carefully, then move in to sort through the merchandise before selecting their purchases.

As the morning progresses, the residents of Cagli and neighboring areas arrive in droves.  The town comes alive.  The chatter of Italian voices fill the air.  Women dressed in fashionable attire flood the streets.  Small children travel in strollers, others hold their parents’ hands.  Teens shop with friends, looking for the latest trends.  The bars fill as Italian men gather to exchange stories.

The market is a rainbow of goods that light up the village of Cagli as some 70 shops offer a wide selection of merchandise.  The man from Bangladesh sells bright colored jewelry and scarves.  Another sells handbags from India.  Sunglasses with red, purple, and brown lenses cover one table.  Floral pattern dresses dance on the racks.  Striped and printed boys’ briefs dangle from hangers.  Brightly colored scarves cascade from the awnings.

Shoes of various sizes, colors, and designs line the tables.  One woman picks up a pair of sandals.   The woman and the vendor speak loudly and quickly to one another in Italian.  This discriminating shopper turns and leaves the table without the shoes.  A table piled high with women’s blouses catches her interest.  She selects a lime green blouse and begins another banter with the shop owner.

Some of the shops have small dressing rooms in the back.  Other vendors encourage shoppers to take the clothes to their homes to try them on for size.  The goal is to sell their goods while making the customer want to come back next week

Long lines of hungry customers line up at the food vendor stands waiting for today’s delicacy.   One vendor carves slices of pork from slabs of meat as big as three feet in length.  Customers are lined up to buy this savory treat.  Some will eat it for lunch today, others will take this feast home to feed their families.  Pescheria, or Fishmonger’s in English, serves a delicious selection of freshly grilled fish.   The calamari is a delicacy to behold.  “With or without salt” the shop girl asks.  The purchase is wrapped in stiff white paper, and topped with a few shrimp as an incentive to lure the buyer back next week.

Today’s shoppers leave the market with their bags bulging.  One woman departs with a pink sequined party dress.  A priest carries off two large pots that he will use to cook delicious Italian meals for a group of visiting students.  One woman purchases a tablecloth.  Another buys a new broom.  One woman takes away fresh green beans, cherries, tomatoes, and plums.

Attending the public market has been a tradition in Cagli for over 60 years.  Justine, a long time resident of Cagli attends the pubic market each Wednesday.  She sees these trips as a weekly social event and looks forward to visiting with friends and neighbors.  Her only regret is that in recent years the selection and quality of some the goods have changed.  In the early years the public market sold fresh chickens, produce, and European made products.  Today many of the goods are labeled “TRC,” standing for “The Republic of China.”  Justine reflects that many of the residents of Cagli view these Chinese-made goods as poor quality compared to products made in Italy.    

Though the vendors and wares of the pubic market have changed over the years, this weekly market continues to be an important and well attended event for the community of Cagli.  The market offers something for everyone. Some come to shop.  Some come to eat.  Most come to socialize with neighbors and friends. The Wednesday morning market endures and remains a valued tradition for all.

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