Part of my grant included my meeting and networking with Dr. Simone Cinotto, Associate Professor of Modern History at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo (a food studies university run by the farm-to-table organization Slow Food International).

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Dr. Cinotto arguing with a woman (who argued back) about the most recent year one could buy a pet at the market.  I stood by attentively…. 

Fortunately (!), Dr. Cinotto suggested we meet in Turin at Porta Palazzo – the largest open-air market in Europe.  Needless to say, I jumped into my rented Fiat and sped through crimson poppy-lined toll roads to make it there!  His instructions were simple:

Dear Kera can we meet at the corner of via Milano and Porta Palazzo (Piazza della Repubblica) at 11:00 am Friday? I trust you can find the intersection I am talking about on Google Maps. If you think it’s confusing let me know and we’ll choose another location.

I am 52, 6 feet, big, white hair, and black-frame looking glasses.

I responded:

Perfetto! I am 5 feet, very pale, am blind but wear contacts, and speak terrible Italia-ish, but I have seen your photo enough on various websites that I should be able to hunt you down.

See you soon e grazie!

And did I get lost?  No sirr-YES.  Yes, I got lost.  But luckily not too lost before I found him waiting patiently at one of the market’s busy entrances.  But I did spot his sterling gray locks from about 300 feet away (be impressed).

The rain-soaked streets of Turin

The rain-soaked streets of Turin – did I mention it rained that day?  What a great city to get some rain.

I apologized profusely for our delay, and he did what any Italian professor does best – he graciously extended, “Piacere” (nice to meet you), and dove right into a delightfully interactive lecture on the history of the market while we meandered through the vibrant tightly-wound alleyways of market stalls.  No time to stop and smell the roses though, since the pace moves rapid-fire, requiring you to “throw up ‘bows” to make it out of there with your wallet.

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Colorful fresh fruit at discount prices – all at your fingertips.

The market is HUGE, with more than 50,000 square meters, which works out to about a bajillion feet.  You can find more pictures and a brief history at The Wandering Epicures (this blog particularly emphasizes the fine meat selection available there).  Most importantly, what I learned was that the history of immigrants is essential to the food history of Italy.  You should actually check out Rebecca Black’s book Porta Palazzo: The Anthropology of an Italian Market, which Dr. Cinotto highly suggested I read to fully capture the rich cultural diversity of one of Europe’s main commercial spaces.

See those tiny squares? Those are food stalls that spread far and wide, inside of buildings and outside. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Needless to say, I didn’t buy anything 😦  There were too many choices and not enough time (since the market closes by about 1 PM).  You should definitely go!

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Simone and I walking through the fish market inside Porta Palazzo