ortigia market : syracuse : sicily

The early morning market in Ortigia, Siracusa (Siciliy), is a sight to behold. Whilst we do have some excellent fresh produce markets here in the UK, this Sicilian one blew us away…

Every kind of fresh vegetable and fruit seemed to be available, along with fish caught that morning, cheeses, breads, olives, oils. The sheer number of stalls was incredible – and the banter between stallholders, vying for buyers’ attention was a piece of theatre in itself. The market is raw and gritty and if you have a delicate constitution, certain areas should definitely be avoided! The fish section, for example – especially when the traders are competitively chopping, slicing, skinning and discarding the less savoury parts of the fish from the parts which will bring the most money.

The hustle and bustle is palpable. There’s no polite queuing here – if you see what you want, you have to push forward or someone else will have what you have your eyes on. Hands thrust forward, people jostle, and shout over you. Again, if you prefer the more sedate pace in Waitrose, Ortigia Market may be a bit of a shock. Underfoot, you’re likely to stand in produce which has fallen off stands, or the discarded parts of vegetables. It is sluiced down, but this all just adds to the feeling of chaos.

However, look closer, and you’ll see it’s not chaos at all. It’s carefully manged and orchestrated piece of open air theatre. All of the stall holders know their parts. The lead actors – the fish guys, it would seem – play to the crowd magnificently. Cameras and phones are held aloft, snapping away and recording this free entertainment, presumably to later be posted online. Making stars out of the performers.

The market, like all Italian markets, is not just about the food – but this is the star of the show. We saw people leaving with mattresses and bedding from the household section. Electrical goods are available, as well as agricultural. Religious artefacts can also be purchased. Clothes, ornaments, shoes, household products, flowers, plants, pet products. Everything you could need, in one vibrant corner of Ortigia.

If you ever visit this authentic, totally Sicilian city, our advice is, take in the market. If you need any more convincing, here’s what Think Sicily has to say…

Turning left at the entrance to the island will take you immediately to the colourful daily morning street market, which sells a fantastic array of fruit, vegetables, fish and meat. At the end of the market is a must-see for food lovers: a delicatessen of rare quality, called “I Sapori dei Gusti Smarriti” (literally the flavours of lost tastes). Here you can find cheeses, hams and cured meats of the very best quality, many of which, especially those produced in Sicily, you will find nowhere else. There is also an excellent assortment of wines, condiments, sun-dried tomatoes and other Sicilian delicacies made by the shop’s owners in their “laboratory”.

Published on 24th October 2013