A wander around Turin’s Porta Palazzo Market, the largest open-air market in Europe.
One thing that really stands out about the food culture of Italy is the abundance of fresh food markets in each city. The locals tend to shop for fresh produce daily, rather than doing the weekly (soul-destroying, IMHO) shop which is more the norm here in Australia. This means that, for the most part, people are eating fresh, local, seasonal produce – a much better way to stay connected to the food system.
When visiting Torino (Turin) last year at least one market visit was high on my list of priorities. The city has 42 open-air markets and six covered markets dotted around the neighbourhoods and on our second day in the city we visited the most significant, the Porta Palazzo Market.
The Porta Palazzo Market takes it’s name from the ancient gate which marked the entry to the Roman town of Augusta Taurinorum and is the largest open-air market in Europe. It is open six days a week and boasts 800 stalls spread over a 50,000 square metre space, surrounded by four covered markets – a clothing market, a fish market and two other food markets, plus various stores, cafes and restaurants.
Unusually, part of this space is also shared by up to 100 farmers market stands, with the farmers travelling in to sell their produce direct to the public – making it one of the few places where city folk can come into daily contact with the people who grow their food.
Honestly, I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be bothered with a sterile shopping centre when there is so much more pleasure to be had buzzing around these intriguing stalls which sell just about anything one could need. From vegetables, oils, cold cuts, cheese, breads, local delicacies and flowers to clothing, shoes, household goods, second-hand goods, jewellery – you name it, someone there will be selling it, guaranteed.
Porta Palazzo Market, sometimes known as ‘Torino’s kitchen’, is much more than just a food source for the city of Torino, though, and is recognised as a local cultural and social hub, for both Italians and migrants to the city. The importance of the market is such that an anthropological study, “Porta Palazzo: The Anthropology of an Italian Market”, has been published using this market as an example to show how important such centres are for the culinary culture and social life of cities.