We arrived at this market as part of a Culinary Backstreets Walking Tour, which I highly recommend, especially in places that can be a little off-putting. You’ve all heard people talk about avoiding Naples, rolling their eyes and alighting there only as a whistle-stop enroute to the Amalfi Coast, or Pompeii. I’ll talk in detail about the city in another post, but doing a walking tour soon after you arrive will rid you of your preconceptions, because Naples is incredible. And the food….
I saw many markets in Naples, confirming to me that it is a city where community is alive and thriving. They may not be affluent in the traditional sense, but I think that they are rich in ways we often are not. There would always be a neighbour to check on you, loneliness and isolation would be less prevalent here and family – well family sticks.
I found in general in Europe, I suspect due to the limitations of space in a historic city, shops, living quarters and life in general spill out onto the pavement. A market is born. Ingredients are purchased and used that day. So everyday, someone will be off to the market.
Sant’Antonio Abate is a market for locals. It doesn’t have posh seating, it doesn’t have any seating. It has food, it has contraband cigarettes, for sale singly or by the packet, displayed on ready-to-run tablecloths. Over the counter medication can be purchased by the pill, rather than packet, as many people here cannot afford the whole pack.
We sampled the local cure for all that ails you, carbonated sulfur water. It took me a minute or so to identify the flavour, but it is sold by the bottle, or you can have one poured for you in a plastic cup. It’s reported to cure all digestive problems (the Italians are extremely digestive-health aware, which is why you shouldn’t consume cappuccino after lunch. It’s also why you should have a post dinner digestivo, and who am I to argue?)
As you will find, shopping for food is hungry work, and the street food here was quick, hot, fried and delicious. Basically a calzone, deep fried by a lady in a starched, snowy white apron with a dazzling smile.
All the price tags and signage is done by one man, a number man. There is uniformity and tradition in this, as in many aspects of life here. Here is a link to a beautiful post about him.
Interspersed with the alleged famous brand running shoe stalls, are the vegetables, salumeria, fresh pasta, sauces, fish and meat. I so wished we had cooking facilities where we were staying, but we only had a room in someone else’s home, and eating out in Naples is an extraordinary experience in any case.