Treasures from the street market

All of you who know me well, know how much I love to get a good deal. I’m not a big shopper, but when I do shop, I love to feel like I’m really getting my money’s worth. There are several street markets in Florence, but the one I am most partial to is the Cascine Market on the west end of town. The market is set up in the middle of Cascine Park, about a 10-15 minute walk from our house, every Tuesday morning. There you can buy everything from olives and cheese to slippers and underwear. You can buy food ingredients, prepared food, clothes, shoes, kitchen items, drapes, plants, perfume, purses, belts, hats, gloves, shampoo, utensils, even pets such as birds, turtles and fish.

On our first trip to the market I got some really thick and warm footless tights (€3), a fish necklace (€3), 3 pairs of striped knee-high socks (€2), a beautiful blue scarf (€1 – that’s right $1.30, my friends!), fruit and veggies, sicilian spiced olives (yum!) and some fantastic sicilian pecorino cheese. My big score on the first week, though, was my boots for €10! I love my new boots. (They’re actually even cuter with fishnet stockings!) I’m sure I’ve already put 20 miles on them.

On the second Tuesday, I got 2 new shirts for €2 each, and a knit hat for €2. Aren’t they adorable?

George got some gloves, sweat pants and some hooks for the bathroom all for under €10.

One of the things I love most about the Cascine Market is that Italians shop there. None of the vendors speak English, so you have to get in there and speak Italian. Every week the offerings are a little different, so there is a lot of push and shove, a lot of please and thank you, a lot of smiles, a lot of new words like “specchio” (mirror) and “tartaruga” (turtle). There is the joy of a long walk with an empty backpack, and then another long walk with a bag full of new treasures.

All this happy shopping comes with little bit of a dark side, though.  For every item I buy I have to give up something else.  I came with one full suitcase and I am determined to leave with exactly the same one I came with. Meer weeks ago, I went through the really difficult process of going through each and every little item I own and deciding whether to pack it away for later or let it go. I let a lot of it go. I also learned in the process that my refrigerator was out of control. Carla and Mike and Pat are nodding there heads right now. They inherited my mind-boggling number of open bottles of mustard and vinegar and tons of other food stuff. Food for Thought received my truly ridiculous collection of pens and pencils. (Where do they all come from? I can’t remember buying ANY of them.) I gave away bags full of clothes – many, many, many bags full of clothes.

I narrowed my world down to that one suitcase (plus a backpack) and that is all the space I have for the next year. It has been my plan all along to give away or send home most of my winter clothes, but still…

As I stood at the sink washing dishes today, I realized that I haven’t yet fully grasped the idea of living small. We have made a conscious choice to travel in a way that allows us to settle in, unpack, get comfortable, and get to know the places and people around us. Right now, I don’t feel like I’m traveling, though, I feel like I’m living my everyday life. Which I am. But I still don’t have a handle on how to do that well without expanding into my space. Every time I hand over that money and put that new thing in my pack, I think about whether I’m taking it with me to the next destination or leaving it behind as a gift to the home that I have temporarily taken over. Do I really need that new knife for 3 months time? (The answer to this one is yes! Best €10 I’ve spent so far.) Or that new pair of boots? (Yes to that one, too. They replaced the crappy pair I brought with me.) Or that new scarf? (No, not at all. I brought 5 with me.) How about the knit hat I just bought? (Maybe. It is REALLY cold here and I am getting out running, but I could have just used the little headband I already had.) I really want a small food processor for while I am here so I can make pesto and aioli and white bean spread with ease. Yes, I know I can do it the old fashioned way and take my time and build my muscles, but… but…

These desires go on and on. I love the market for its colors and sounds and great deals. I love the idea of making due with what I have and getting comfortable with less stuff. I don’t know how to reconcile the two. I guess I have time to learn.