Happy Birthday Bologna

Early one Saturday morning two years ago, a small group of farmers and producers from the land surrounding the central Italian city of Bologna could be found unloading trucks of seasonal produce and quality artisan foods into a piazza that hadn’t seen a crate of bread or rounds of cheese for decades. Arriving from within a 40 kilometers radius, these producers had been selected by Slow Food Bologna to rejuvenate what was once an important market area within the city’s old walls, by establishing an Earth Market – a Slow Food farmers’ market.

Today the market has become a popular weekly occasion for the city, providing residents with easy access to food that is local and good, based on the rich food culture and heritage that surround them. Fruit and vegetables, cheese and salami, eggs and meats, bread and cereals, milk and yogurt, jams and honeys, wines and beers and much more: the offerings from the 30-40 producers who attend the market according to the season offer a one-trip alternative to the supermarket.

Nearly every week a special guest lends an element of surprise to the market experience, often a Slow Food Presidia producer with their unique foods and sometimes a group of producers from another Earth Market, offering a glimpse into the specialties of other localities. One week may see producers from the Modenese White Cow Presidium offering their excellent meat, ricotta and Parmigiano-Reggiano and another week shoppers may arrive to the spicy aromas and nutty sweets of a group of Sicilians.

But the main focus is always on supporting the local growers, breeders, bakers, cheesemakers and others who keep the 800 to 1,000 customers coming back each week, and who have helped see the market become a cultural as well as social meeting spot, hosting a wide range of educational activities, campaigns and events. Last October, the market held the ‘Food for World’ campaign in support of food biodiversity and sovereignty. On Terra Madre Day, Slow Food Bologna, Imola and Samoggia organzied a street food and music event.

The Earth Market also runs cooking classes, held in a building on the piazza, that start with shopping from the stallholders and end with a communal meal. Occasionally shoppers are offered the chance to visit their favorite producers’ farms with ‘At Lunch with the Earth Market’ excursions into the countryside to experience their work first hand and sit down to eat and talk together. Events and practical taste education activities are also organized for children, on topics like bread making, honey and growing local vegetables.

On November 27 however, the focus was on celebrating, with a festival of traditional music, local treats prepared by the stallholders and wine offered by Slow Food Bologna to thank the city for their support over the past two years: two years of bringing the best local food to the city centre, bridging the gap between consumers and producers and presenting a wide range of activities to promote a better understanding of good, clean and fair and how to enjoy eating seasonally and locally. Happy Birthday Bologna! 

San Daniele Earth Market also celebrated their two-year anniversary in November.

Bologna Earth Market is….

The market-goer
The market is the slow beauty of Saturday mornings. I take my time choosing what I wish to eat the following week, run into friends without the hassle of making appointments and enjoy a breakfast of tigella (local bread) and a glass of pignoletto. At the market I loose myself, buying potatoes, zucchini, hunks of cheese and bunches of flowers and then remember I am cycling home. The market is where I learn the difference between various types of apples, honeys or flours from the producers; where I meet people from different walks of life: housewives and professors, pensioners and young professionals, managers and families. And we’re all there to do the same thing: buy good food in a vibrant atmosphere in a public space that would have otherwise remained empty.

The baker
For me, the Earth Market is a day that starts in the heart of the night, with the heat of the oven and the company of my fellow bakers. I like our journey to the city at dawn, passing by the fields that provide the wheat for the flour we use to bake our bread. It’s as if we’re keeping watch over them, hoping that the year will be good and the earth generous. Arriving at the market is busy and as we’re getting everything into place I like to exchanges glances with Fabio, the other baker, while we unload the trucks: “How was your night? Did the yeasts work well?” Then the market opens. We chat with our customers, and week after week our relationships and friendships grow, all starting with the bread. I like to think our bread is good, clean and fair. A bread to talk about, that you can discuss and exchange ideas about, a bread to be shared… I like the colors of the fruit and vegetable stalls in spring, the smell of the tigelle (bread rolls) in autumn. And the sounds of the market: the buzz of the shoppers’ voices, children playing, a violin and a piano accordion. At the end of the market day I find myself enjoying a glass of beer or wine with the last latecomers and my fellow stall holders, listening to their comments on the day and seeing smiles all around. And this is the important thing; we share a common feeling for the market. I believe that the Earth Market is above all a place of conviviality and a space for exchange between the country and the city, and between people from different walks of life. Francesco

Click here for more information on the Bologna Earth Market, its events and producers.

Bess Mucke
[email protected]

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