A rusty blue tin roof caught my attention as I revisited the Testaccio market. A pile of shoes on shoeboxes appears into view. I do not remember this from our first visit. As I stand in the first intersection of paths, I notice the artificial and natural lights blend under the covered area. The space, especially the asphalt floor, reminds me of a musty parking garage. There is no uniformity in the stands that teeter along the sides of the market and divide the area within. I expected the market to just sell food, but a tapestry of colorfully-patched fabric morphs into rows of shoes, bags and clothes as I focus in. It immediately disproves my original thoughts. I make a left. The first food stand I see pops out like a neon sign in Amish county at night. It’s called Fromaggiano. The cluttered stand glows a fake pink, with an ambiance of tungsten. I can barely see the cheese and meats while my eyes try to process an inundation of red and yellow signs. They label the types of cheeses and their price per kilo. I spot the ‘big cheese,’ actually the stack of big cheese wheels arranged like a child’s building block tower. Sadly, I don’t have the courage or the proper refrigeration to buy anything in the moment. As I continue down the path, I stop to look at crates of fruits and vegetables. I love the colors, and especially the cheap prices! If I owned a stand like this, I would arrange my produce by color. That would be the best rainbow ever. I step to the side and notice the figs here are only 3,00€ compared to the 6,00€ in the Campo. I grab a three green ones and a purple one. The total comes to 21 centesimi; I get away with paying 20.
Slowly I meander my way to the other end of the market where a pungent waft of fish alerts me of the produce before I even see the stands themselves. It reminds me of Pike Place market and my lack of seafood in the last few weeks. Continuing on, I find myself in front of the only Forno-esque stand I’ve seen so far, right in the center of the market. I must try their olive focaccia. I’m quite sure it’s larger than my face. The light bread fills my stomach as I nibble and search for the exit. My yearning for a true Italian market and my stomach, have both been fully satisfied.
On the way home, I mentally compare the Campo market to this one. The atmosphere here feels dirtier, raw but more intimate. In Testaccio I hear so much more Italian and feel like this is the true local market. In contrast, the Campo usually fills up with tourists and I pick up pieces of English quite often. The prices here vary much less and seem more reasonable. All in all, the market in Testaccio truly embodies the everyday Italian market, while the Campo adds a level of presentation and theatrics to its picturesque under-the-sun feel. For me, the Campo meets my everyday market needs, but if I ever find myself in Trastevere, I would gladly extend my walk over to Testaccio for its intimate Italian appeal.