Edible Art: The Fresh Market of Modena, Italy
In some ways, the Mercato Albinelli in Modena, Italy is less like a covered market and more like a gallery showcasing fine art. One artist exhibits his prize, plump strawberries; another her handmade golden tortelloni; while another puts the finishing touches on links of sausage.
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” ― George Bernard Shaw
During our shopping missions at this fresh market in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region so renowned for its Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, traditional balsamic vinegar, and Ferraris and Maserati motors, everyone seemed to be plain cheery. Bakers dished out free samples of thick, braided breadsticks to hungry children. Merchants’ wide, genuine smiles squished their faces in such a fashion that their eyes were nearly concealed. And a wooly, brown and white dog even took time to smell the flowers.
The atmosphere was undeniably happy. An outgoing baker named Enzo welcomed Shawn with a complimentary, lightly-sweetened Tortelli Forno. As I snapped a picture of an overflowing basket of luscious sun-dried tomatoes, another friendly gentleman stopped by. Initially worried that he thought I was trying to covertly capture him in the frame, the man pointed to himself playfully, insisting that I do include him. He was proud to tell us that he was in his nineties.
The market’s presentation was pristine. Bouquets of flowers were interspersed between bottles of bubbly. Hand-lettered price tags showcased fanciful flourishes, and stands brimmed with beautifully-arranged mounds of hand-made pasta, vibrant fruits and vegetables, and countless types of cheese.
Opened in 1931, the Mercato Albinelli is itself a work of art. From rod-iron trimmings, to a statue of a young girl with a basket on her hip, the market’s offerings are all just a moment’s walk from the city’s main square, the Piazza Grande. Lovely black & white imagery from the 1930s shows that while its presentation may have changed, the market has retained its classic charm. It’s a testament to the Slow Food Movement that was born in Italy, and a must-savor experience when in Modena.
Do you have a favorite market that you’ve savored at home or during your travels? Please share the details in the comments below.
Plump, luscious strawberries, known in Italian as fragole. We picked up a few hundred grams and enjoyed them during a picnic. They were .60 Euro cents per 100 grams, or etto.
Wide grins at Enzo’s Panetteria (bakery). Enzo was such a friendly fellow, instantly welcoming Shawn to the market by giving him a complimentary Tortelli Forno sweet treat. It’s no surprise that we returned the next day so that Shawn could buy some bread from Enzo.
The entrance to the market and the remains of Shawn’s much-enjoyed Tortelli Forno treat.
Hand-made perfection: A tray of tortelloni, nicknamed the belly button or ombelico pasta. Tortelloni originate from Emilia, Italy.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf
I was trying to unobtrusively snap this basket of overflowing sun-dried tomatoes when the gentleman in the background playfully pointed to himself, insisting that he be included in the frame. The friendly shopper told us that he was in his 90s.
Beautiful artichokes (carciofi) and further evidence that Modena’s market vendors are incredibly adept at the art of sales. I think almost every child I spotted was holding a complimentary twisted bread stick or crispy breadroll in their hand.
Homemade tortellini and brilliant-red, sun-dried tomatoes swimming in olive oil.
With wide grins on our faces we watched as this dog enthusiastically pulled in the direction of this flower stand. He was especially smitten with these yellow blooms.
“You don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” – Paul Prudhomme
My version of a Parmigiano-Reggiano snow woman, and a timid dog awaiting his owner by the market’s entrance. Each cheese wheel weighs about 38 kg (roughly 80 pounds).
Prosciutto (dry-cured ham) from the nearby city of Parma.
A butcher puts the finishing touches on sausage links; and artichokes, asparagus, and golden zucchini flowers mingle.
Our Video of This Experience:
Where in the World?
- The Albinelli Market is located at Via Luigi Albinelli, 13, just a moment’s walk from Modena’s main square, the Piazza Grande. Check the market’s official website for opening hours and a handy map which shows where the various categories of culinary goodies can be found. I was delighted that there is even a stall devoted to gluten-free pasta and bread. Look for the stall #29 and the name Senza Glutine (without gluten).
- We spent 3 nights at the elegant, historic, and centrally-located Hotel Canalgrande (affiliate link). One of our favorite memories from Modena, in fact, was sitting out on our hotel room balcony just before sunset, looking out over Modena’s rooftops, while enjoying goodies that we’d procured at the Albinelli Market earlier in the day.
- Peruse the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board website for more details about this region’s rich offerings. Also, they’ve just recently released a free e-book that chronicles Emilia-Romagna’s Art Cities. I wish it’d been published when we were in the region, yet it’s since presented even more excuses to return to this stunning part of Italy.
- If you’d also like to “eat, feel and live local in Italy” as we did in Modena, check out the BlogVille project website.
- Need more inspiration? This link contains an index of all my posts from Italy.
Disclosure & Thanks:
Our Modena visit was supported by the Emilia-Romagna Tourist Board, to which we extend thanks.
An extra special thank you to Nick and Francesca for coordinating all the details and making us feel so welcome in Emilia-Romagna.
Photography & text © by Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved. Video footage is courtesy of my husband, Shawn.