Back when Italy still was divided into a number of Kingdoms – i.e. till the second half of the XIXth century – Gaeta marked the border between the Kingdom of the two Sicilies (aka Kingdom of Naples) and the Papal state. For centuries Gaeta was an important military port as the remaining fortifications still show today. Today the city lives more of commerce and tourism than warfare, and the wealth and size of the city have benefited from that. Leaving behind the historical chatter, for those into food Gaeta has three intriguing items on offer: olive (olives) di Gaeta, tiella Gaetana (a savory stuffed flatbread) and the weekly market. Leaving the former two for upcoming posts, I'll show you around the market.
The city's market takes place every Wednesday not far from the railway station of Gaeta(there are a number of entry points, so it is best to just ask the locals). It is pretty much divided into a part dedicated to food and one to almost anything else with goods ranging from shoes and cheap clothes to kitsch home decorations and cheap plastic toys for kids. You can guess which part I was interested in.
Among the many "salumeria" stalls – selling, as customary in Italy, cured meats and cheeses, but also milk, bread and eggs – one particularly caught my eye. Beside the standard cheese selection, they had a selection of farmhouse goat and sheep cheeses. In any big city market these would have been presented in a specially attractive set-up, advertised with great clamour and sold at dear prices. As often in Italy, qualityis taken as obvious, so here the cheeses simply come in polystyrene boxes straight from the producer and are sold at dirt-cheap prices: the small goat cheese went for 1 Euro each, with the pecorini only slightly more expensive. I couldn't resist the temptation and a couple of goat cheeses and a small young pecorino.
Sellers of legumes and nuts always have a special section in Southern Italian diet and markets and Gaeta is no exception. I love the idea of having so many different bean, lentil and chickpea sorts available, some best for salads, other great with pasta. Plus, you can always do the Amelie thing and sink your fingers into the sacks of beans. Works great against stress, yours that is. The stall holder is probably stressed crazy by all the bloody tourists touching his wares.
The thing I love most about markets in Southern Italy are the vegetable stalls. The freshness and variety of the produce is something no "globalised" green grocer will ever be able to match, like you can see from the opening shot: who would sell such irregular but so delicious peppers and aubergines today? Here the greens and beans section. From top left, clockwise: fresh onions, broccoli rabe, wild rucola, zucchini, green beans, runner beans, fresh borlotti in the pod (i love and terribly miss these), escarole and lettuce.
Clearly, there's plenty of stalls selling the local speciality, olive di gaeta (the purplish ones at the bottom, middle), plus a huge variety of other olive kinds, pickles, capers, salted anchovies and extra virgin olive oil. At 4 euro a kilo, how can you resist?