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The Mercato, or market as it is know in Italy is an experience in itself and one not to be missed. Smaller towns and villages have market days where there is an opportunity to buy from a large selection of items than are ordinarily available in their area. The products are new, fresh and sold at good prices, and meals are planned around what is available and in season.

Set up in the town’s Piazza, or Square, is a maze of stalls displaying a variety of goods. In one area, sun-tanned men and women sell fresh vegetables and fruits picked from their Tuscan farms, others sell items brought from southern Italy — olives, sauces, dried fish. There are stalls filled with a large selection and variety of cheese, fresh fish, meats, all produced, caught or raised in Italy. There are even Italian candies flavored with fruit, chocolate and coffee and if you’re lucky, you might receive a few extra pieces.

There are many stalls with Italian-made cotton or linen casual clothing, many dyed with the colors of Tuscany — shades of gold, sage green, soft blues. Beautiful fabrics for upholstery or clothing is sold, as also table linens and various everyday inexpensive items.

One is always greeted with “Buongiorno” and a smile from the stall-holder or vendor, who make their living going from market to market, held different days in different towns.

The market is open from early morning to lunchtime when all shops in the Piazza close, and by 1:30 p.m. there is no trace of the market… it’s empty and quiet except for the sound of a broom as the Square is hand-swept clean.

A Refreshing Summer Appetizer

Easy to prepare, prosciutto, thinly sliced Italian ham, is served with ripe, summer melon as a refreshing starter or appetizer to a summer meal.

Prosciutto is air-dried and readily found at Italian outdoor markets, gourmet shops and supermarkets. You can easily find it in U.S. supermarkets, packaged and sold in the deli section.

INGREDIENTS

1 ripe cantaloupe melon

6 – 8 slices of prosciutto

PREP

Cut melon in half, seed and then cut into wedges, carefully remove the rind and any green part. Wrap a slice of prosciutto around each wedge of melon and serve! Buon appetito!