Sunday 31 May 2009
One huge difference between Italy and London is the structure of the days of the week. In London, it's very easy to lose track of which day it is, since - apart from the changing schedule on Radio 4 - there's very little to distinguish one day from another. The shops are always open...everything is always available...it's terribly practical, but it doesn't do a lot to give rhythm to everyday life.
In Pisa, things are completely different, and if you don't get a grip on what happens at what time, then it can all get very frustrating. There's a complicated structure to it all, which requires a specific choreography in order not to waste a lot of time and energy, not to mention risking regular disappointment!
To buy flowers, you have to remember Wednesday and Saturday mornings - Wednesday, when there's a flower stall in the market in San Martino, and Saturday, when the San Martino Market also operates, but there's a much better choice from the man who sets up shop halfway down Borgo Stretto. On Saturdays, it's important to be up and at any of the the shops early, since the army of italian Mammas - intent on preventing their families from starving before Monday - descends like a plague of locusts, and if you haven't got everything you want by 9.30, you risk being stuck in queues for the rest of the morning! Everything shuts every day at 1.00 for lunch...everything...and you're then stuck if you get caught short in the kitchen until the shops re-open at 3.30 (or 5.30 in the hot summer months). Poultry and fish shops don't open in the afternoons at all....and I don't think the pasta sellers do, either, but I've obviously never tried to buy fresh pasta at that time of day (or else I'd know). In general, food shops are open on Monday mornings - all apart from the fish sellers - which is when all of the other shops are closed, presumably to make up for having been open on Sunday evening, when they take advantage of the passagiata, to catch passing trade.
Sundays in general are bliss! The mornings are peace incarnate - the streets are empty of people and traffic, and the only shops which are open for emergency supplies of bread or milk are in Via Cavour, or the shop run by the Argentinians in Via Cavalca.
What else? Well...the baker in Via San Francesco only takes delivery of Altamura bread on Thursday mornings, after about 10.30, and has generally run out for the week by the following day. The dry cleaners in San Paolo al'Orto only opens in the mornngs during the summer; and neither the ironmongers in Via Cavour nor Maurizio, the butcher, open at all after lunch on Saturday. Signor Tempestini (the plant-man) closes half an hour earlier than anybody else for lunch at any time of year....and so it goes on.
It might sound very complicated - but since it all helps to make Life's Tapestry a little richer, I wouldn't have it any other way...
Sautéed Chicken Livers & Rosemary, with an Orange, Fennel & Lentil Salad.
Lamb Mentonais, with Green Beans.