Yesterday, the Upstairs Vegetarian and I went to three flea markets in Rome. Well, technically four but one was closed. When I first moved to Rome I lived near Porta Portese, which hosts a huge and famous market on Sunday mornings and I went there every single week. It was the first time I had real money and I used to buy stupid stuff I didn’t need just because I could. I was not very fiscally responsible back then. Anyway, I am doing a spot of redecorating and have been looking for a chandelier and oil paintings so I went to Porta Portese last week for the first time in many years and had partial success. You can find some interesting stuff there (as well as quite a bit of dreck but that’s true of any flea market). The guy who sold me a couple of paintings gave me two medallions, one featuring Mussolini’s head and the other the head of Saint Hannibal (although of course the guy told me it was a pope’s head). Porta Portese is always super crowded and intimidating and filled with little gypsy kids who wave a piece of cardboard in your face to distract you and during the two seconds you are saying to yourself, “what the h…?” your wallet is removed from your pocket or purse and relayed across Rome by a giant tag team of gypsies.
The first of yesterday’s markets was the Mercatino Conca d’Oro, Via Conca d’Oro 143 (Open Saturday and Sunday 9-20). This was my favourite. It’s nowhere near the size of Porta Portese, which goes on for miles, and that’s a good thing. Conca d’Oro is about the size of a large parking lot and filled with stand after stand featuring antiques and tchachkas, some of which were downright weird. There are secondhand clothes stands and people selling sausages, cheeses and bread.
I bought a nice oil painting of St. Peter’s for 10 Euros and then it was on to the next market. This was the Mercantino Nomentano, Via Cortuso 17 (Open Sunday, 8-19). It’s a smallish affair with lots of antiques. We were greeted at the entry by a wonderful selection of hats.
Next we tried the Happy Sunday Market at Lanificio (Via die Pietralata 159, 11-2,2 first Sunday of the month). It’s only open once a month so we didn’t manage to see anything but it’s supposed to be great so I’ve included it in my list. When it’s not being a cool and funky happy market, the former wool factory (lana means wool) is a restaurant. When we arrived they were serving so-called brunch, which in Italy — as faithful readers have heard me rant before — is exactly the same as lunch except it happens on the weekend and usually takes buffet form. I am no big fan of buffets — they tend to be boring and congealed — although Lanificio’s has been given high marks by this wise sage. Nonetheless, it was fairly meaty looking so the U.V. gave it the thumbs down and off we went to the next market: Borghetto Flaminio, Piazzale della Marina 32 (Sunday, 10-19).
Not a fan. This is the only market I have ever been to that charges an entrance fee (1.60 Euro). What is up with that? The stalls are pretty much all staffed by resentful middle-aged women and you can imagine a scenario where hubby loses his job in a terrible economy and says to the wife, “Cara mia, you need to sell your fur coats and some of your trinkets so that we can make ends meet.” She does it but she’s not happy about it so she inflates her prices to the point that her favorite stuff will be unbuyable. “I tried honey,” she’ll say. I saw one woman quote a price of 350 Euros for a (very ugly) twin set and when my vegetarian friend enquired about a not-very-special table lamp, she was given a price of 260 Euros! The whole atmosphere feels slightly oppressive and none of the stuff on display is very interesting, although I did see a few interesting Mussolini gewgaws (for the benefit of new readers: I am not a 1930s-era fascist. I’m just interested in the history of the period). I did manage to score a couple of nice paintings of flowers for 15 Euros. Here are some pictures of that boring market.
Historical aside: In Rome, as in many places in Europe, brass plaques have been affixed to the sidewalks in front of the homes of people seized and later killed in the Holocaust. These ones are on Via Flaminia, near the boring market.