Ellen Cleary- Summer 2015

Market in Florence vs. Market in Sansepolcro vs. Cattle Sale back home

On Tuesday, June 9, the whole group travelled by bus from Sansepolcro to Arezzo, and then by train from Arezzo to Florence. When we arrived, we took a walking tour of the city led by Dr. Vitarbo, where we walked past the larger-than-life duomo of Florence, the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral. The construction of this massive cathedral began under the direction of Arnolfo di Cambio at the close of the 13th century; however, the actual dome for which the cathedral is famous, based on the architectural designs of Filippo Brunelleschi, was not added until the 15th century. The design of the outside, dominated by bright shades of marble, contrasts the design of the interior, which consists of a plainer and more earth-toned color scheme.  The main draw of the interior are the frescoes of Giorgio Vasari, entitled Last Judgement, which can be seen looking straight up under the dome.

After walking past the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, we then walked to the Porcellino fountain. The Porcellino fountain is a shiny statue of a wild boar, who is said to bring you luck if you touch its snout. We enjoyed taking pictures of this Florentine tradition.

As a group we also walked (or climbed rather) up to a park overlooking the entire city of Florence.  We were then set off on our own to explore the city and be back in Sansepolcro by that night. My group and I (Courtney, Mary, Samantha-Kate, and myself) went back to the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral and climbed to the top of the duomo, and then we went to see what the famous Florentine market had to offer.

Works Cited

“The ‘Porcellino’ Fountain, Florence.” Tuscany for Sustainable Tourism. Web. 16 June 2015.

“The Duomo in Florence, the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence, Italy.” Visit Florence. Web. 16 June 2015.


Prior to our departure, we had been briefed on what we should expect to see and experience on the streets of Florence. The famous “drop the baby!” imagery was in my head on the bus and train rides over, and even though no one actually threw a baby at me, what I saw in Florence was different from anything else I had previously experienced. The market was a whirlwind of vendors, most of whom would stare you down as you walk by, or try to say something to draw you in to look at their merchandise.  I heard everything from “You have beautiful eyes” to “Ciao bella” to “Best price for you!” It was a lot to take in at one time. I am a huge shopper, and I am not shy in the least, so I figured I would be great at the whole haggling business. While I did come around after a while and get some great deals, at first I was completely overwhelmed.

On Tuesday June 16, we walked around the market in Sansepolcro as a part of our Italian class, with the assignment to figure out the cost of several different items. This market was nowhere near the scale of the one in Florence, but they had a few similarities. Both the market in Sansepolcro and the market in Florence displayed all of their items right out on the street, but the Sansepolcro one had more signs giving prices of items, whereas you needed to ask the shopkeeper for the prices at the one in Florence. Also, I did not have anyone come out from his or her booth and approach me here in Sansepolcro. Of course each market had their pros and cons; the market in Florence had a much larger variety of merchandise than the one in Sansepolcro, and in my opinion, a superior quality as well. I did not attempt to haggle as much at the market in Sansepolcro either.

When walking through the markets in both Florence and Sansepolcro, I kept thinking of a similar occurrence we have back in my hometown of Wilkes County, North Carolina: the cattle sale.  The cattle sale of Wilkes County takes place every Monday morning, running from about 6:30 or 7:00 AM to just after lunch. The environment is similar to a flea market, with shops selling everything from clothing to produce to guns, and everything in between. Ironically, the actual cattle are sold on Wednesdays, but all other animals, such as chickens, ducks, bunnies, goats, roosters, etc., are sold on Mondays. At the cattle sale, you will not find anyone standing out in front begging you to come in, and a little amount of “bargaining” may occur, but I have never witnessed it first-hand.  My grandfather, Minter Cleary, who is 93 years old actually has a booth at the cattle sale every Monday, where he sells random items from my dad’s warehouse.

The major difference I see in the markets of Italy and the “market” I know back home is the attitude behind the sales.  More often than not, I saw younger people selling at the markets in Sansepolcro and Florence, but this is not usually the case back home. The cattle sale is more of a social thing, where people come to sell a hodge-podge of yard sale items but also come to socialize, and it usually consists of an older crowd of people. The feeling I got from the Italian markets, especially the one in Florence, was not in the least laid back like in America, and everyone there was concerned only with making the sale and moving on to the next customer.  This observation surprised me somewhat because outside of the markets, I have felt like Italians are much more laid back than Americans and are more inclined to spend time socializing rather than working.

Another speculation is that the shopkeepers at the market in Florence are generally not selling to locals, but rather to the influx of tourists. They most likely treat tourists vastly differently than they treat locals, and besides, I doubt many locals would shop at the market in Florence anyway. On the other hand, since there are not a ton of tourists in Sansepolcro, the shopkeepers at the market there are not as aggressive.


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