Livorno, on the Tuscan coast, was an unexpected stop on my travels. As a rule, I am wary of Mediterranean port cities. They are usually made from two moulds: the Impossibly Picturesque and Vaguely Promiscuous (Monte Carlo, Nice, St Tropez) and the Commercial Tough Talking kind of towns, populated by sailors and stray dogs (or dogs and stray sailors?). You remember Naples, right?
Livorno Central market is an average size, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in selection. Fruit and vegetables feature in a large out-door market, while inside the old Market buildings are in sections, Seafood, Meat, Cheese and Egg Vendors. I mustered up enough courage to purchase some ham and cheeses in my very-broken-to-pieces Italian. The prize find of the day is a soft cheese of alternate layers of Marscapone and Gorgonzola; so creamy and delicious. The old Italian lady next to me is ordering slices of ham with a peppery rind; I ask for some too. This delights the dear old Nonna, and after we’ve paid and collected our delicacies, she is taking me by the hand to show me where to buy the ‘melone giallo’ to go with my Parma Ham. She with no English, and me with no Italian; we go about planning our apperitivo menu’s together. She leads me to an older Italian man who is selling beautiful fruit. I start with the melon (cantaloupe, spanspek) and before I know it the crafty old devil has sold me a bunch of gorgeous grapes, three nectarines and two peaches. Laden with cheeses, hams, foccacia and some truffled honey, I stumble back home. If my shopping had been anything but delicious, fresh, Italian produce it would’ve been too heavy to carry!