One of the most pleasant surprises I had during my short trip to Bari was an outdoor fish market right by the seaside. We were looking for a parking spot so we happened to drive by and there it was – the fish market!
It was a sunny Sunday in November (almost summer-like) and, although the city seemed deserted when we had first got to Bari 2 days before, now the streets were packed with people and it was just a perfect day to spend on the beach.
We arrived a bit late for the market, around 1 p.m. , I suppose most of the amazing things at the market usually happen in the morning, but luckily there were still a lot of enthusiastic fishermen willing to sell their catch of the day, shouting their offers in the Barese dialect.
Most of the fishermen were whacking octopi in woven baskets (in order to tenderize it, I was informed), some were opening up fresh sea urchins, others weighing fresh beautiful fish on rusty scales under buyers’ eyes. Of course some had to make sure that their live octopi would not run away as this was their main activity – planning their escape, crawling furtively out of the plastic containers one step at a time– but the fisherman would always catch them halfway and bring them back to their place.
Lovely cute little creatures, octopi, I read somewhere that they are highly intelligent, the smartest among the invertebrates – they have memory, they have the ability to learn and they play. It might sound cruel now, but they are also a very delicious antipasto, grilled and served with olive oil and lemon 🙂
I love how the outdoor local markets, especially in the smaller cities, give you a glimpse of the life in that place – you as a tourist, temporarily disrupted from your daily tasks, have the chance of observing, of intruding into someone’s intimate moments like buying their ingredients for today’s dinner or a piece of parmigiano raggiano which should not miss from any Italian home.
We then went farther away, at the end of the concrete counters, heading to a shacky old pub, where we had a cold Peroni for 1 euro and I had a sort of a conversation with an odd looking man: “Perche mi guardi brutto?”, he says. He answered for himself : “Perche sono brutto”, laughing loudly. I did find that a good sense of humor.
Outside the bar, a group of men were playing cards at a plastic table. They had that Mafia air, their faces and poses made you think of the Italian Mafiosi from the movies: some were seated at the table playing, some were standing next to them, one was smoking a cigar.
All around the market, the sea and brightly colored boats.