Since Medieval times the Mercato delle Carogne is always held on 29th September, San Michele’s day, and closes the “Settembre Lucchese”. It is the final of three maxi markets and therein probably lies the secret of its name. The literal translation for Carogne is carrion, which comes from Middle English and means decaying flesh. This however is not a meat market but probably refers to the fact that in Medieval times the livestock section was the most import and being the final market all the best beasts had already been sold.
The market can be found just outside the city walls in the area know as Borgo Giannotti. There are about 400 stalls and the atmosphere is certainly one of medieval confusion. Many of the stallholders shout to attract attention and other demonstrate gadgets that will turn us all into domestic Goddesses but there are also real boys’ toys. Here they drive Lamborghinis only they are tractors. The pulling power in every sense I am told is just as effective!
The clothes stalls are numerous but mainly cheap Chinese imports, however on the piles of second hand clothes I have been known to find the odd gem like my little black Ralph Laurent number for 2 Euros. The quest for a hidden Gucci however requires dedication and determination but once you have got your first bite the addiction starts and a second hand stall can’t be ignored. My advice for vintage hunters is to park your male partner by the Lamborghinis where they also serve free wine as their bored faces distract one’s concentration!
I love the stalls in front of the traditional shops of the quarter selling kitchenware and baskets. Tuscan baskets have always been made from strips of chestnuts and these are woven into all different shapes and sizes for different tasks. The traditional terracotta kitchenware is another favourite, even a simple tomato sauce when it is cooked over a slow heat in one of these pots takes on velvety richness.
The food stalls are of course never to be missed. Here food is still quite local but these markets attract stallholders from all over the peninsula giving us the opportunity to discover new delicacies. I can never resist a porchetta sandwich. As I sink my teeth through the fresh wood oven baked bread to the seasoned stuffing of this roast pork I am transported back to the days I was working on a project in Rome where the dish originates from and discovered it in another street festival.
The children are not forgotten as the market finishes in “Luna Park” the fun fair that last the entire month to the particular delight of the teenagers on a Saturday night. For some reason all the sweet stalls are concentrated in this area and the brightly coloured vans are full of colourful delights. They sell Brigidini, which are wafers flavoured with aniseed. I love to watch the machine stamping them out. The other treat that appears on every local sweet stall is croccante, which is basically nut brittle, delicious, but dangerous for both your waistline and teeth. Then if you have any energy left you can enjoy all the fun of the fair.