Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Porta Palazzo

Porta Palazzo: The Anthropology of an Italian Market

Foreword by Carlo Petrini
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 240
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Porta Palazzo
    Book Description:

    Porta Palazzo, arguably Western Europe's largest open-air market, is a central economic, social, and cultural hub for Italians and migrants in the city of Turin. Open-air markets like Porta Palazzo have existed for centuries in Europe; although their function has changed over time-traditional markets are no longer the primary place to buy food-they remain popular destinations. In an age of supermarkets and online commerce, markets offer unique social and cultural opportunities and bring together urban and rural worldviews. These factors are often overlooked in traditional economic studies of food distribution, but anthropologist Rachel E. Black contends that social relations are essential for building and maintaining valuable links between production and consumption. From the history of Porta Palazzo to the current growing pains of the market, this book concentrates on points where trade meets cultural identities and cuisine. Its detailed and perceptive portraits of the market bring into relief the lives of the vendors, shoppers, and passersby. Black's ethnography illuminates the daily work of market-going and the anxieties of shoppers as they navigate the market. It examines migration, the link between cuisine and cultural identity, culinary tourism, the connection between the farmers' market and the production of local food, and the urban planning issues negotiated by the city of Turin and market users during a recent renovation. This vibrant study, featuring a foreword by Slow Food Movement founder Carlo Petrini, makes a strong case for why markets like Porta Palazzo are critical for fostering culinary culture and social life in cities.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0579-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    Carlo Petrini

    The novelist Giovanni Arpino, like myself a native of Bra in the northwestern Italian region of Piedmont, once wrote that, paradoxically, Turin, the capital of our region, is “the most southern of Italian cities.” He was referring to the fact that, as a result of the employment-related internal migration of the 1950s and 1960s, a huge population of the city consisted of people from Calabria, Sicily, Puglia, and so on.

    Today I would go farther and argue that, thanks to more recent immigration from North Africa and the Middle East, of all the major European cities not actually on the...

  4. INTRODUCTION: Going to Market
    (pp. 1-12)

    The piazza heaved and jostled in front of me. I did not know which way to turn. Warm bodies invaded my space, and elbows jammed into my ribs as I squeezed along the narrow corridor. My eyes searched for a focal point among all the moving shoppers and the stands, something to steady this uneasy shopper. Zucchini and tomatoes were piled in mountainous displays. The shrill voice of vendors burst out close to my ears, their songs like nursery rhymes gone wrong. A pungent stench of rotting meat and pressed citrus attacked my nose. The world was spinning around me,...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Market as a Field
    (pp. 13-24)

    The bright orange tram rattles down the tracks and into the belly of the city, Porta Palazzo. I squeeze between the bodies holding tight to seats and handles. My shoes make a thumping sound as they hit the metal step on the way down to the gray street below. As I wander the long horizon created by via Milano, my eyes stop at the tangle of pushcarts and cases of fruit waiting for strong arms to stock them onto the overflowing market stalls. These stands look as if they could tip over at any minute onto innocent customers with their...

  6. CHAPTER 2 The Evolution of a Market
    (pp. 25-45)

    What comes first: the city or the market? It is not always clear, but historically the development of towns and markets is often linked. Turin is no exception. Located in the region of Piedmont in northwest Italy, Turin was founded by the Gauls, and Hannibal sacked this outpost on his famous crossing of the Alps in 218 b.c.e. In 28, Castas Taurinorum was established by Julius Caesar as a military camp at the base of the Alps. Later, the camp developed into a fortified city, which was dedicated to Augustus. The Roman grid structure of the town is still visible...

  7. CHAPTER 3 A Neighborhood, a Square, and a Market
    (pp. 46-64)

    Porta Palazzo is one of the largest open-air markets in Western Europe, 51,300 square meters, with 4,991 square meters used for commercial activity during the market. It is not entirely open-air: it has several permanent pavilions and covered areas. On an average day, 756 licensed mobile vendors set up their stands (13 percent of the city’s ambulant vending licenses), on Saturdays, 796.¹ Of these mobile vendors, 350 sell nonfood items (clothing, flowers, housewares, etc.), 366 sell produce, and producers run 100 of these. In addition, the market has 24 stalls assigned to vendors who attend Porta Palazzo on a rotational...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Fare la spesa: Shopping, Morality, and Anxiety at the Market
    (pp. 65-92)

    Perhaps you do not think of the tedious act of grocery shopping as a tension-filled or anxiety-producing activity; however, for many people, it is a minefield through which the shopper must navigate gender stereotypes, body image issues, class identity, and financial insecurity. While shopping and working at the Porta Palazzo market, I witnessed and took part in many situations, like the one above, that showed me some of the unexpected aspects of doing the shopping. This chapter explores some of these anxiety-producing issues and how shoppers at Porta Palazzo negotiate these often uncomfortable encounters and social situations. Food is frequently...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Il Ventre di Torino: Migration and Food
    (pp. 93-118)

    One of the first things that strikes most visitors when they arrive at Porta Palazzo is the multiethnic environment of the market. As mentioned earlier, Porta Palazzo is one of the main receiving areas for migrants in Turin and has been for the last century. The first wave arrived from the Piedmontese countryside at the turn of the twentieth century, followed by migration from the Veneto and the south of Italy after World War II as industry grew in Turin. Over the past two decades, this city has experienced its first modern influx of migrants from outside Italy. Interestingly, this...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Kumalé: Ethnogastronomic Tourism
    (pp. 119-139)

    When I first started frequenting Porta Palazzo, everyone kept telling me I had to talk to Chef Kumalé if I was interested in foreign cuisine. In fact, I kept seeing this name on stickers on the doors of Chinese dry goods shops and Moroccan butchers in and around Porta Palazzo. Who was this mysterious character, the ubiquitous point of reference when it came to foreign cuisine and Porta Palazzo? Was there another anthropologist already in the field I had chosen? Not exactly, but Kumalé seemed to be asking some of the same questions that struck me as I got to...

  11. CHAPTER 7 Nostrano: The Farmers’ Market, Local Food, and Place
    (pp. 140-168)

    As I turn the corner and head behind the Mercato dell’Orologio (Alimentare IV) at Porta Palazzo, I feel as if I have entered into the heart of Piedmont. The light, sounds, and smells are different here. The sun filters through the cast-iron roof of the tettoia dei contadini (farmers’ market area) and warms the chilly fall air. Chickens squawk, and shoppers yell greetings in Piedmontese: “Bun di!” A man walks by with a steaming cup of espresso and stops in front of a cheese stand: the smell of goat cheese overwhelms the rich scent of the coffee.

    The farmers’ market...

  12. CONCLUSION: La Piazza—City, Public Space, and Sociability
    (pp. 169-176)

    I walked out into the square—la piazza. I was standing in the middle of an empty space framed by high- and low-rise buildings. I could feel the void in the cityscape around me. Are there really any empty spaces in the city? I began to notice movement and the sound of metal wheels grinding against paving stones reached my ears from the carts being hauled out from the surrounding streets. The clatter of metal rang out in the square as the silent workers began to construct the market stalls. Bundled up in their winter coats, these burly men barely...

  13. AFTERWORD: Porta Palazzo Market and Urban Renewal
    (pp. 177-182)

    The last time I visited the Gate office, in 2009, I was surprised to find a rather discouraged group and negative energy in the air. It did not seem that the people currently working there could see their success; they just seemed frustrated by the constant resistance they encountered when they tried to implement programs. Luca Cianfriglia, the director, told me it was frustrating and difficult trying to listen to all the people who work, shop, and manage the market because each group is fractured and has its own agenda—there is no unified voice. The people involved in the...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 183-190)
    (pp. 191-212)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 213-220)
    (pp. 221-221)