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Snapshots from Italy: Rome's Organic Market

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In a city of numerous and terrific markets that are spread among wonderfully characteristic neighborhoods, it is almost hard to become attached to yet another one. But Rome's twice-monthly Organic Market has definitely won me over.

It takes place on the second and fourth Sunday of every month, which is more than enough to get excited about. If the timing is right, it is a relief to have a place to head for fresh produce on a day when everything else is shut down tight. The location is right, too, in a little piazza where some of the most characteristic streets of the Centro Storico converge, not far from the Campo de'Fiori.

Relaxed and Leisurely Pace

My first visit had a very relaxed vibe, especially compared to the usual frenzied commotion at every other market on Fridays and Saturdays, when everyone is scrambling to get their shopping done. Sundays are sacred for most Romans, reserved for relaxing or spending time with the family. Although this little market was buzzing, it wasn't too busy to have a leisurely chat with the organic producers who had traveled from all over Lazio, Umbria, and lower Tuscany, eager to answer questions or give me a sample to nibble.

I made the rounds, swooning over some seriously beautiful cheese, lovely faro pasta, heirloom beans, and olive oil from the Sabine Hills and coveting tiny potatoes, freshly picked peas, and velvety leaves of spinach. Can one ever tire of the sight of mounds of purple-tinted artichokes?

But it was the fresh eggs that really got to me. When I held one up against the sunlight, the ivory-colored shell seemed almost paper-thin, translucent enough for me to see the yolk suspended inside. I had to have some, especially when I was told that they had been gathered not 24 hours before. It seemed like every other person visiting the market wanted those eggs, too, because as I jockeyed for a position in the predictable cluster mob, I saw the crate that held them dwindle at an alarming rate. Luckily, a new crate appeared before I actually started moaning.

I haven't decided what to do with them just yet, but an omelet with organic asparagus sounds about right. If you happen to be in Rome on the second or fourth Sunday of the month, stop by the organic market in the morning, before it closes at 1 p.m. It's on Vicolo della Moretta, and after your shopping spree, you can stroll along pretty, picturesque Via Giulia until you reach the Tiber.

About the author: Gina DePalma is the pastry chef at Mario Batali's Babbo restaurant in New York City and the author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen. She is currently in Rome doing research for her next book and further exploring her passions for Italian food.

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