This is one of the three old markets in Palermo, along with the Vucciria and Ballarò. It is in the centre of the city in a wonderful area with aristocratic homes and churches still active with believers. There is also Morello, the old baker’s shop, well known for its art nouveau sign known as La Pupa (the doll) – a fascinating and sensual woman, a real femme fatale! The backstreets in this part of Palermo have engaging names like “Gioia Mia (my joy). Once it was inhabited by mercenaries, pirates and slave traders. Now, every day almost until evening it is busy with young and old market workers on their overflowing stalls. Clothes, dry fruit, fruit in season, fresh and salted fish (like baccalà or salted cod) and above all meat are all sold here. Indeed, in the past the city slaughter house was nearby. The sale of goods is accompanied by lively and noisy invitations from the stallholders, the so-called “abbanniate”, catchphrases to attract customers. At the Capo market one does not just find uncooked food, they even sell boiled, baked or fried goods.
Ballarò is the oldest and largest market in Palermo. Its name probably derives from the Arab “suqalbalari”. Balara was an old village which used to exist near Monreale, close to Palermo and it was from there that peasants came to sell their market goods in the souk at the time of the Arab domination. The streets, both big and small, are taken over with merchandise of every type, stalls of fruit, vegetables, meat and fish, lit up until sunset and protected by pictures and portraits of saints and the dead. Here it always teems with colour, noise and strong odours. To attract the attention of passers-by the stall holders resort to the technique of “abbanniata”, set phrases shouted at full volume ... what a racket! Other than buying things one can also eat well: all kinds of fried food, boiled or oven-cooked potatoes and onions, boiled greens, corn on the cob, chick pea fries, croquet potatoes, boiled octopus and many other kinds of typical Palermo food. In fact, one can say that what today is called Street Food has already been in the home here for many centuries!
THE VUCCIRIA MARKET
The Vucciria is the most famous market in the city, so delightful that the Sicilian Renato Guttuso immortalised it in a large painting. In the past it was called “Bucceria grande”, the name deriving from the French word “boucherie” meaning butcher. In fact it is likely that at the time of the Angevins only meat was sold there. With the passing of time it has undergone various changes. In 1783, at the wishes of Viceroy Caracciolo, an arcade was built to house the stallholders, but this was later sealed up. Being so close to the port led to the construction of administrative offices and guildhalls belonging to the various foreign merchants. Merchants from Genova, Pisa, Catalonia and many other places traded there. Today a bit of everything is sold: meat, fruit and fish as well as pre-cooked food like chickpea fritters, potato croquettes and stigghiole (seasoned pieces of lamb gut barbecued on a skewer). Some of this produce is displayed on slabs of marble called “balate”. Recently various a