This is Piazza Signorelli in Cortona. It’s a great spot for kids to kick around a soccer….excuse me – football. At night it is sublime, with subdued lighting and the heaviness of history. This piazza combines the dominance of the Palazzo Casali – which is now a museum – with the inviting steps of the Teatro Signorelli, Cortona’s opera house, and the handsome, complimentary mixed-used buildings that face them. This piazza is one of the handsomest in Europe. It is broad, flat, and somehow just tight enough to feel really cozy.
And on Saturday mornings it becomes home for 25 or so utility vans and small business people, which bring their wares into the square, transforming it into the department store of town, if only for one day.
Most of the market consists of tasteless clothes and shoes and home goods made in China; ironic for the fashion design capital of the world. And it is very sad that citizens of one of the richest countries in the world must shop among cheap stuff made in sweatshops. There is very little fresh food. This is definitely not a farmer’s market.
Logistically, imagine 25 large trucks and about four food trailers, each of which has to navigate the medieval streets in order to arrive at its designated spot in the square or the narrow street linking it to the Cathedral. It has to be done exactly the same, every Saturday. The amount of work each businessperson must do to set up and break down is amazing.
The local folks turn out….talking, and smoking!….and wandering through and around, picking up some small things or cooked pork. But I have rarely seen anyone actually buying the clothes. Capitalism preaches that people sell only what people buy, but I don’t know about that here. It seems that the sellers are trying to foist off crap onto the buyers but they aint buying it. I’ll know more when I’ve been here longer.
But at least imagine the energy at play here. In Cortona, 25 people bring goods to 3,000. In the USA, 3,000 people drive to go shopping at a few corporate stores. I haven’t done the math, but it would seem that Cortona has a smaller footprint, especially given that multi-use nature of the piazza, which essentially serves as parking lot that is also beautiful when empty.