The Mercato delle Vettovaglie, a hubbub of beauty
Livorno’s Mercato delle Vettovaglie (literally, “foodstuff’s market”) is a very noisy place. Voices – screams, really – resound in the main hall, leap up to the eight placid caryatids on the walls, and reach for the roof’s imposing, floral-style metal trusses; they spring out from the Fish Hall – kingdom of ‘cacciucco alla livornese’, this area’s typical fish stew – and explode like firecrackers among the well-lit booths, spilling out from the front entrance. Anyone coming in can feel a loud seism grow stronger at every step.
But don’t worry, there is absolutely nothing to fear. After all, as Jean de La Fontaine wrote, it is “People who make no noise” that “are dangerous”.
In 2010, the Market’s “vocal music” was even recorded and saved by a research company as an “intangible, demo-ethno-anthropological asset”.
Designed by Livorno-born engineer Angiolo Badaloni between 1890 and 1894, the Mercato delle Vettovaglie, located along Fosso Reale (“royal ditch”), is one of the most interesting buildings in this lovely Tuscan city. Its cast-iron architecture reflects the trends that were popular in France and Germany in the 19th century… no wonder it’s considered one of the most beautiful markets in Europe.
Some say that in the early years of the 1900s, Amedeo Modigliani had his atelier in one of the rooms above the market, and that he carried out his first experiments with sculpture here, creating heads that were dumped in the Fosso Reale when he left. In 1984, the discovery of three such works of art – soon found out to be fakes, and part of a prank – triggered a clamor in national and international media.
More noise! It is obviously in the nature of this market.