Walking through the historical market of Catania “A fera o luni” – literally Monday’s fair – is an experience every tourist should do if travelling to Sicily’s second biggest city.
Fruits, vegetables, fish, meats, gifts and spices are offered by vendors loudly calling at anybody who passes by their stall. But voices are not the only loud things present in the market: sight, smell and touch are stimulated by the marvellous produce of the plain of Catania, a flat land which benefits from the thousands of years of soil nourishment coming from the eruptions of the Etna volcano.
The market is hold in the Piazza Carlo Alberto, in the historical centre of the Eastern Sicilian city. During the opening, the streets around the piazza become full of colored tents suspended upon market stalls under which each vendor displays the best products to tourists and locals.
The name Fera o Luni has a disputed origin. Some scholars believe the market has been created in honour of the Roman/Greek goddes Luna/Artemide as she was related with wild animals, woodland and the moon, others opine that, considering the masculine article o before the word luni the market is dedicated to the Assyrian Babylonian god Luni.
Whatever divinity the market is dedicated to, it surely is a triumph of fresh and local produce through which the visitor can travel, tasting some of the Arabic influence in Sicilian everyday culture. As to say, if you travelled to Egypt, Israel or to Tunis and visited their old town’s markets, you will surely think of having already been there.
Voices could surely sound southern Mediterranean but Catania, differently from Palermo, has its market built in open Baroque squares, large perpendicular roads and the stalls are flanked with extraordinarily decorated churches and monasteries. The Fera o Luni offers a very large variety of typical gourmet products: from artichokes to broccoli, mushrooms, fresh tarocchi and surely a lot of typical cheese – mainly from goat and sheep milk – not available elsewhere.
Another important historical market of Catania is the Pescheria – the fish market – it starts right on the side of the Duomo di Sant’Agata and goes through the Porta Uzeda in a narrow street around the Giardino Pacini. This market, as its name suggests, is specialized in sea foods; here you can buy the freshest fish and sea fruits, it is another feast for your senses with hundreds of just caught fish and crustaceans, meats and Sicilian cheese. This is believed to be the oldest market in town and it remained unchanged for hundreds of years.
Catania is one of the few places in Europe where a tourist can walk through a historical centre that is both a market and a World Heritage Site; a visitor would be able to delight its taste while walking through the markets and its eyes by watching at the baroque buildings around it. Worth a visit? We think so!