Yesterday I went to the outdoor market with Nonna Rosanna. I was so excited that she invited me to go along with her. The 10K drive to Dogliani was spectacular! Fall has fully set in and the colorful leaves on the grape vines have created a beautiful mosaic. Nonna explained how you can differentiate the different grapes in the fall based on the color of their foliage: Dolcetto grape vines are more red in color while the nebbiolo grapes (used to make Barolo) are yellow and barbera are green. Together they create a colorful patchwork up and down the steep hillsides. It felt as though we were driving through a painting as we followed the narrow, winding road through the vineyards. We wound our way up to the crest of the highest hill and then down into the valley to the town of Dogliani.
Dogliani is known for producing soft and quaffable red wine made from Dolcetto grapes. It also hosts various markets, fairs and events, generally based upon the agricluture of the area. Outdoor venders line the streets with various things for sale, from local cheeses, meats and chestnuts to clothes and household products. Going with nonna, I was able to witness first hand all of her (very Italian) interactions with friends and merchants. She seems to know just about everyone! When she crossed paths with friends, pleasantries, handshakes and kisses on both cheeks were exchanged. Personal space (among other things) is much smaller here than what we're used to in the U.S. I really like this part of their culture: it reminds me of being a little girl and huddling close with my friends to whisper secrets. This extra closeness brings a sense of warmth and confront that I think is sometimes missing when there is too much distance between people while talking.
We browsed the different items for sale; She introduced me to the cheese farmer who delivers the artisan cow and goat cheeses to the agriturismo. Nearby, the aroma of roasted chestnuts filled the air. I spotted the vender who was scooping the hot little morsels into paper bags for the small crowd surrounding him. (Nearly every evening Nonna cooks fresh chestnuts on the stove to have as a dessert after lunch and dinner. She and Nonno showed me how to peel them like a pro and they are now one of my favorite treats. Their sweet nutty flavor make them a really nice snack or dessert and Nonno claims that they are excellent with red wine.)
I loved watching Nonna pick out a pair of pants for Nonno. After finding the right size, she scrutinized the fabric, laying it out it and running her fingers over all the seams to make sure it didn't have any flaws. She talked with the merchant, held them up to get a look from a different angle, then put them back down, looking closely at each pant leg. Then she folded the cuffs where she would be sewing them at home to shorten the length, the whole time talking with the merchant on and on about this particular pair of pants. After holding them up a final time, she gave the approval that it is a worthy purchase and folds them neatly to place in her bag that she brought. She paid the merrchant, who by now seemed to be her friend after having talked for so long (Italians have the ability to talk at length about anything).
As we walked around I noticed that everyone, whether old or young, was dressed up nicely with stylish clothes. Women wear nice boots and beautifu sweaters or stylish jackets with scarves and sometimes hats. Men generally also wear nice shoes, caps and scarves. I don't know why men in the US are so afraid of scarves...they look good! Not to mention they work wonders at keeping you warm on a cold day. Looking around at the clothes for sale, I could see why everyone was dressed so nice. Everything for sale was stylish! Since it's cooling down here, I bought myself some warm clothes: a warm scarf, a cashmere sweater, a nice blouse for working at the restaurant/winery and a pair of thick stocking tights. Nonna went through her inspection ritual for every item I purchased and seemed particularly interested in the 3 Euro stocking tights. I could see that she also wanted a pair so I bought them both and we now have matching green tights! She was so touched that I bought them for her that she showed them off to the whole family when we returned home. She also treated me to a marocchino (A Piedmont coffee drink made with a shot of espresso, cocoa powder or nutella and milk froth; yum!) Just a typical shopping day in Piedmont is a cultural adventure for this American girl!