‘No, no thank you, I just want one. Just uno. U-no, and not so big…er, no want grande. Only a little one. Yes that’s it. Si, si! Um, grazie. Perdone. Me touristo stupido…’
There’s nothing like wading through a local market to give you that wonderful, exciting feeling that you’re in another country, and though your language skills are limited, somehow you’re still surviving. That’s because you’re a citizen of the world, a mime of Marcel Marceau-like calibre, a confident expert in non-verbal communication.
We’re in Turin, Italy…correction, ‘Torino, Italia’. Thanks to an apartment swap, we’re staying off the beaten tourist track, in the San Salvario area, near Porta Nuova station.
It’s an unpretentious district of sex shops and snackbars selling both kebabs and pizzas. No other tourists that we can see, although we know they’re only a few blocks away. We love it here. There’s a daily food market down the street at the Madama Cristina Piazza, and we make a point of going there every morning.
There are piles of olives and cheeses we don’t recognise, curly lettuces and other vegetables we’re not sure how to cook, fish with unfamiliar names and shapes (though we can recognise a salmon when we see one)
and hanging from the butchers’ hooks, dead animals still wearing their heads – pigs, sheep, roosters and rabbits. We’re not quite used to that, but it makes us feel…’intrepid’, that’s the word, to weave our way between them.
It would be nice to report that we’re mingling effortlessly with the locals, exchanging witty banter as we haggle with the stallholders. But our Italian conversation is limited to, ‘Buon giorno, signora…um, we want two of those things and half a kilo of that stuff. And questo e…scusi, no parlo italiano, what’s that called? Okay, never mind, we’ll have one anyway. Uno. Grazie. Arrivederci to you too.’ Rather than being attractively exotic, we get the feeling that we’re a slightly irritating nuisance.
We can comfort ourselves with the thought that if it gets totally embarrassing and we make complete idiots of ourselves, at least we’ll never have to see these people again in our lives. They won’t have to see us either. There’s a supermarket on the corner and we’re flying out of town next week.