The two food markets of Brindisi

Brindisi is home to two vibrant food markets that are perfect for visitors to get a peek into the local experience.

Piazza Mercato, located in the center of the city is a tranquil market where visitors can see local, seasonal products like cime di rapa (rapini), mandarin oranges or wild chicory. Some vendors are a bit shy and while they don’t mind you taking photos of their product they prefer not to have their photo taken so it’s always wise to ask with a simple nod of the camera and smile. Others are a bit more brave and welcome the interaction to proudly present their goods. If you’re adventurous and have a strong stomach head over to the gentlemen shucking mussels as they’ll offer a true local experience – eating a live mussel. Even if you prefer for your shellfish to be fully cooked they are worth visiting to see their shucking prowess and they don’t mind posing for photos.

Mercato Commenda is a completely different experience full of bright lights, sounds and excited people. It’s outside the city center but worth the trek to experience a lively market. Over 60 stalls line the streets with everything ranging from razor clams to flash lights. At first this market can be intimidating for newcomers as there are boisterous people fighting for customer’s attention but the vendors here are quite friendly and some even ask for you to take their photo. Produce here is as fresh as it gets and at fantastic prices. You’ll also find seafood that has been caught early the same morning, many that you’ve likely never seen before

Trying to buy vegetables in a very local way

For a food hunter, Brindisi is perfect to have an authentic market experience as there are two markets in the city and neither caters to tourists. We’ve been in enough markets around the world to realize that some stalls or entire markets exist to sell expensive souvenirs to outsiders in search of some experience they’ve read about in a guidebook. For this reason Brindisi is refreshing as it’s as raw and real as it gets. Piazza Mercato is located in the center of the city and easy to reach. It’s a small and quiet market where you can see seasonal Italian product along with a few imports. We were looking for local product – chicory, rapini and tomatoes and while we weren’t completely sure of the customs to buy food – can we touch the produce? Do we ask for a bag? Vendors were really kind and helped us navigate the buying produce even though we spoke different languages.

One of my favourite experiences is “talking” to the men on the corner shucking mussels, which mostly consisted of many hand signals punctuated by broken Italian and English as both sides didn’t know much more than how to be polite. Dave was really impressed with their shucking skills. And we were excited they were happy to let us take photos and even pose with the product. One of the local men came up to show us that you could eat the spuma fish live, which appeared to be baitfish. When he signaled for me to try it as well I couldn’t say no so I went for it. For bait fish I have to say it was really tasty.

Next we moved onto Mercato Commenda, which is a bit outside the city center and completely crazy – but in a good way. At first we were overwhelmed by the Southern Italian men shouting out sales pitches to entice customers but after a few minutes we were able to laugh and enjoy the singing, shouting and general sensory overload. We picked up some carrots and potatoes and one of the vendors shouted at me to take a photo of him and his coworkers. We really felt welcomed here.

Our favourite moment was when we spied sea urchin as neither of us had it before as it’s rare and expensive in Canada. The vendors opened several different types for us to try. They were delicious and when we asked how much we owed all he wanted was money for a cup of coffee or beer – 2 Euro. It was an unbelievable day at the market.