Travelling markets of Tuscany


In tracing the origins of the markets, we need to mention that it is impossible to identify an exact date or place, but rather a series of events and situations that each culture has made it’s own, developing and improving according to local use and customs.

It is also difficult to reconstruct the phases of development and the commercial techniques as they are so varied due to the individual way in which they have evolved in response to the specific characteristics of each area. But we could identify a path of development of the markets, taking as a starting point the baratto – or bartering.

With this technique, the first marketeers swapped their goods for others, often only those in surplus. These early commercial exchanges allowed for people to offload the goods they had in excess in exchange for those they needed or wanted. Exchanges of agricultural goods and objects occurred within or between communities in close proximity.

The evolution of this initial phase of commerce occurred with producers seeking markets further afield from their communities, stimulated also by the fact that they could exchange goods very different from those grown or produced in their own area. They began to travel by horse-drawn carts, or with carts they pulled themselves.

At this point let’s pause to reflect that in our times we often complain about the stress of our frenetic pace of life. But spare a thought for these jaunty merchants, in their days on the road in search of customers, endless bartering over the value of their goods, and sometimes of unfortunate encounters with highwaymen and brigands.

Passing from this phase, that lasted until the middle of the 13th Century, in which it was never easy to identify the intrinsic value of the exchanged goods but instead where the necessity of the goods counted, we come to the advent of money and the transformation of bartering into commerce as we know it today, where goods are exchanged for money.

This revolution favoured commercial development and gradually more people became merchants, selling ever wider ranges of goods on behalf of those producing the goods. Further to the development of the markets, these new merchants quickly understood that it was far safer and more effective to position themselves in fixed locations, inside town walls, where the population was already in the habit of coming together in squares and piazzas. At this point the markets started to take their present form.

These pioneers favoured the exchange of information and innovation with populations that otherwise would have remained isolated, thus contributing to the diffusion of products and ideas of the era. Notwithstanding the importance of these first markets, they were not valued on a social level, perhaps because they were considered cunning and weren’t particularly attentive to the needs of their customers – the primary importance being to sell everything on their carts!

At this point we should make a distinction, between the travelling merchants and those that chose, perhaps to earn a higher level of trust among their customers, or because it was more convenient, to stay in the cities, giving life to the first shops and shop-keepers. We’d like to talk about the differences between shops and markets, of the advantages and disadvantages of both, but there is not space here, so perhaps it is better to talk about it another time in a future newsletter.

At the end of this quick overview of the itinerant market, we realise that we may not have satisfied the expectations of our readers who would like advice on where to shop, and where to get the best prices. But we hope this is not the case as we aim to recommend the best to our vistors to Italy, and in particular Tuscany. If you are planning to visit the markets in Tuscany, you will surely be able to shop for good quality products in a wonderful atmosphere.

The most “in”, market in Tuscany, where even Hollywood stars shop are the markets at Forte dei Marmi on the Versilian Coast.

For a calender of markets throughout Tuscany click here: Markets in Tuscany – it is in Italian.

To conclude, we admit that at www.agriturismo.net we feel a part of the tradition of itinerent marketeers even if we are part of the internet generation, as our daily work is to offer the history, culture and landscape of Tuscany, and of course it’s beautiful farm holidays, villas and apartments ready to welcome you.

Therefore, even at a distance and via modern technology, allow us to identify with those jolly merchants, who with eyes full of satisfaction and gratitude, offer you our products, beautifully wrapped for the occasion.


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