Traveling circus – Italian theme market, Bonn / Germany

  • Parmesan
Theme markets in Bonn

Every few weeks there is a theme market at the Bonn main market. Basically it is either a French or an Italian one. In both cases the vendors celebrate foods & produces or their original countries. And for the first time I took a closer look to the Italian one.

The offering

The dozen or so stalls are lined up in two rows back to back. Each one is representing a different region of Italy like Tuscany, Lombardy, Sicily etc. thus giving broad insights into the regional delicacies.

Still the main offering is about cheeses, hams and salamis, all in large varieties and quantities. Salami with fennel, wine, truffles, or from wild boar; cheeses from cow or sheep milk including the famous ones as Parmesan cheese but also great mountain cheeses, all of those were present.

I also had the opportunity to discover some new produce like the nicely spiced wild boar fillet jerky called Coppiette (see picture gallery) or a gorgeously smooth but distinct mountain cheese from Tuscany – a surprise to me, as I only think of hills in Tuscany, not mountains.

To be fair the variety went far beyond ham, salami & cheese, but I needed to look a bit closer. Yes, there was plenty of olives to buy and obviously olive oil. Sicily showed it’s marzipan style sweets but also many other ones I am still not familiar with (check the pics). Bread was available and I was told that it was even baked in Italy – nevertheless still looking fresh after the transport. At home the quality did not convince me, especially considering the price.

One stall offered Italian street food and of course I could not resist to buy myself a little lunch. The Bruschetta was simple and delicious, no idea where the tomatoes came from, they had real taste, something I am not used to anymore. Besides the bruschetta, antipasti samples cooked at site, sandwiches and Foccacia were available, all looking delicious.

This theme market offered a very nice round trip through regional Italian products, sampling was generous.Prices were rather on the higher end, I cannot judge if always justified.

How does the theme market work?

As this Italian theme market moves in a weekly rhythm from city to city like a traveling circus, I got curious on how the whole thing works.

It seems to be fairly simple. There is a company called Athena International owned apparently by an Italian and a German which manages the whole tour. This means finding the locations in German cities (in 2015 28 cities), providing the infrastructure for the stalls, e.g. permissions, tents, banners, and acquiring Italian traders who manage their own stall and profits. The company is always looking for new vendors.

The Italian traders themselves need to be able to source their own high quality produce from the various regions. German language knowledge is not really a prerequisite, but all vendors know how to offer samples, explain some basics on their offering and closing the deal. Somehow it is comforting that the vendors are “real Italians”, it certainly improves the credibility of the market.

Hard life

For the traders life is not easy. Changing location every week, not being able to settle and put down roots is strenuous. As the caravan moves for months within Germany, the – mostly male – traders are separated from their families at home. Doing this for years in a row, partly due to lack of job alternatives in Italy, is a true burden. So I hope they make a decent profit to get off the circuit after a while. I am grateful to their service as it gives me the possibility to dig deeper into Italian food lifestyle.

All in all: This traveling theme market “circus” is a nice way for a focused discovery of regional Italian delicacies.

A little link list: