During a cold autumn, nostalgia brings to mind the long days of a scorching Catania, animated by the frenzy of the Fera ‘o Luni market. For centuries, the bustling rhythms of the Sicilian city have been enlivened every morning by a wave of folklore and food that festively adorns Piazza Carlo Alberto.
Much loved by the Catanese, the market has always been considered an international crossroads. Often compared to an Arab souk, Fera ‘o Luni brings together different ethnic groups, styles and merchandise. The origins of its name are uncertain: according to some sources, it comes from the first day of the week (lunedi or Monday) when, historically, the market took place. According to others, the name symbolizes the ancient presence of a temple dedicated to the moon goddess. Formerly located near the Church of the Madonna dell’Elemosina, it was moved, due to the 1693 earthquake, first to University Square and later to the present-day Piazza Carlo Alberto, a central and strategic location. Every morning at dawn, from Monday to Friday, despite heat, cold and bad weather, the merchants come alive and animate the Baroque streets of Sicily with ancient flavor.
Along with the fish market in Piazza Duomo, Fera ‘o Luni is one of Catania’s most historic and distinctive places. Few, however, know that the market hides a secret–that of being built above the caves of the church of San Gaetano, a mystical and religious place that houses an altar and underground passages, used in ancient times for the burials of martyrs and saints. Despite the many mysteries that lie below this market, Fera ‘o Luni remains a tourist destination and place of worship for residents and foreigners alike. Wonderful is the atmosphere among the stalls: reminiscent of an unspoiled, almost surreal Catania full of traditions.
In this place of gathering and celebration, different generations meet everyday ready to try their hand at the exciting art of selling. Astute merchants and brazen shoppers meet on the stage of commerce, giving rise to a play that stands out as one of the city’s most iconic elements. Here the sand-colored facades of the surrounding buildings embrace the surprising conviviality of heated haggling and unrepeatable bargains. Tradition and passion pervade the spirits of busy buyers and intrigued tourists.
The bright and lively blues, yellows and reds of the stalls frame the intoxicating sounds and scents. The smells of incense, spices and citrus fruits are strong and peculiarly-mixed, difficult to distinguish one from the other. Loud are the voices: some of the sellers are sharp and shrill, while others are softer and delicate–like the women and children chatting and rummaging in search of the most ancient relics. Everyone, no one excluded, is immersed in the totality of the senses.
From the local disarray comes this journey through the beating heart of the real Sicily. It is an itinerary capable of taking you by the hand and transporting you inside a veracious scenario made of crowded streets, sharp cries, sunburned alleys and faces marked by time.