Aesthetics of the Local Market

I fell ridiculously in love this week. They say it always happens by chance, when you aren’t really looking, when you least expect it. And thus while wandering through my neighborhood of Prati, I happened across La Capra Rampante – an exquisitely designed and merchandised organic grocer on Porta Castello, residing a mere block from the watchful eye of the Castel Sant’Angelo.

I am ridiculously fond of small artisanal markets and believe they can feature the best of the culture, a love and admiration I share with my sister as we often discuss and text photos of products we come across. We are unabashedly, unapologetically purveyors of quality food products. Our favorite reminiscing subject is a package of stale madeleines we purchased when we were younger in Europe that found their way home to California and were prepared into an unforgettable pudding. She is always on the hunt for new ingredients, new dishes to prepare for her family and I, slightly ashamed to admit not a foodie in the least, am simply enamored by the aesthetics of it all. I look at markets as a symposium of mercantile where, to be amongst the best, a proprietor must pay attention to every detail. I found La Capra Rampante did this famously.

As I quickly wandered through, the grocer’s lighting was soft yet brilliant on the overcast day, seeming to highlight the groupings of regional delicacies. I excitingly took in what lay before me – piles of vibrant fruits and vegetables perfectly placed with as much care for symmetry as asymmetrical objects would allow. Herbs waved their tiny leaves, a fridge of vegan meat substitutes lined the chilled cabinet and a waterfall of cheeses, arranged in heaping piles with little name flags waved adieu. Towards the rear of the shop, rows upon rows of stunning wine bottles – elegant, suave and bourgeoisie provided a foundation for the rest of the symphony.

I moved from shelf to shelf, admiring the labels, the fonts, the colors used – each carefully selected as to project the desired image of the brand. Backing a few feet away, another, almost more essential aspect was observed. The manner in which shop employees merchandised the products, some in neat rows, others in groupings. It was poetic aesthetics of the best kind.

It is often in these moments I reflect upon past shop experiences – a bread shop in Saint-Étienne-au-Mont, a kitchen store in Tokyo, the tagine bazaar in Morocco, a perfume shop here along the Corso in Rome. All filled with items produced for consumption and desire.

It is peculiar that after the few weeks I have spent in here in Italy wandering the chilly streets under the scattered Roman clouds, my first inspiration to post surrounds the makings of a small grocer but I find this inspiration the reason we should travel.

For me, a person who considers themselves born with a very distinct eye for the aesthetics, the exposure to simple design leads to self-understanding. Knowing what you like, observing what forces you to feel deeper emotions about the world around you, can lead to knowing who you are and thus in turn, making falling in love with the right things.

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