Anne's Blog

Assisi’s Fruit Market – and the Future Mamma

Date: February 14, 2017 - categories: , , - 1 Comment

Nowadays, only one farmwoman, Novella, sells her vegetables at Piazzetta dell’Erba (“the little piazza of the grass/grasses”, i.e. vegetables)

Only Novella today at Assisi’s Piazzetta dell’Erba





But years ago, the entire small piazza was encircled with vegetable vendors.

Piazzetta dell’Erba years ago
(Photo thanks to Claudio Carli)


During my first pregnancy in 1979, I quickly realized that shopping at the outdoor mercato with an evident pancione (“big tummy”) took time as every vendor insisted on giving me a few strawberries or cherries, apricots or figs… no refusals allowed! Each fruttaiolo put them into my hands or right into my shopping bag, to ensure a swift labor and delivery, enforcing the old adage “Togli una voglia, levi una doglia” (“Take away a craving, take away a labor pain”).

Not only: all the vendors were making sure I’d have a lovely baby without birthmarks. Our rural friends believe that a birthmark – colloquially called either voglia (“desire,” i.e “craving”) or “fragola” (“strawberry”) – marks the place where the child’s pregnant mother had touched herself when speaking about or thinking about a desired food. The desire might often be for strawberries, a sweet, tasty fruit not very plentiful on the Umbrian farm, costly at the market and hence craved. My farm neighbor Chiarina warned me about unrequited voglie.

“Guarda, Anna“, she exclaimed as she threw up her nine-year-old daughter’s skirt, revealing a good-sized fragola (“strawberry”) on Rossanna’s upper thigh. “You see?” she sighed, “While I was pregnant and craving strawberries, I did this,” she smacked her own thigh.

Chiarina and her Rossanna, 1976


Brown-toned birthmarks are there because the mother craved a brown food, Peppa affirmed, telling me about a farm woman years ago at the Saturday market, craving a panino di porchetta (another food generally not available on the poor farm tables). She let the porchetta vendor know with a sigh. Noting she was pregnant, he immediately made her a roast suckling pig sandwich. She finished her Assisi errands, returned to the porchettaio gazing at his panini with baleful eyes. “No!” he exclaimed, “one is fine but not two.” Peppa said the problems at birth were all his fault: the woman was carrying twins and only one survived. “After all,” Peppa concluded, “she did eat only ONE porchetta sandwich.”

As she prepare chestnuts for roasting, Peppa counsels seriously on the dangers of pregnant women’s unresolved cravings…


And one day as she was cutting my hair, parrucchiera Emma and I were exchanging voglie stories. She pulled down the neckline of her shirt revealing a light brown birthmark on her neck. “Mamma so craved caffe’ latte when she was pregnant with me.”

Emma shows me her fragola (or voglia).


Our oldest son has a birthmark on his thigh… those yearned-for cappuccini?

Read more about Chiarina, Peppa and other rural friends
Read more about our rural friends
Read about our most treasured rural gifts
Read more about rural life
Read more about Peppa’s rural lore

1 Comment

  • suzanne paust says:

    Thank you for the photos and story of the markets in Assisi. It brought back such wonderful memories of our times in Assisi. What a shame the fresh markets are in decline. They are a wonderful way for a community to come together.
    Your articles always script a beautiful landscape. Thank you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)