Cagliari – Quartiere San Benedetto – Mercato San Benedetto

Quartiere San Benedetto has a famous market called the Mercato San Benedetto www.mercatosanbenedetto.it which is the largest covered market in Italy and one of the biggest in Europe. There are 300 stalls in all.

I got up at 6am to go and have a look one morning. It’s open from 07.00 to 14.00 every day (except Sunday when it closes) so you have to arrive early to catch the action.

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The fruit and veg is on the upper level.

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Along with butchers…

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… bakers…

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and cheese mongers. I meant to ask them for Casu Marzu and Su Callu (see my Extreme Cheese post) but was too entranced by the market to remember.

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And of course there are the lumache (snail) stalls.

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I counted three varieties in all. The smallest are Tappadas (also called Monachelle).

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Sizigorrus I think are also grey with a striped shell but larger.

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Monzette are bigger and browner. Snails cover their cavity with a white membrane when they are in hibernation.

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Sardinia is more famous for its land ingredients rather than fish but the whole of the lower level of the market is dedicated to seafood.

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Another thing I forgot to ask for was bottarga, made in Sardinia with the dried roe of flathead mullet (as opposed to tuna in Sicily). It’s a local specialty that is served with bread or grated onto pasta.

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When I got home to Sheffield I did manage to get some Sardinian Bottarga di Muggine (pictured above) from my friend’s deli for about £17.50 ($23) for 100g, which was much more expensive than in Cagliari I’m sure.

All the stall holders were happy to let me take photos when I asked. One chap even put me behind his stall so he could take a photo of me pretending to be a fishmonger! Unfortunately I think I made a better fishmonger than he did a photographer!

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There was even a stall for sea anemones (anemoni di mare or orziadas) but the photo didn’t come out very well sorry.

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I’ve only seen them being eaten deep-fried in Andalucia in Spain before. They do the same here apparently but also have them on pizza and with spaghetti and bottarga. I’ve never seen them on a restaurant menu though.

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