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Naples’ best place to find bargains is the street market

There’s no shortage of shoes at most of the markets.

LISA M. NOVAK / S&S

By LISA M. NOVAK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 6, 2008

With the dollar continuing a slow downward spiral against the euro, many living overseas look to stretch that U.S. paycheck any way they can. Bargains abound in Naples — if you know where to look.

Forget the pricey shopping malls in Campania or the upscale boutiques that dot Via delle Mille. The one place where everything is always on sale is at the outdoor markets, and Naples has plenty of them. Granted, the quality of some of the goods might be dubious, but at these prices, it really doesn’t matter.

The markets in Naples aren’t as big as other European markets, such as Spitalfields in London’s East End, or the mammoth Saint-Ouen flea market in Paris. But the character is the same — as well as some of the merchandise. And the one thing the smaller markets have over the larger ones is that you don’t need shop-till-you-drop endurance to cover any particular venue.

The Posillipo market in Naples is in one of the nicer locations of the city, situated on the coast, with panoramic views of Capri. The market starts at the bottom of Via Virgillo, a tree-lined street ending at Parco di Posillipo. This market doesn’t sell much in the way of food. Clothing, shoes, handbags and housewares take up most of the stalls.

Venders hawk their wares and prices just like carnival barkers — loudly and colorfully. Some of the stalls feature demonstrations similar to those shown on late-night infomercials.

“This will clean your windows so well birds will fly through it,” proclaimed one salesman who demonstrated the magical powers of his wonder-squeegee. I’m not sure how much of a plus the image of a bird flying through a closed window helped sales, but on that very special day, it was available for only 5 euros.

The markets in Naples are part theater, part knock-off runway fashion. You don’t go to look at labels. You go to engage with the vendors. The haggling can easily rival that found on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. But it’s all good natured and leaves buyer and seller alike feeling they made the best deal.

The Posillipo Market is just one of several operating in Naples. Some are just one day a week, some are seasonal and some are daily. Some specialize in food, some in shoes and some in fruits and vegetables. The market known as Shoe Alley is always a hot spot for tourists and locals. There’s even a daily flower market (Mercato de Fiori) in the shadow of Castel Nuovo at the port.

The Web site provides a listing of just some of Naples’ markets including days and hours of operation. The list is by no means complete, but does provide a good sampling.

The Naples markets have great bargains, but they also provide the opportunity to mix with the local population and try out those newly acquired language skills. If nothing else, you’ll learn to count.


Expand Your Italy IQ: Spend wisely

While Naples’ markets offer great bargains, it is the discerning shopper who will walk away with the best deals.

The quality of the merchandise runs the gamut from surprisingly good to not-surprisingly shoddy.

If you buy in bulk — which really means more than one of any particular item — you should get a discount. If the vendor says no, just walk away. There are others who will say yes.

The market is a great place to learn the difference between “need” and “want”:

Uno sciocco e il suo denaro son presto separati.

Translation: A fool and his money are soon parted.

Phonetically: U-no shee-o-coe e eel su-o de-na-row sone pres-toe se-pa-ra-tee

Got a question about something you’ve seen or heard around Italy? E-mail us at: jontzs@estripes.osd.mil or novakl@estripes.osd.mil

Shawnie Green inspects some of the wares at the Possilipo market, one of many outdoor markets in Naples.
LISA M. NOVAK / S&S

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