When I pass by Campo de' Fiori, the square that hosts the oldest fruit and vegetable market in Rome, my guests often ask me if it is still an authentic market, where they can buy fresh and genuine products. When I say yes, they are very surprised that the “yes” is not followed by a "but" and hurry up to ask me if I do my shopping here too.
To be honest, I buy fruit and vegetables only at Campo de' Fiori, but also in this historical market of Rome, as in any other place, you have to "eligere ex omnibus optima" that is “choose the best things among all”.
And in my opinion, the best things of Campo de' Fiori can be found on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at Pino and Sandra's counter: fifty crates of fruit and vegetables that, from Velletri, where they own about 4 hectares of land, arrive in Rome making the trip in a fridge to keep the freshness intact. Sandra's father, Giacomo, started it in 1980 and since 2000 there are them, Pino and Sandra, always smiling and friendly even though they wake up at 3.30 a.m. because at 7.00 a.m., in rain or shine, the counter must be ready.
During the three months of lockdown, when the market in Campo de' Fiori had closed, they delivered their produce to our homes. Vincenzo and I spent whole afternoons peeling chicory and broccoletti (kind of broccoli) and were grateful to them. We could continue to eat their wholesome produce even during such a difficult period for us, forced at home, or for those who, like them, continued to work! Chatting with Vincenzo, we tried to imagine how tiring it had been for Pino and Sandra to suddenly change the whole work organization: going to customers’ homes instead of waiting for them at the counter, continuing to move around in an empty, silent and closed city, (what if they had to go to the bathroom? What if they wanted a coffee?), finding the bicycles to move quickly through the alleys of Rome, stopping and explaining several times at the police checkpoints they were around for work, because there were customers, like Vincenzo and me, waiting for them.
And yet, even immersed as we were in that unreal and psychologically difficult situation, every time I texted Pino and Sandra, I always received an answer and I guess I was not the only one who texted them to understand the price of produce or its availability! Once or twice, as they know Vincenzo likes broccoletti, they even texted us to warn us that they were finished with broccoletti and asked if we wanted something else instead!
And happy for the first time in front of these mountains of vegetables to peel without the impatience of ending the job as soon as possible, I thought that this is what it means to be professional, as Vincenzo, who has clients for almost thirty years, always says, knowing how to make a profession as a whole, without neglecting any aspect, especially one of the most important: the client.
Particularly now, in a time of crisis, "eligere ex omnibus optima" means to me that not only I choose a quality product but also the passion of those who know how to create the best result. How to do their job!
So, if you are near Campo de' Fiori, look for Pino and Sandra not only because they have the genuine produce of their land, Sorrento lemons with edible peel or oranges with leaves because they are recently picked from their own trees but also because they smile, have passion, enthusiasm, are professional ...and they treat you with kindness.