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Thursday, 01 March 2018

Lost in Porta Portese Flea Market, Rome

Written by Stephanie Cooke
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There was no doubt about it. We were well and truly lost. Our coach was due to collect us in 20 minutes, and we had no idea where we were, let alone how to find our way back to our pick-up point at the magnificently ornate 17th Century Trastevere Arch.

 

We were on the first leg of our tour of Italy, and the trip to the flea market at Porta Portese in Rome seemed like a great idea at the time, especially to seasoned bargain hunters like us. Open from 6:30am to 2pm every Sunday, the market is a sprawling mass of stalls spilling through the bohemian Trastevere area of the Eternal City.

 

Manned by traders from all over the countryside, you can find and haggle for all kinds of goods here, from clothes and jewelry to cheap plastic electrical items and rather dubious looking antiques. Bargain hunting Italians in their Sunday best rub shoulders with beggars and buskers, and the smell of food cooking permeates the warm early morning air.

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Conscious of our limited time, we decided to walk up one row of stalls and head back down the opposite row to meet our coach. However, stall after stall of pretty glass necklaces, cheap colorful printed t-shirts and tempting sweet pastries soon distracted us and, together with our poor sense of direction, this strategy was soon doomed.

 

Too late we realized that we were not, as we thought, heading back towards the Trastevere Arch but instead to a completely different area of the market. Where we confidently expected to find our coach were unfamiliar streets and stalls we had not even noticed before. Wandering in and out of the market and trying to negotiate the vast maze of stalls, we had absolutely no idea where we were or where we needed to be.

 

The sun was overhead by now and it was very warm. I could feel the sweat trickling down the back of my neck and wondered whether I might be the first person ever to die of heat exhaustion whilst lost in a flea market.

 

I think it was at this point when we both started to find our experience hilarious. We walked along cackling like a couple of hyenas. We laughed when we passed the stall with the 1930’s telephones for the fourth time. We howled when we walked around the corner into yet another dead end.


 

Finally, after an exhausting, sweaty march back through the still busy market and a sudden unexpected dose of luck, we made it back to our starting point. Our tour bus was long gone, so clutching our bargains we hopped on a bus to the city center and made our way back to our hotel using the Metro.

 

We visited many fascinating places during our week in Italy, but nothing quite matched our adventure in the Porta Portese flea market. Maybe we will even go back one day… with plenty of time and a large ball of string.

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If you go

The Porta Portese flea market is held in the Trastevere area of Rome every Sunday. The market is accessible by public transport- catch buses running down Viale Trastevere to the Nievo Piazza or alternatively take a taxi.

 

Keep your money safe as pick-pocketing is a problem.

 

 

©Stephanie Cooke

Last modified on Thursday, 01 March 2018