One Day in the Year – Christmas market in Frascati

Frascati is like many other Italian towns at Christmas. Climbing the hill from the flat lands of Rome, you arrive inevitably at the main piazza, not the one with the cathedral, but the point of all returns, the bus centre.

There are pedestrian crossings every 20 metres and between those a permanent stream of pedestrian traffic, from the youngest of teenagers to the geriatric locals. The noise in the square can raise the visitor to a state of exceptional distress. The sole purpose of life here is to find a parking spot. The wise hard cases of Italian life all carry the one parking pass, a disability card, purchased for two year periods supported by the advice of the family medico that the broken leg of 1992 may reoccur at any time.

It being the time of the Christmas Fair, the main street is filled, not as much as previous years, with retailers, artisans and hustlers, selling local creations of food and fashion, plus a few Chinese outlets and to our great disappointment, a shooting gallery from the C grade fun fair. Some are first timers and others regulars at the local shows and markets. Some come not from Rome or even Lazio but from afar, Marche and Umbria, selling their hand made shoes and salamis.

What we find from chatting with the nurse who produces flame-proof pottery in her home studio, from her husband who makes model farmyard scenes, from the Marche shoe maker, has one thing in common. Each year, the rains do come, the seas do rise and fall, the sun may shine too bright, and the breezes cool the lands, and each year they work from January to December, diligently creating their wares for the one sale of the year, the Frascati Christmas market.

In every fair in every region of Italy, and throughout Europe, we find these local artisans, whose lifestyle is driven by the creation of their works of art and artisanship, and by the few hundred Euros that this toil of love creates to provide a small benefit to their families and some benefits for their children.

It is a labour of love, each one speaks with pride of his work and seeks approval from the buyer. It slowly dawns on the roving shopper, that you are not buying a product, you are entering into a life story, with the only difference to the markets of the middle east and Istanbul, being that these people are letting you into the true family and village life they live from day to day in the towns around Frascati.

They are not sellers or even marketers, the web and e-commerce are far from their realities. They are happy to be small, not a threat to big business, but most importantly to be respected for their effort to create something special.

This is their immortality.