My Local Fruttivendolo — Fruit & Vegetable Guy

Fruit and Vegetables in the Back of Antonio's Ape, Badolato, Calabria, Italy

Fruttivendolo: a vendor of fresh, usually locally grown fruits and vegetables, also known as one of your best friends in Italy.


Everyone knows that one of the best parts about living in Italy is the food, especially the fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables you can find at any open-air market throughout the country.

But not everyone has their Antonio.


The other morning as I arrived in the piazza with Marisa a bit earlier than usual, I was greeted by five or six elders of the village sitting on the little wall by the bar. I didn’t think much of it (except that, sadly, perhaps someone had died as that’s one of the few times you’ll see so many people huddled together) until I heard the rumblings of an Ape coming around the square.

Buzzzzzzzzzz buzzzzzz buzzz buzzz buzzzzzzzz.

Suddenly these normally slow-moving folks were scampering to stand up and secure a prime spot; a couple of them were propped up on canes while others leaned on one another for support.

And, of course, there I was without my camera or even a phone or iPad to catch this amazing image of them playfully throwing elbows as they shook out their plastic bags and clamored for the best eggplants, artichokes, oranges, lettuce, fennel, and more from the back of the old, dark green Ape (three-wheeled truck) of Antonio, the fruttivendolo.

Fruit and Veggies in the Ape, Badolato, Calabria, Italy

Shouts asking how much these were and when those were picked and descriptions of what was to be done with this particular kilo of fava beans permeated the cool morning air as my daughter tugged on her father’s shirt to be picked up so she could see the artichokes he was buying, too.

We’ve bought (and I’m not exaggerating) 250 artichokes from Antonio this spring. So far. You’ll notice there are none in these photos? That’s because we bought them all.

So yeah, Antonio is definitely our fruttivendolo.

And unfortunately, these photos came from a calm time around the Ape, so you’ll just have to imagine the glorious chaos that ensues when Antonio first pulls up in the piazza on Monday and Thursday mornings.


Antonio is somewhere in the vicinity of 80 years old but has only been driving around from village to village for the past ten years or so — post-retirement, I suppose. He grows what he sells on his property in Guardavalle (the next town over from me on the Ionian Coast) and then spends many mornings chugging up and down and all around these windy roads of ours, delivering his goodies to the locals.

Last summer, his son started coming around with him, I suppose to learn the routes as well as the faces and names of the regular customers, preparing for the inevitable.

But today I’m not thinking about the inevitable. I’m only thinking about and appreciating Antonio, my local fruit and vegetable guy, and wishing you the good fortune of finding your own Antonio someday if you haven’t already.

A good Antonio is hard to find.

Antonio the fruttivendolo, Badolato, Calabria, Italy


This post is part of this month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable‘s theme “My Local.” Read other posts here:

12 Beans of Wisdom to “My Local Fruttivendolo — Fruit & Vegetable Guy”
  1. 04.21.2016

    Funny description of the old-timers and great B&W tribute to Antonio! You’re very lucky!

    michelle Reply:

    We are extremely lucky — and these old-timers never leave me for a lack of material 😉

  2. I loved this post! And the pictures, even without the bustling crowd, are wonderful.

    My great-grandfather was a Fruttivendolo in the Bronx. You’re lucky to have Antonio – I would love to have someone drive around my neighborhood with fresh produce!

    michelle Reply:

    Thanks! I should know better than the leave the house without even the iPad…there is always something photo-worthy around here.

  3. 04.22.2016

    I too loved this post. Having a good fruttivendolo is one of the best things about living in Italy!

    michelle Reply:

    Agreed! This year we are planting our own big garden but we’ll always need Antonio 🙂

  4. 04.22.2016

    Memories from the past as I read this post. I now picture Papa and Nana going down to the Pyatt street market, scanning the fruits and vegetables and picking only the best for her table. She didn’t have a garden living in the city not much room for one, but she did get all her tomatoes and fruits for canning from her fruttivendolo. Thanks so much again for bringing back wonderful memories of my Italian heritage to light. So today I think I will make something from Nana’s cookbook. Maybe green beans with red onion and bacon and loaded with Parmesan cheese. Now I’m hungry. Enjoy the spring. Happy cooking. Paulette

    michelle Reply:

    Aw that’s lovely, Paulette! We are having green beans with pancetta and potatoes tomorrow for dinner, I believe — one of my favorites 🙂

    Paulette Reply:

    Thanks so much for the recipe, this one I will try. Paulette

  5. Love this post! So glad you captured that great portrait of Antonio. We have some trucks that drive around the Amalfi Coast a couple of times a week, but I tend to my shopping at the local shop since I seem to always miss the trucks.

  6. 05.15.2016

    I love the black and white photo, and all your photos are beautiful. So nice to find some good and fresh fruits and vegetables. Warm greetings from Montreal, Canada. 🙂

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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