Visuals and text by Michelle Tumolo
Every Wednesday with the sun, vendors of all shapes and sizes rise to bring their goods to the Cagli market. As they arrive and begin to assemble their displays and arrange their merchandise, the sun shines on the ancient "torrione" (tower), and a meat and cheese truck bearing the name Fusciani.
The sensory assault of the early morning bustle is drowned out by the intoxicating scent that emanates from the vehicle of "salume e formaggio," salami and cheese. Cagliese locals have already begun to congregate around the truck. As he wipes down the glass displaying the aesthetic spread of golden cheeses and red meats, his customers are ready and waiting to make their weekly purchases.
For the past 30 years, Alessandro Fusciani and his family have been coming to Cagli to sell their name and their products to a loyal clientele.
"I've known him since he was a child and his father came to sell meats and cheeses. "I practically raised him," one customer notes adds.
It is clear that Fusciani has a great rapport with his customers. "If his prices weren't so good, we wouldn't shop here," that same customer remarks. "His brother is a better salesman," he jokes, "but we put up with Sandrino anyway."
Most customers agree that not only are Fusciani's prices the best around, his products are always fresh and delicious. "I always buy some salami and some prosciutto, but the capriole is the best," another customer shares his weekly list. "I know I'm getting the best and the freshest product when I come to Alessandro and that's why I do my shopping here." Fusciani reminds this particular customer, he has been coming to the market weekly for three years.
Before the Fusciani name was associated with the meat and cheese wagon at the Cagli market, it was synonymous with great pizza in Apecchio, the town where the Fuscianis are from, located roughly 35 kilometers from Cagli. Once their customers began expressing their predilection for the additional products sold in the pizzeria, the Fusciani family expanded their business to join the traveling retail markets that are traditional on the Italian countryside.
"I have two refrigerated trucks and loyal customers in many cities," Fusciani says, "why would I pay rent for a stationary shop when I can be mobile?"
The rolling retail markets consist of dozens of vendors with merchandise ranging from shoes to clothing to jewelry and other specialty items like food and toys. They travel to a different town's market each day only a few hours in the morning. This way of life also has given the family more time to spend together.
"I have two sons who are 18 and 21," he says, "one is a chef and one is still in school." Fusciani jokes, "I'm already 45 years old, but I look good!"
Between hanging lamb shanks and chopping slabs of pecorino, Fusciani notes some of the most inconvenient things about life on the road. "It's hard, but I try to stay as competitive as possible." He has a wide variety of cheeses from all over Italy in an attempt to contend with bigger markets. "I battle against supermarkets and big conglomerates just like everyone else. The trick is to sell something that no one else has," that and "always keep them coming back."
One customer walked away with a jug of olive oil, not a product Fusciani usually keeps in stock.
"She comes every week, and as long as she keeps coming, I'll keep bringing her olive oil."
Fusciani's popularity doesn't seem to bother the local merchants. They prefer their stationary business module, said Simona Caselli, who has a shop just off Piazza Matteotti, Cagli's main square.
"We keep our stock in the back of the store and have the ability to restock at any moment."
Fortunately, local shops don't feel much competition from the market vendors.
"We have more variety; we carry packaged goods such as pastas, wine, olive oils, marmalades as well as our multitude of meats and cheeses," Caselli notes.
They prefer to keep their family name confined to the piazza as opposed to traveling from town to town because they are not interested in having to set up their shop every day.
"I come in and everything is ready to sell right in front of me," Caselli says. Standing around in the rain and the cold is not something that appeals to shop owners who are comfortable in their locales.
The two extremes seem happy in their respective methods of salesmanship. In America, we are accustomed to shopping in a supermarket. There are still a specialty stores, such as butcher shops, but they are not frequented as often. Life in Cagli offers the option of letting the product come to you.
Imagine having the most delicious cheeses from around the country brought right to your neighborhood once a week. Imagine, still, having a local store that has the best produce the Italian countryside has to offer within walking distance of your home.
Luckily, in Cagli, there is no need to decide which is better.