There was never a street market like the one in Catania. If Modica’s weekly market has everything, Catania’s enormous street market has everything and more.

Finding myself ourselves in the city last Saturday, a friend and I decided to have a quick browse in the crowded market, which begins just off the Rinascente store end of via Etnea, Catania’s long, main shopping street. It was a sunny Saturday and the whole of Catania, it seemed, had headed for the market: There were bags galore, t-shirts, shoes, materials and stall after stall selling Christmas gifts, ornaments, decorations and other seasonal paraphernalia. Here you could purchase figurines for a hundred cribs, Christmas ceramics for your festive table were so cheap that they were being “given away”, according to the stall-holders, and there were so many festive tablecloths and napkins on sale that I wondered if there could be that many households in the whole of Italy.

“Why didn’t you get one for me?” cried a friend when I showed her the cheerful, Christmas “centrino” I had purchased for just three euros. A “centrino” is one of those cloths that you display under your best ceramics when your dining table is not in use. You are just not Italian if your table doesn’t have a “centrino”!

My friend, who has a waistline that top models would envy, had sworn that she would not spend more than ten euros in the market, but when she espied a stall selling belts in every colour or material you could imagine she was lost: for here there were fabric belts, belts with buckles a girl could die for and “leather belts just like the ones in the shops – for 15 euros!” exclaimed my companion. What is more, if you needed an extra hole punched in the belt, the stall-holder would do it for you there and then. What more could a girl ask?

Laden with Christmas decorations and two enormous bags containing belts, we realised that it was time for lunch. It being my firm belief that calories just do not count when you are out and about, we found an excellent pizzeria in a side street and enjoyed arancini, pizza and chips – on the understanding that any calories that did get through would shortly be walked off.

Half an hour later we were off again. The market was quieter in the afternoon but the stall-holders continued to chant their wares, which they were, of course, still “giving away” and we realised that the market continued through several long, winding streets and went around in a complete circle. This time it was my resistance that crumbled for my downfall is costume jewellery and, as several pairs of earrings do not require a carrier bag, I was able to convince myself that I had bought very little, really.

It was 4pm by the time we had completed our walk through the entire market and I would certainly say that this market is a must if you have time to spend in Catania. Just two words of advice: be careful with your bags, as you would be in any crowded market and try not to speak English as you wander, so that you do not draw the attention of potential pickpockets.

Happy browsing on market day in Catania!