Food is an integral part of everything that is Italian. Every region, town, village and city has its own versions of the traditional dishes that have appeared on family tables for centuries.
It is no surprise then that the markets of Italy are among the best in the world. As stall holders and customers banter in their gesticulating Italian, it is hard not to be captivated by the heady smells, vibrant colors and array of fascinating ingredients that appear around every turn.
Mercato San Lorenzo is the most famous market in Florence (and Tuscany). Tours that take in this market are very popular and offer a wonderful insight into the exciting buying and cooking culture of Italians; a culture that is ingrained in all aspects of life in this country.
Mercato San Lorenzo - Mercato Centrale
A stunning venue, this site has now been divided into parts: the food indoors and the clothes and souvenirs outdoors. Filled to the brim with produce from all over Florence and Tuscany, tours to this buzzing local hub can easily take a few hours. It is the ideal place to shop for ingredients for a cookery course, which is something lots of Florence and Tuscany tours include.
Dating back to 1870, the building is architecturally very distinctive. Boasting an awesome glass and wrought-iron ceiling, as well as loggias and arches, the style is typical of the classic European architecture of its time. Inside the space is vast and shops are organized along the four sides of the square.
The site underwent a decline in the late twentieth century. The advent of the superstore and the increased popularity of Airbnb meant that fewer locals used it. Thankfully, in 2014 it was given a revamp and the top floor was taken over by a private firm who lease out kitchens and stalls to makers of top quality Italian food. The company brought the concept from Rome and it has been a great success, attracting locals and tourists alike.
Mercato Centrale Today
A definite highlight on Florence and Tuscany tours, a visit to this market is always memorable. The hum, the energy and the distinctive vibe are reflective of Italian culture and it is a lot of fun to get swept up in a little local activity. There are so many opportunities to sample and stallholders are more than happy to share their knowledge and expertise with you, should you need it. After all the shopping, you can head upstairs for a gastronomic extravaganza!
Florence Market Top Spots
Pany da Lory: Crusty, sweet and savory baked specialties of the Alto Adige region. Perini: High-quality salami and other cold-cuts. Da Nerbone: Bollito (boiled meat) sandwiches, tripe stew, and wine by the glass.
La Pasta Fresca di Raimondo Mendolia: Pick your pasta and pick your sauce. La Frittura di Valeria Rugi: Fried delights, including fried sage and fried polenta.
San Lorenzo Outdoor Market
Running along the streets leading away from the indoor market are lines of outdoor stalls. These ones sell mainly leather, clothing, pottery and souvenirs. The quality varies but, if you look carefully, you can get some great bits and pieces. Remember that the stall holders expect you to bargain, so prices are always pitched high from the outset. This is the perfect spot to pick up a few presents to take home.
There are some very good specialist companies offering Florence and Tuscany tours, so if you’re thinking of visiting the market or want to make the best of your experience by tagging it on to a local cookery tour, then you should get in touch. You can then let the experts sort the logistics for you, leaving you to look forward to your trip.
Author Plate Mauro Bramante is the Director of WalkAbout Florence, an independent business offering unforgettable tours and excursions around Italy including the best Florence and Tuscany tours. Whether you want to ride a Vintage Vespa, try the famous Chianti wine or get cooking with fresh local ingredients, Mauro's company promises excitement, adventure and above all, fun. If you're keen to experience the magic of Italy with the help of some passionate and knowledgeable tour guides, look no further than WalkAbout Florence for your next getaway.