A Guide To Florence’s Markets
Shopping at markets is a deep-rooted tradition in Italy that dates back over a thousand years. Going to ‘il mercato’ either daily or weekly is just as normal as drinking a few ‘espressi’ per day, eating pasta for lunch, and spending time with the entire family every Sunday. Like the Italian way of life, which emphasizes the importance of community and connection, markets are innately social spaces. Men and women of all backgrounds come together to interact and purchase essential items, like bread for the day, fresh fruit for the week, and a month’s supply of local olive oil. They mingle with tradesmen and their neighbors and ‘chiacchierare’ or chat, a favorite Italian pastime.
|Busy San Lorenzo Market|
To truly experience the animated atmosphere and communal essence of Italian markets and do some one-of-a-kind shopping, go to Florence and feel how the markets bring ‘Firenze’ alive. Often outside in a ‘piazza’ or square, the markets are full of stocked tents, busy shoppers, and local color. Vivacious gossip, artful bargaining, and loud shouts from the stall vendors communicating with each other and calling out their best deals fly through the air. Beyond the traditional fresh produce markets, Florence has a variety of other flourishing markets, including antique, flower, clothing, and leather markets.
Mercato Centrale Firenze
|Mercato Centrale In Florence|
Florence’s ‘Mercato Centrale’ or Central Market is every foodie’s (and hungry person’s) dream. In a spacious industrial building, this newly designed, modern market opened in 2014, reigniting vitality in Florence’s San Lorenzo area. The first floor has authentic food vendors selling every type of produce, from fresh ‘schiacciata,’ a typical Tuscan bread brushed with salt and olive oil, to ‘prosciutto Toscano DOP,’ a high-quality, cured Tuscan ham, as well as the season’s fruits and vegetables. These vendors also prepare food and there are places to sit and enjoy on the first floor and upstairs.
The artisanal restaurant stalls on the mezzanine floor upstairs are ideal for lunch or ‘aperitivo,’ a drink and snack before or in lieu of dinner. Grab a warming glass of Chianti, a typical Tuscan red wine and try some ‘pasta fresca’ or fresh pasta with ‘cinghiale,’ wild boar, tomato sauce, or pesto, or some fried Sicilian specialities like ‘arancine’ which are fried balls of rice stuffed with either a meat sauce or tomatoes and fresh ‘mozzarella.’ Shop for small, edible gifts and other souvenirs at the Eataly shop on this floor, which sells tiny jars, boxes, and bottles of just about everything Italian.
In 2016, the same team opened ‘Mercato Centrale Roma’ inside Termini Station in Rome, ideal for hungry travelers and commuters. Do not miss the typical Roman, triangular sandwiches which have been given a delicious gourmet boost from the skilled chefs at the ‘Il Trapizzino’ stand.
Florence and Rome Market Opening Hours: 8am to midnight everyday
Mercato San Lorenzo
|San Lorenzo Market|
Known as Florence’s leather market, and just outside of Mercato Centrale Firenze, is its sister market, ‘Mercato San Lorenzo.’ A sea of bright colored stalls displaying leather bags, belts, wallets, and jackets in every shape, size, and style wrap all the way along ‘Via dell’Ariento’ until ‘Via Nazionale’ and in front of the doors of Mercato Centrale.
This is another perfect market to shop for Italian goodies to take home, but be careful because not everything is made of genuine Italian leather. Check the quality of the leather and look for authenticating labels on the inside of items before purchasing anything. Go armed with the words, ‘No, grazie’ meaning ‘No, thank you,’ because as soon as you touch or even look at an item, a vendor will ask you if you want to buy it. Do no be afraid to bargain for lower prices and go late in the day for the best deals.
On your way out of the leather market, head to the nearby ‘Galleria dell’Accademia’ and marvel at Michelangelo’s mesmerizing statue of David, one of the most idealized human forms. Book a tour to ‘Galleria dell’Accademia’ in advance.
Market Opening Hours: 9am to 7pm everyday except Sundays and Mondays
Mercato Nuovo (Mercato del Porcellino)
|Mercato del Porcellino|
Under the tall, elegant arches of the ‘Loggia del Porcellino,’ which was built around 1550, is another superb leather market called ‘Mercato Nuovo.’ Historically speaking, it is ‘nuovo’ or new, because it was first created during the Renaissance for wealthy Florentines to buy fine silk, gold, and other luxury items. Later, it evolved into a market which sold handwoven straw hats which were fashionable at the time. Then it became what it is known for today, Florence’s smaller leather market which sells a variety of refined leather goods and elegant scarves. Mercato Nuovo was nicknamed ‘Mercato del Porcellino’ or Piggy Market because of the bronze wild boar statue at the front of ‘Piazza Nuovo’ which contains the ‘loggia’ and market. Rubbing the pig’s snout and dropping a coin from its mouth is supposed to bring you good luck, but only if the coin drops beyond the grate below the statue.
With pig in the mind, after visiting this market, eat a typical Tuscan ‘panino’ or sandwich stuffed with ‘porchetta,’ which is roast pork or ‘prosciutto,’ Italian ham. On ‘Via dei Neri’ ‘La Prosciutteria,’ where the legs of cured pork hang from the ceiling and All’antico Vinaio, a family business that now has three shops on the street are only a five minute walk around the corner.
Also only five minutes away, is one of the most esteemed art museums in the world, the Uffizzi Gallery. To maximize your experience book a tour to the Uffizzi Gallery beforehand.
Market Opening Hours: 9am to 6:30pm everyday
Mercato San Ambrigio
|San Lorenzo Market|
Dating back to 1873, ‘Mercato San Ambrigio’ is Florence’s original Mercato Centrale. A Florentine favorite, this market is overflowing with fresh meats, fish, grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables and fewer tourists. Shop for local produce, as well as household supplies and kitchenware, and eat at one of the market’s traditional ‘trattorie,’ everyday eateries that are in between a casual cafe and a more upscale restaurant. Inside the market, go for the robust house red wine and choose from a section of simple, but delicious pasta or meat dishes at ‘Trattoria da Rocco.’
Market Opening Hours: 7am to 2pm everyday except Sundays
Piazza Ciompi / Largo Annigoni Flea Market
|Largo Annigoni Antique Market|
Due to renovations, this eclectic flea market has recently been moved from its original location of ‘Piazza Ciompi’ to the nearby open space of ‘Largo Pietro Annigoni’ just behind Mercato San’Ambrigio. It is every rummage shopper’s delight; Market goers can sift through vintage clothing, jewelry, artwork, ceramics, keepsakes, black and white photos, and more. Not everything is a bargain, as some of the vendors are serious antique collectors, but you might just get lucky and find that exquisite silk Armani scarf or favorite classical record that you simply cannot leave behind.
Market Opening Hours: 9am to 7pm everyday except Sundays
Mercato delle Cascine
Once a week, at the entrance of Florence’s biggest park, ‘Parco delle Cascine,’ a popular green space for runners, walkers, cyclists, and families is ‘Mercato delle Cascine.’ This market is Florence’s largest, cheapest, and most practical market, selling everything from bedding to tools to pots and pans. Locals come here weekly to buy their necessities and shop for inexpensive shoes and secondhand clothing.
Walk the one kilometer line of stalls, beginning at the food vendors selling typical street food, like the Florentine ‘lampredotto’ sandwhich, which is a bread roll filled with cow’s stomach slow-cooked with tomatoes, onion, and parsley. This is a good place to bring children. Kids can play in the park and try the carnival style stands that sometimes appear among the stalls.
Market Opening Hours: 8am to 2pm only on Tuesdays
Santo Spirito’s Markets
|Piazza Santo Spirito|
In the charming ‘Oltrarno’ area of Florence, a name that means on the other side of the Arno River, lies ‘Piazza Santo Spirito’ which hosts a range of different markets. The Oltrarno is unique, not only because it is across the ‘Ponte Vecchio,’ Florence’s most iconic bridge, and away from the center, but it is full of talented artisans who make gold and silver jewelry, leather goods, and wooden furniture and frames by hand. Piazza Santo Spirito, surrounded by a quaint church and row of hip bars, cafes, and restaurants, is a favorite place for Florentines and foreigners to socialize, especially in the evening. Grab a drink and watch the piazza fill up from the outside seats of Volume, which also often has live music inside.
Everyday, except Sundays when the market changes, there is a small produce market in the piazza, so locals can buy fresh produce and household goods. Every second Sunday of the month, there is a larger flea market selling vintage art, clothes, ornaments, and antique furniture. Some of the Oltrarno’s artisans sell their handmade jewelry, wooden products, and leather goods.
On the third Sunday of each month, there is an organic market called ‘La Fierucola,’ selling raw honey, natural Tuscan cheeses, and locally produced olive oil and wine, as well as many handcrafted goods, like beeswax candles, wooden chopping boards, and handwoven straw baskets and wool blankets. Historically, the name derives from female peasants, ‘le fierucole,’ who came to the city from the countryside to sell their goods, but were looked down upon by the fashionable Florentines. Today, many organic Tuscan farmers and craftsmen proudly embrace the label of ‘La Fierucola’ as a way to emphasize the importance of local farming, organic practices, and quality of goods. They believe these benefit the community as well as increase development in rural areas.
Produce Market Opening Hours: 8am to 2pm everyday except Sundays
Flea Market Opening Hours: 8am to 6pm every second Sunday of the month
Organic Market Opening Hours: 8am to 6pm every third Sunday of the month
Fiesole Flea Market
Visit the small, picturesque hilltop town of Fiesole just above Florence and go to Fiesole’s monthly vintage market. This flea market in the main square, ‘Piazza Mino,’ is full of wonderful knick-knacks and antique treasures. While you are there, check out Fiesole’s Etruscan sites, which date as far back as the 9th century BC, and the beautifully preserved Roman amphitheater, which hosts outdoor concerts and performances during the summer months. Stay until the evening and watch the glowing sun disappear over the gorgeous red rooftops of Florence below.
Market Opening Hours: 8am-4pm every first Saturday and Sunday of the month
Summer Flower Market
|Flower Market at Piazza della Repubblica|
During the early summer months, shop for luscious, locally grown flowers at the weekly flower market in Florence’s ‘Piazza dell Repubblica.’ With the many bouquets of colorful flowers from the market and the stream of stylish shoppers and daily commuters on different bicycles, this popular piazza is a burst of delightful energy. In the middle of the piazza, there is also an adorable, old-fashioned carousel which is beloved by children.
Market Opening Hours: every Thursday morning from September to June
Winter Christmas Market
|Piazza Santa Croce Christmas Market|
Every holiday season, ’Piazza Santa Croce’ has a lively Christmas market inspired by the ones in Germany. Go here to shop for small, handmade items, perfect for last minute presents. You will find Christmas decorations, wooden toys, jewelry, soaps, and more. Eat the tasty street food and sweets, like the apple strudel, and combat the cold with some deliciously spiced, piping hot ‘vin brulè’ or mulled wine. The warming food and drinks, cheery atmosphere, and live music will bring out your holiday spirit just in time for Christmas. The market usually ends on Christmas Eve.
Market Opening Hours: 10am-8pm every day during the holidays until Christmas Eve