Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Il Mercato Centrale

When visiting Florence, you can't help notice the different markets throughout the city.  The Central Market in Florence is actually a fairly new (by Florentine standards) market.  It was started in the 1874, during the time of Resanamento, the time when Florence was reorganized in order to be better suited to be the capital of the newly united country of Italy. Many dilapidated houses were torn down and the city hired architect Giuseppe Mengoni, who had previously designed the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.  The building itself is a mix of eras, the base being in the classical loggia style, but with the stone columns integrated with glass and iron.  Natural light filters in from the windows at the top, creating a fabulous open air feel.

photo credit - wikipedia image
This market is one that I consider to be a must-see if you are a foodie visiting Florence.  The various market stalls host a variety of goodies that are as beautiful to see as they are to eat.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh produce abounds at the market.  There are many vendors with different fruits and vegetables for sale, some you may recognize, others might be new to you.  Make it an adventure and try something different that you may have never heard of or seen before!


The market is home to several butchers, some specializing in things such as tripe, poultry, beef, etc.  There is even a kosher butcher on the premises.

One of the things I love about Italy is the variety of meats that they have to offer at their markets.  They have the standard beef, chicken, turkey and pork, but they also have things that are sometimes hard to find in the US (at least where I came from).  Quail, rabbit, and rooster are just a few of the things I've found (and tried) here that I had not seen at my local supermarket in the US.

This vendor specializes in poultry and offers such things as
chicken, turkey and rooster, as you can see here.

And of course, there are places that sell salumi!


There are several cheese vendors here as well, selling all sorts of lovely cheeses.  I have enjoyed trying new cheeses since being here in Florence.  Every week, we pick up something new to try.  I haven't been disappointed yet!


There are several pasticcerie at the market.  You should definitely stop by at least one of them to try a pastry, cookie, cake or fresh bread...or two.  Or three.

If anything, at least buy a slice of Schiacciata alla Fiorentina, which is a Florentine sponge cake dusted in powdered sugar that is popular around the time of Carnival (February), but you might be able to find it year round here.  

If you're not in the mood for something sweet, then try a schiacciata (focaccia) made with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.  Or perhaps a nice loaf of fresh tuscan bread (just remember that tuscan bread is baked without salt.  It is good, but it may seem strange to those who are not used to it).

Fish and Seafood

One of my favorite departments in the and seafood.

Since I hail from the midwestern US, to be able to see and smell fresh seafood like this is a real treat!  So many varieties to choose from...whole fish, filets, seafood of all is simply fabulous!  Here you can find shrimp, calamari, octopus, etc.


Of course you are.  Walking through this market is bound to make you hungry!  Luckily, there are several places where you can grab a bite to eat!

My favorite would probably be Nerbone, who sells a delightful lampredotto panino among other equally as delicious items.  Nerbone has been at the market since the day it opened it's doors in 1874 and the quality is amazing.  There are a few tables to be found across from the stall, or you can eat at the end of the counter and watch as they prepare food for hungry shoppers.

Slicing up lampredotto

Delicious lampredotto panino!
In the fish department, one smart vendor has set up a fried fish and seafood window adjacent to his fish shop.  We had a mix of fried calamari and fish nuggets with a few "chips" (french fries, for my US friends).  It was quite good alongside a glass of white wine!

Other things that can be found at the market include wine, olive oil, fresh pasta, nuts, dried fruits, flowers and mushrooms (porcini, of course!).  There is even a vendor who sells Chinese vegetables, rices and other foods associated with that culture.

If it's food, it can probably be found here at the Central Market.  The market it open from 7am until 1:30pm every day and is free to walk around and browse...but who can't resist buying at least one thing?

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