If you find yourself in Florence, Italy, chances are that at some point you are going to be hungry. You might be hungry for food, coffee, a glass of Tuscan Chianti, or be dying to see the delectable fresh cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables. If you find yourself at this point, you need to take a quick break from the streets of Florence and visit Il Mercato Centrale, which is a very large, very impressive two storey covered farmers’ market.
Where is Il Mercato Centrale?
In the San Lorenzo area off of the Via dell’Ariento, you can find a large building that covers an entire block. Mercato Centrale has four entrances, one on each street that surrounds it. One of the easiest ways to know that you have reached Mercato Centrale is the San Lorenzo outdoor market that surrounds the building.
At first glance, the building, built in 1874, looks like a forgotten two storey beast of glass and iron. But once you step inside, it is transformed into a light and a magical world where culinary delights are on display.
What's the big deal?
Mercato Centrale is open every day from 10 am until 12:01 am. However, at the time of writing this article, Mercato Centrale was opening at 7 am. You will find fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses. Fresh pasta, baked breads, and regional wine are also among the finds.
Upon entering the Mercato, the hum of business and the almost radiant glow seems to seep into your skin. You will find fresh locally sourced fruits and vegetables stacked precariously. Cases of fresh cheeses will make your mouth water. Not to mention the fresh salami, prosciutto, and pancetta inviting you to make a purchase.
If you find yourself ordering some cheese or salami, ask for “un etto”. That is about one quarter pound (100g) and is the perfect amount for two people.
Italians are known for their culinary expertise. You will notice that much of the produce for sale throughout the country, as well as the local meals that are produced in the areas you visit, are seasonal dishes. Italians have long been conscious of using seasonal ingredients in their cooking.
You will find this way of life reflected in the shops that are housed in this giant covered farmers’ market. All of the goods for sale in Mercato Centrale are locally sourced from the surrounding Tuscan countryside and you will be pleased to also find that the prices are reasonable.
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Something to eat
If you wish, you could grab some of the products and start cooking; however, if your accommodation doesn’t have a kitchen, don’t despair. Whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner you are craving, Mercato Centrale has everything you will need in their open restaurants on the second floor. There are a variety of restaurants that are open 7 days a week and serve scrumptious food from pizza to pasta, pastries to vegetables, all cooked using the goods for sale in the market. The restaurants surround the seating area upstairs, and down the middle, you can find a nice glass of red wine or beer to go with your meal or a wonderful espresso to finish things off.
Lose yourself in the Mercato
You will find it is easy to lose yourself in Il Mercato Centrale. Around every turn, you can find delightful attractions to please your senses, as well as photogenic food shots for your camera. So take your time to wander around the market, then pull up a chair and take a load off while you immerse yourself in the truly delightful tastes of Florence.
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