Every foodie knows there’s nothing better than fresh, local ingredients and traditional dishes, which is why the Mercato Centrale is a dream destination. Join us as we visit this central market on our Cooking Class at a Farmhouse in Tuscany experience.
We start our day with a visit to the Mercato Centrale, a part of the San Lorenzo Market. There you will pick up the ingredients you will be using during the cooking class and, of course, indulge in some succulent samples while you’re there. This central market is one of the best things to see in Florence as it is frequented by the locals, making your experience truly authentic.
Before you start putting together your shopping list, why not learn a little bit more about the history and importance of the Mercato?
Top Tip: The ground floor stalls are open from early morning to 2pm. The first floor restaurants are open from 8am to midnight, 364 days per year.
The Mesmerising Mercato
The beautiful Mercato Centrale, also known as the Central Market, was built from 1870 to 1874 and was designed by the architect Giuseppe Mengoni (the very same man who designed the Galleria Vittoria Emanuelle II). The building’s architecture is Parisian – and boasts an appearance that is a fascinating and lovely mixture of modern and classic. Glass and cast iron have been used throughout, and its exterior features a large, squat base made of a grey sandstone called pietra serena. Its interior, on the other hand, is open, spacious and bright thanks to its famous glass ceiling.
It’s no wonder that this architectural masterpiece has been dubbed one of the most striking things to see in Florence. However, it’s not just the Mercato Centrale’s impressive beauty that intrigues and calls to travellers – it’s also the mouth-watering food market that lies within.
Two Tasty Storeys
The Mercato Centrale comprises of two levels. The ground floor features small specialty shops that sell wares such as cheese, meat and local olive oil. You’ll also find merchants, including fruit and veg vendors, fishmongers and butchers here. If you’re feeling brave, you can purchase cow tongue, stomach and brains from the latter.
A favourite stall here is Parini’s where you can buy cheese, cured meats and specialty sauces… and even have a free sample or two so you know you’re going to like what you’re purchasing. Other popular items on the ground floor include extra-virgin olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar and truffle honey and oil, all of which make great gifts for a loved one.
On the second floor is a gourmet food court – and it is truly one of the most impressive culinary things to see in Florence. It has 3,000 square meters of space, 500 seats and can hold up to twelve stalls dedicated to a different Italian culinary specialty, including baked goods, cheese, Chianti wine, gelato, chocolate, meat, fruit and veg, pizza and pasta. There is also the opportunity to watch the production process for various foods, such as bread making, the creation of artisan gelato and handcrafting buffalo cheese.
End your time here with a stop at the coffee bar for an Italian-style caffeinated beverage, the Giunti bookstore (they specialise in cookbooks and other culinary-related reading material) or the Fiorentina store, a shop dedicated to the Florentine football team.
“Amazing! Must do! One of the best things to see in Florence!”
“If you’re a food fanatic and love Italian food and exciting experiences, the Cooking Class at a Farmhouse in Tuscany is a must. We met at the train station and walked over the market where Chef Isak taught us about the local food and ingredients, and we sampled a few items like ‘salted Italian bread’ (inside joke – go on the tour to hear it). Our experience here was completely unforgettable.”
5 stars on TripAdvisor, lcalixto808
Culture Beyond Comparison
The first floor of the Mercato is the ideal spot to learn a bit about Italy’s history and culture. It takes on the role of a cultural centre that hosts interesting, intricate and artisan Italian culinary traditions, and allows visitors to engage with and learn about the production and process.
Many of the foods here are considered specialty items and are produced using traditional Italian methods. For example, the pizza stand makes its pizza the Neapolitan way (Naples is where the dish originated), and visitors can watch the mozzarella di bufala being formed using the classic techniques that the southern Italians still use to this day… truly one of the most fascinating things to see in Florence.
If you’re interested in wine, you should also make sure you stop at the Chianti wine booth for a glass or a bottle, especially if you won’t have time to visit the Chianti wine region while in Italy.
There are so many things to see in Florence – and the Mercato Centrale is one that simply can’t be missed. Although you may not have time to uncover all the secrets of this beautiful building on our tour, you will at least have the chance to peruse the shops on the ground floor (and maybe even pick up some souvenirs). If you have some spare time, why not come back and truly get stuck into what is arguably the best part of the San Lorenzo Market? We guarantee your stomach will thank you.
We Are Walkabout Florence
When it comes to activities to do and things to see in Florence, the opportunities can be overwhelming. Luckily, our experienced team members are here to help. Get in touch with us and we can help you choose the guided tour of your dreams, whether you’re interested in riding vintage vehicles around verdant Italy or want to see all of Tuscany’s best sights.
Cooking Class at a Farmhouse in Tuscany – https://www.walkaboutflorence.com/tours/cooking-class-at-a-farmhouse-in-tuscany
Cook a traditional Italian meal from appetiser to dessert using authentic, fresh ingredients. Bon appetit!