Mercato Centrale

The Mercato Centrale’s vibrant energy and authentic Italian charm makes it a must-do for any visitor to Florence. The market is overflowing with fresh and colorful local fare as well as the quintessential leather and paper goods that Florence is renowned for. The original name is the San Lorenzo Market, which many locals still use, and the Mercato Centrale referred to the top floor redevelopment that has become the go-to destination for street food and gourmet cuisine. Nowadays, the entire complex is referred to as the Mercato Centrale even though it technically is only a part of the larger San Lorenzo Market.

The soaring glass and wrought-iron ceiling was designed by the great architect Guiseppe Mengoni, his work can also be appreciated in Milan’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and it gives the building a spacious and airy feel. The elegant, covered arcade that surrounds the building provides relief from extreme weather to the vendors and customers alike. The San Lorenzo Market was, for over a century, bustling with local food vendors – most would specialize in one area (meat, fish, cheese, bread) and locals would wander the market, getting enough for the day’s meal.

With the advent of supermarkets and grocery stores in the late 20th century, the shopping habits began to change and the market was not the bustling place it had once been. Enter the Mercato Centrale, in 2014 the top floor was revamped into a gourmet food hall – each stall complete with its own kitchen. Italian and international cuisine became a draw to tourists as well as locals, especially with so many choices all in one place. The market finally became a relevant part of the local culture again.

As you marvel at the colorful stalls and deliciously inviting options on the first floor, keep a bit of that appetite for the second floor where you can grab a table and choose from the mind-boggling amount of options. There is something for every palette and the setup means that everyone in the party can grab food from the stall of their choice and meet back at the table (if you go during lunchtime, be sure to have a member of your party hold a table for the group as it can get very crowded).

The outdoor stalls of the San Lorenzo Market sell mainly leather goods, souvenirs and clothing. Not all items are of high quality, so make sure to take your time (and keep an eye on your belongings!) when making purchases. Remember, leather goods are not cheap items so if it seems too good to be true…it probably is.