Whether you have at least two or three days to spend in Florence, you shouldn’t miss the bustling food scene at Mercato Centrale. This indoor market is a great place to stop for one of the best culinary experiences in Florence. From pickled olives, the freshest fruits and veggies, to cheeses and breads, oils, wines and meats you can find almost anything here.
And not only food! The market is also a wonderful place to buy leather goods, clothes and some authentic Italian souvenirs. Therefore, visiting Mercato Centrale is one of the most fun things to do in Florence.
What to Expect at Mercato Centrale’s Upper Floor
The two story cast-iron building which dates back to 1874 wasn’t always what it is today. While the ground floor has always been home to butchers and fruits and vegetables vendors, the upper floor laid empty and abandoned for very many years.
In 2014 restaurateur Umberto Montano launched a project that would give Florence back one of its historic locations: the first floor of the Mercato Centrale.
The floor has been completely redesigned and turned into an unmissable food destination. So if you haven’t visited Florence since April 2014, you most likely missed the great food stands and restaurants at Mercato Centrale.
The major makeover turned the area of San Lorenzo into a very attractive place for tourists, where you can enjoy some of the best foods you will eat in Italy.
The large floor has been broken down into sections with very well defined cooking areas. You’ll find here some the region’s top cooks and producers, so you’ll have the opportunity to taste a great meal in a very casual atmosphere.
The central area, which is occupied by a bar and some coffee machines, you’ll see a colorful and quirky replica of Michelangelo’s statue of David.
The seating area is huge, with over 500 seats available to seat and enjoy your food.
What to Expect at the Restaurants of Mercato Centrale in Florence
It’s very easy to wander around and take your pick from the many food stands that abound with creamy ravioli, freshly baked lasagna, Veal á la Florentine, southern style pizza and hand rolled gnocchi.
The food options are absolutely amazing. From fresh fish and meats, to bread and patisserie products, cheeses, and gelato, you can immerse yourself in food here.
Some restaurants have tall counterstops built around the cooking area, where you can sit and and eat while observing the cooks prepare the food.
The restaurants at Mercato Centrale are the ideal stop for families visiting Florence with children. Or for solo travelers who want to mingle with people. The place is also a favorite with the locals, who come to mix and mingle in their lunch break or after work.
There is Even a Cooking School at Mercato Centrale in Florence
One of the biggest attractions at Mercato Centrale is Cucina Lorenzo de’ Medici, one of the most popular cooking schools in Florence. Who wouldn’t enjoy learning how to cook like an Italian chef when visiting Italy ?
At this cooking school you’ll get some first hand experience in preparing homemade pasta, sauces, lasagna, and many other popular Italian dishes. And if you don’t don’t want a hands-on-experience, the glass walls surrounding the cooking school allow you to peak inside.
The school has sixteen individual workstations, all equipped with top of the line appliances and kitchen utensils. And not only that. Students can follow the chef’s instructions on electronic tablets. Each class runs approximately 90 minutes. The classes cost is between €50-€70 and it includes all the ingredients used in the class.
With one of these cooking lessons you will learn all kinds of tips and techniques of of preparing meat and fish courses, while savoring the fruits of your labor with Italian wines.
Mercato Centrale is located in the San Lorenzo quarter, on Via dell’Ariento, 50123 Florence. It’s just adjacent to the souvenir shops in San Lorenzo, so you can’t miss it.
To reach the market is on foot it take about 5 minutes from the S. Maria Novella train station, and 10 minutes from the Duomo and Piazza San Marco.
A Final Word
Since its makeover, Mercado Centrale became more than just an inexpensive eating place in Florence. It became an arcade of cuisine where you’ll have a true cultural experience.
This is a place of concurrence, where people of different backgrounds can find something in common: food! Mercato Centrale is a true foodie’s paradise, so don’t miss it if you are ever in Florence!
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