When I lived in Florence during graduate school, one of my favorite things to do (aside from pouring over 16th century documents in the ground floor of the Uffizi) was go to the market. I lived on Via della Vigna Vecchia, right down the street from the Bargello, so my market of choice was San Ambrogio.
The market was a mix of the inside covered market (where the butchers and cheese vendors were) and outside (where the vegetables were). Even back then, in what seems like the dark ages, the vendors that were actual farmers selling their own goods were a dying breed. I made sure that I arrived early enough on Saturday mornings to be able to visit their rickety stands full of limited, but seasonal produce. It wasn’t always the prettiest, but it was certainly the best.
The San Ambrogio market always had a neighborhood feel to it, and still does today. The market near San Lorenzo was a completely different story. Much grander, the market, located between the church of San Lorenzo and the train station, was built in the 19th century and is a marvel of soaring wrought iron and glass. Always much fancier than the more humble San Ambrogio market, I would head there when I wanted something special or just to ogle.
When I lived in Florence in the 1980’s the San Lorenzo market was still laid out as it had been originally. Produce was on the upper floor, beneath the light filled windows, while other vendors – butchers, dry goods, bakeries, etc – took up the larger ground floor.
During a renovation a few years ago, the fruits and vegetables were first shifted to a tent outside in the piazza, then eventually inside on the ground floor. The beautiful, light-filled, top floor? It remained restored, but completely abandoned until two months ago.
Mercato Centrale, now beautifully installed on the upper floor, is the brilliant brainchild of Umberto Montano, the owner of two other successful restaurants in town. He decided to turn the abandoned upper floor of the market into something completely different.
In short: it’s the most beautiful Italian food court you can imagine. In reality, it’s so much more. An extremely high level of deliciousness makes this a place that I would gladly eat in any time I visit Florence. What’s there? Just about everything. Which is why I’ll just walk you through it with this little video. Enjoy!
Mercato Centrale (have to say, as much as I love the Mercato Centrale, their website is completely dysfunctional. Hard to find any real information on it.)