The Best Markets in Florence

November 1, 2012 by

Best Of Lists, Local Recommendations, Sightseeing, Things To Do, Travel Tips

Rub the boar's snout in Mercato Nuovo

Rub the lucky boar’s snout in the Mercado Nuovo. Photo courtesy of laura padgett via Flickr.

One of the distinct pleasures of a visit to Italy is the shopping – and even if your budget doesn’t include coming home with a new Versace handbag or pair of Prada shoes, you can still bring something home from the spoils of outdoor markets like the ones in Florence. What’s more: depending on which market you visit, you can pick up goodies for the kitchen, your closet, or a any other room in the house.

Some of Florence’s best markets are outdoors, even in inclement weather, but others are indoors or at least under a roof for some protection from the elements. The three best-known markets in Florence are listed first, followed by a few more you might want to add to your itinerary.

Mercato Centrale

Florence’s Central Market is right in the historic center of the city (hence the name), and primarily indoors. The indoor portion of the market is an incredible food market, where you can buy whatever you might need to stock your Florentine pantry – as well as grab a delicious snack to fortify your wanderings. Some complain that the market has grown more touristy over the years, but you’ll still find great food vendors and inexpensive places to get a meal inside the market. It’s worth a stop even if you don’t have a fridge to fill. Open seven days a week, hours vary depending on the day.

San Lorenzo – Leather Market

Much of Tuscany is well-known for its leather production, and while there are other things for sale in the San Lorenzo street market, it predominantly offers leather goods. This is the outdoor portion of the Mercato Centrale (the other name for the Mercato Centrale is the San Lorenzo market, and the leather street market is right outside the food market building). Most of the leather vendors have actual storefronts, sometimes very nearby, so be aware that if you’re trying to buy something like a jacket you’ll likely be led back to the shop where there are more sizes available (and salespeople who press harder). Be sure to bring your bargaining skills and to keep a close eye on your purses and wallets. This market, particularly when it’s crowded, can be a pickpocket’s haven. Open seven days a week most of the year; closed on Mondays from November-February.

Mercato Nuovo – “Straw Market”

This covered piazza is an historic market square, called the “Straw Market” for hundreds of years and now also called the “New Market.” This is another market selling mostly leather goods, although some straw hats and other knick-knacks are also on offer. Of note is the large bronze statue of the pig at one side of the market. Legend says it’s good luck to rub the pig’s snout, which is why – as you’ll see – it’s really the only shiny part of the statue. Open seven days a week most of the year; closed Sundays and Mondays from November-February.

Piazza Ghiberti – Farmer’s Market

Should you find the Mercato Centrale too crowded with tourists for your liking, you might try this food market in the Piazza Ghiberti. This is an excellent option for picking up the makings of a picnic lunch. Open Monday-Saturday.

Piazza Santo Spirito – Antiques Market

There’s nothing quite like shopping for antiques in a country where the local history dates back thousands of years – but be warned, not everything you’ll find in this antiques market is the real McCoy. Open the second Sunday of each month.

Piazza dei Ciompi – Flea Market

This square transforms into a flea market (Mercato delle Pulci) on a daily basis, and – like most flea markets – requires patience to sift treasures from the junk. Open daily (closed Sunday-Monday in winter).

Parco delle Cascine – Florence’s Largest Market

Outside the city walls, the Cascine market sets up shop once a week and the variety of what’s for sale can be a bit startling (in a fun way). Open on Tuesdays.

- Jessica Spiegel

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