Every city needs a department store, a convenient place where residents can efficiently check off all the items on their shopping lists, find specialty goods and practical items. London has Harrods. New York has Macy's and Paris has the Galeries Lafayette. While Florence is by no means as populous as these cities, Florentines do have such a place for one-stop shopping: the Cascine Market. Open only on Tuesday mornings, it remains off many tourists' radars but local Florentines revel in its existence
The open-air market serves the same purpose as any typical department store. People come to buy kitchen supplies, clothes, rugs, curtains, food, cosmetics, indoor decor accents and toys. Yet the Cascine Market is undeniably Italian. Individual vendors set up shop on the banks of the Arno and display their goods alongside eye-catching signs advertising deals that are appealing to even the thriftiest of shoppers. However, if the price doesn't strike your fancy, you're more than welcome to bargain. Whether or not your proffered price will be honored is a an open question, but one thing is certain: the more time you spend bargaining, the less time you'll have to compete with your fellow shoppers for the best products.
And compete they do. Some stands resemble the rush of Black Friday in the U.S. as people search for their preferred size and color among the boxes and boxes of products.
As I strolled under cover of my umbrella, the Italian conversation floated around me. Local vendors were more than happy to chat with me, although one was particularly upset when I explained that I was not interested in purchasing a rather large piece of fabric. I may have regained her favor, however, when I offered my umbrella for her journey to her brother's stand.
My favorite part about the Cascine Market may be its location. Forget your complaints about lack of green space in the city center once you enter Cascine. Called the Central Park of Florence by one of my professors, Cascine is well worth the 15-minute bus ride from the Duomo. That short ride transports you to a world outside of the city center, sans narrow streets and without a tour group in sight. Come to jog, to walk, to enjoy the sunset along the Arno, or, if necessary, to buy a broccoli steamer from the popular weekly market.