Being spoilt for choice, many modern shoppers have abandoned the habit of eating local, seasonal food. Monthly Greve in Chianti market Il Pagliaio is an organic antidote to the pitfalls of modern consumerism—and, more simply, makes a great day trip from Florence.
Held in piazza Matteotti on the fourth Sunday of each month, Il Pagliaio (“The Haystack”) has been running for 14 years and has become a monthly ritual for locals, as well as for savvy travellers holidaying nearby. The piazza fills up with more than 40 producers selling an array of edible goods, from local and seasonal fruits and veggies to fresh bread and baked goods, goat and sheep cheeses and honey. Regional wines and oils are regular fixtures, and there’s a rich range of jams and juices, fresh and dried herbs, pulses, flour and the famous Mugello chestnuts (when in season, of course). Setting up shop alongside the farmers are artisans and crafters who sell kitchenware fashioned from olive wood, ceramics, soaps and creams, clothing and accessories handmade from wool and natural fabrics, paintings, woven baskets, jewellery and more.
For the farmers, living in harmony with nature is a lifestyle choice, and it follows that all their products are made without pesticides; anything up for sale is in season and specific to the area—think Tuscan black kale, wild asparagus, saffron.
Among the artisan booths, you’ll never see plastic, synthetic stuff that’s travelled miles. Everything is made using natural materials, and every interaction with a vendor is with the person who grew, prepared or handcrafted whatever you may be buying.
Piazza Matteotti is the beating heart of the town, so the market has a social element as well. Every edition has a theme around which activities, workshops and events are organised. Free live music, performances and theatrical events put on by local groups are all standard. Special guests often add their names to the programme: in March, Tuscan food blogger Giulia Scarpaleggia will make the rounds in the piazza, promoting her new book on Tuscan markets, which features Il Pagliaio.
With the slow return of the milder weather and spring just around the corner, Greve in Chianti is calling—and any day in piazza Matteotti is sure to be memorable.