Where in Florence can you purchase a vintage scarf, sample local cuisine, chat up a local and perhaps find a bargain or two? Varying not only in products but size, location and schedule, Florence’s outdoor markets are a great way to experience the cultural wonders of the city.
If you want to see Florentines in action, check out Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, located in Piazza Ghiberti, open Monday through Saturday from 7am to 2pm. This market is usually full of locals doing their regular grocery shopping, along with friendly vendors selling an array of goods. Here you will find vast amounts of fresh produce; tables full of new and previously worn clothing; racks of jackets, blazers, scarves; inexpensive jewelry and handbags. It varies from day to day, but there is often also an impressive selection of shoes and boots. Some of the clothing is cheaply made, but if you look hard enough, you can find a beautiful scarf for 1 euro or a cashmere sweater for 10. The indoor area has more food, including meat, poultry, fish, cheese, bread, fresh pasta and much more. The indoor area even includes a tiny bar and a bustling restaurant, Trattoria da Rocco, that serves up tasty dishes quickly and at a reasonable price.
Florence’s largest and most visible market, Mercato di San Lorenzo, winds through the city’s center. During the winter months the market is open from 9am to 7:30pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Filling several streets near the church of San Lorenzo, the market is full of leather goods, including belts, wallets, handbags, gloves and bracelets in endless colors and styles, as well as a large variety of scarves, jewelry and other clothing items. This market is a place to buy gift items at fairly reasonable prices, but it is also usually full of tourists. Practice some Italian bargaining phrases and surprise the vendors with your knowledge. Chances are they will come down in price. San Lorenzo is also home to Mercato Centrale, two floors crammed full of produce, meat and fish, as well as Tuscan wine, salami and cheeses. (Be sure to grab a free sample at Perini Delicatessen.)
Florence also boasts the Mercato delle Cascine. Located in Cascine Park, on Viale Lincoln, open Tuesday mornings from 8am to 2pm, this market stretches for about a kilometer along the Arno and has everything from clothing to household gadgets, ornate buttons and upholstery. Of course, there is also food and random assortments of junk. A visit to Cascine Park is a nice break from the busyness of the city, but is quite a hike outside the center (or back, lugging your purchases). Hop on bus 17C and get to the market early in order to find the best deals.
If antiques are your thing, make some time on Sundays to browse Florence’s antiques and used goods markets. On the second Sunday of the month, check out the market in Piazza Santo Spirito: it is full of vintage clothing, new and used jewelry and small furniture items such as antique lamps and mirrors. On the third Sunday, head to Fortezza da Basso, where the market wraps around the perimeter of the lake in Fortezza da Basso Park. Here you can find funky, vintage jewelry, books, ornate light fixtures, antique furniture and artwork and much more. The length of the market and number of vendors is impressive, almost more than one can cover in a reasonable amount of time. And finally, on the fourth Sunday of the month check out Mercato delle Pulci, located in Piazza Ciompi, down the street from Sant’Ambrogio. Florence’s flea market has items you won’t find anywhere else. There is great jewelry, especially earrings, lots of interesting knickknacks, antiques, furniture and, of course, a little bit of junk. All three of these Sunday markets are open throughout the entire day.
Mercato delle Cure in Piazza delle Cure, quaint and small, is open Monday through Saturday, from 7am to 1pm. Although it is mainly a produce market, it also boasts some good clothing finds, generally pricier items like wool jackets and nice dresses and also a variety of leather boots and shoes at reduced prices from local clothing shops.
Florence’s markets offer a great way to save a few euro and see another side of Florence. You never know what you will find or who you will meet, but chances are you will experience something memorable and distinctly Florentine.