The Central Market is in all likelihood my favourite spot in Florence. Of all the palazzos, piazzas and basilicas, my spot of choice is the one which has the widest selection of food in a single location – typical. But, perhaps I exaggerate. Perhaps the fact that I am writing this having eaten nothing recently but potato chips and M&Ms, is clouding my judgement. After all, there is an endless list of things I love about Florence and on a well fed stomach, this probably wouldn’t be at the top … but it definitely makes the top three.
I have a deep-seated love for food markets as you can tell. My favourite was, until recently, the Borough Market in London. It makes me homesick just thinking about it. Those who have visited the Borough Market probably agree with me when I say it has some of the best fresh bread, produce and sweet treats, as well as cooked street food, in the whole city of London. So for the Central Market to surpass it is no small feat. Maybe it is just because I am always excited by something new and shiny, but the Central Market is truly a wonderful place.
Downstairs there are stalls full of fresh products. The market is divided into sections – fresh meat and fish occupying the permanent counters in the centre back of the market, and fresh fruits and vegetables gathered mostly in stalls in a large open space in the middle. Towards the front entrance are other permanent shop type sections selling wine, olive oil, vinegar, sundried tomatoes, olives, fresh pasta, spices and whatever other traditional Italian products you can think of. The whole market is a riot of colours, sounds and smells. Unlike the Borough Market which seriously overprices its fresh goods, the prices in the Central Market are more reasonable, not cheap, but realistic. It is a chef’s dream.
The upper floor operates like a food court, but not just your standard indoor mall food court with a depressing combination of fast food and Chinese. The food at the Central Market is far superior and the atmosphere far more enjoyable. There is a wide variety of food from veggie burgers to sushi to seafood to the more traditional Italian dishes. The pizza is some of the best in the city (though not quite as good as Il Pizzaiuolo) and the pastries from the bakery are some of the best I have ever had in my life. Needless to say, I was a regular at the market in the mornings. I started with a pastry from the bakery and a cappuccino from the coffee bar opposite which made incredible coffee. The cream filled croissant was heavenly and the escargot nocciola was the stuff of legend. And no, I am not pulling your leg. I never joke about food. After breakfast, I would go downstairs and shop for whatever took my fancy that morning. In the afternoons and evenings the upstairs market would get very crowded and a bit stuffy with the lunch and dinner crowds as the whole floor remained open until midnight. But the mornings were quieter – in the mornings, the market was my little slice of paradise.
Top: Fruit and Vegetables Market Stalls
Middle: Upper Floor Food Hall
Photography by Savannah and Deanna Hayes