El Mercato Centrale or Central Market is located in the centre of the city, only a short stroll from the S. Maria Novella train station. It is also known as the San Lorenzo Market and is one of the oldest in Florence, built in Via dell’Ariento in 1874. Back in the day, before supermarkets for ever changed the way we buy our food, most florentines would buy their fresh produce from here.
The San Lorenzo Market could be divided into three different sections. The outdoor area with the wooden stalls that sell scarfs and leather goods like bags, wallets, jackets, belts and gloves; the ground floor of the covered market, where fresh produce shops are found (cheeses and cured meats, vegetables, fish, meat and flowers) and the first floor, where since the spring of 2014 people can enjoy a variety of foods prepared daily from 10 till midnight.
All the shops are run by artisan merchants and the offer is varied: from baked bread and confectionary to fish, meats, salamis and cheeses, chocolates and gelato, fresh pasta, wines and the Tuscan speciality: lampredotto sandwiches (a soft roll stuffed with tender slices of tripe (beef belly) and a spicy sauce ~ sounds gross – tastes divine.
The fresh produce part of the market opens daily at 7.30 and closes at 2. Early in the morning, specially before the lunch rush, the place is filled by locals. Tourists are welcome too but standing in line and ordering un quarto di pecorino can present itself somewhat challenging if one doesn’t dominate the language. It might take a few visits before one decides to go for it and buy food like the locals do but let me tell you, it is well worth it.
12pm Lampredotto awaits.