Food markets are a quintessential feature of the Italian way of life, lively meeting places that offer delicious experiences for foodies at very reasonable prices. Here we explore the top 10 Food Markets in Italy, from north to south, in search of the best local specialities.
Italian culture isn’t just about museums and churches, and a visit to a market can truly add colour and flavour to any trip. From the picturesque markets of Venice and Bolzano to the souk-like markets in Palermo, folkloristic spots in Naples and Rome, through to modernised historic markets like the ones in Florence and Bologna.
Top 10 Food Markets in Italy
1. Florence, San Lorenzo Food Market – Mercato Centrale
Once the family market for the Florentines, today the Mercato Centrale in Florence‘s historic centre is a VIP of food markets, and a haven for foodies in search of the perfect morsel. Downstairs there are several shops selling every sort of delicacy, from meat to truffle oil, artisanal biscuits to wine, traditional sauces, pasta and vegetables. Some stalls prepare stuffed sandwiches – look out for schiacciata con salame toscano or the tangy pecorino cheese. The more daring must try lampredotto, the traditional boiled cow’s stomach Florentine-style sandwich.
The feast continues on the first floor, with a huge open space offering every food you might be in the mood for: from Italian fresh pasta to Chinese ravioli, Sicilian arancini, fried fish, vegetarian dishes. It’s a busy feast of food with an extra dash of cool. And definitely one of the top experiences in Florence for foodies.
OPEN: downstairs Monday to Friday from 7am to 3pm, Saturday 7am-5pm. Upstairs, the eateries are open from 9am to Midnight.
2. Livorno, Mercato delle Vettovaglie
One of the greatest food markets in Italy and one of Livorno’s symbols, Mercato delle Vettovaglie in Livorno is a lively and welcoming place full of colour and the scent of the sea. Located inside a beautiful iron and glass building from the end of 19th century, it’s also known as the ‘petit Louvre’ for the Parisian influence in the architecture.
Food lovers should look out for the local specialities: cacciucco (fish soup), fried anchovies, the strong tasting triglie alla livornese. If you come for breakfast, follow the inviting scent of frati (Livornese version of donuts). And of course, you can’t leave Livorno without trying the ‘5 e 5’, a sandwich stuffed with the traditional torta di ceci (chickpea pancake).
=> Check out this popular Walking Tour of Livorno Food Market: explore the city’s culinary heritage with a local guide, enjoy Livorno’s snacks and drinks!
WHERE IS IT: Via Buontalenti, along the Fosso Reale.
OPEN: from Monday to Saturday, 7am – 2pm.
=> Find out about other Great Food Markets in Tuscany.
3. Rome, Campo dei Fiori
Campo dei Fiori is one of the Italian Capital City’s oldest markets. Huge and folkloristic, this open-air market is a symbol of Rome ‘as it was’, a magnet for visitors in search of a version of Rome they’ve seen in Italian films. The colourful stalls have been selling fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish and flowers since 1864. It a more modern affair these days, and many new stalls have turned a bit touristy, selling t-shirt and souvenirs. But it’s still very lively (and noisy!) at all time of day and night.
What to order? Try the traditional ‘pizza alla romana‘, the delicious supplì or the fried baccalà at one of the eateries in the area.
Try the best of local specialties => Join the Rome Food Walking Tour to Trastevere, Campo de’ Fiori, and the Jewish Ghetto, and eat your way around Rome!
WHERE IS IT: The stalls are in the picturesque Campo dei Fiori Square.
OPEN: from Monday to Saturday 7am-2pm
4. Genova, Mercato Orientale
Opened in 1899, the MOG market is near Genova’s main shopping area – the main entrance is in via XX Settembre, right in the historic city centre. What’s on offer? From flowers to fruit, meats, all sorts of baked goods, and of course the fragrant basilico that goes into the traditional pesto sauce. You’ll also find also cheeses, olive oil and plenty of fresh fish. Look out for the ‘besagnini‘ (dialect for fruit sellers) who sell fresh and dried fruit.
A newly refurbished area is dedicated to eateries => here you find international dishes next to very local ones, like farinata (chickpea flatbread), focaccia, fried fish. Plus a great wine shop and cooking classes. All seasoned with a bright modern architecture and plenty of local colour.
WHERE IS IT: the main entrance is from via XX Settembre, near Piazza Colombo.
OPEN: from Tuesday to Sunday 10am-11pm, Monday from 10am-3pm
5. Venice, Rialto Market
A fish market that looks so good it could be a piece of art. Near the renowned Rialto Bridge in Venice, you find the historic Rialto Food Market. The catch of the day arrives here from the fertile waters of the Venetian lagoon just as it always has. Early in the morning the boats arrive loaded with fish for the Pescheria (fish market), and crates full of fresh fruit and vegetable that colour the Erbarìa in beautiful displays.
Around this picturesque area you find many bàcari – small bars/eateries where you can eat a plate of sarde, fried baccalà, polpo salad and many more traditional dishes, accompanied by the Venetian spritz. With the view of the Gran Canale, this might be one of the top experiences in the City of Water. => Check out the Best Tours of Rialto Market in Venice!
WHERE IS IT: Campo della Pescaria.
OPEN: fish market from Tuesday to Saturday from 7:30am-Midday. Fruit and veg market from Monday to Saturday , 7:30am-1pm.
6. Bologna, Mercato di Mezzo
With a long and distinguished history, the Mercato di Mezzo in Bologna is a place that honours the town’s gastronomic tradition, a favourite spot with locals and travellers that come here in search of fabulous flavours. Located a few steps from the handsome Piazza Maggiore, this covered market was redeveloped in 2014, and today hosts tasting sessions and everything related to food culture.
You find everything from snacks to traditional local dishes – don’t forget to try tortellini with the original ragù alla bolognese- and also artisanal beer (the new hot stuff in Italy!) and gelati. And you’ll understand first hand why Bologna was once called ‘la grassa‘ (the fat one).
WHERE IS IT: Via Clavature, 12
OPEN: from Monday to Saturday 10am-Midnight
7. Palermo, Ballarò Market
The biggest and most ancient market in Palermo, Ballarò Market dates back to the 10th century, a time when the Arab world ruled over Sicily. It’s spread along Via Ballarò and includes Baroque squares like Piazza Carmine, with the church of the same name. Right at the heart of Palermo’s historic centre, it’s a place that promises a multi-sensory experience, among sellers shouting their offerings, the colours of fresh fruit and vegetables and plenty of fresh fish.
It’s still a place where the palermitani come and buy their food, even if it has also become a favourite with tourists, who venture here to discover the extreme delights of Sicilian street food: fried arancini at all times and of all kinds (meat-filled or vegetarian), ‘cazzilli‘ (potato croquettes), the famous panelle sandwich (panelle are the traditional fritters made with chickpeas flour, a dish of arab origin). And don’t forget to try polpo and the savoury-sweet caponata. Truly one of the best food markets in Italy.
WHERE IS IT: the stalls are spread out in the area around Ballarò Square.
OPEN: most stalls are open from early morning (around 7:30am) to late afternoon (around 7pm).
8. Napoli, Pignasecca Market
To catch the real soul of Naples, a traveller simply needs to spend time in one of its markets. Pignasecca, right at the heart of the Spanish Quarters, is one of Naples’s historic markets, a great place to breathe in the spirit of this fabulously chaotic city. And also a place to buy fresh fish from the Gulf of Naples, fruit and vegetables from the fertile Vesuvio area, and traditional cheeses.
Of course the pizza is king here, also in the smaller take away version pizza a portafoglio, folded on its sides, and in the fried version pizza fritta. Those not worried about calories can carry on with the famous Neapolitan deep fried food – fish, vegetables, polenta – served in the cuoppo, a cone made of yellow paper. The more daring might also want to try the traditional offall, boiled and dressed with lemon and salt. For maximum enjoyment, a Guided Food Tour with a local is a must!
WHERE IS IT: the stalls are in the area around Via Pignasecca, in the Quartieri Spagnoli
OPEN: most stalls are open from around 8am to around 7pm, Monday to Saturday. Better to visit in the morning, when there’s more activity.
9. Torino, Mercato Porta Palazzo
Porta Palazzo Market feels like a city within the city. With its centre in the vast Piazza Della Repubblica in Torino, it’s one of Europe’s largest markets. Next to the farmers’ market, that sells fresh fruit and vegetables, there’s a covered pavillon with more than 80 stalls selling all sorts of food produce, and you also have the fish and meat vendors area. More stalls offer clothing and artisanal objects. It’s a melting pot of folklore and culture, where you can also find a good choice of international food.
The Mercato Centrale is the latest addition to Torino’s historic market. An area of over 4 thousand square meters, divided over three floors and 28 artisanal eateries – Italians and international – wine and beer, plus workshops and space for events.
WHERE IS IT: Piazza della Repubblica
OPEN: stalls are open from 7am to 1pm Monday to Friday, saturday 7am-7pm – The Mercato Centrale is open every day from 8am to 11pm (on Saturday and Sunday until Midnight)
10. Bolzano, Mercato delle Erbe
Finally, we’d like to explore the two sides of Bolzano – Italian and Austrian – by visiting the food market in Piazza delle Erbe. In this tranquil and beautiful town, you find a historic market that was already here in the 13th century. Local people still come here for their daily shopping, while tourists come to enjoy the specialties of South Tyrol in a lively yet relaxed setting.
Foodies can get ready to gorge themselves on the delicious speck (lightly smoked ham), traditional cheeses, and of course, bretzel and artisanal wurstels. The local cuisine is also famous for sweets and cakes, like apfelkiachln (apple fritters), krapfen (donuts), strauben.
While you’re enjoying your snacks, you cannot miss to admire the beautiful Neptune Fountain, that’s been aptly called, “Oste con la forchetta” (innkeeper with a fork), by local people.
WHERE IS IT: Piazza delle Erbe
OPEN: from Monday to Friday 7am-7pm, Saturday from 7am to 1pm.