Food markets have always been a indispensable feature of Italian life. It’s here that people meet and come to choose the freshest ingredients for their recipe, grab a sandwich or a traditional treat. Here we take you on a full immersion trip through the flavours of Tuscany, exploring some of the largest and best food markets in the region.
Amazing Food Markets in Tuscany
In Tuscany (as in the rest of Italy) every single village, hamlet and small town gets its own open air food market, where the local farmers come to sell their produce: fruit, vegetables, and also cheese, salumi, and fish. It normally happens once a week, in the morning. Bigger towns have more than one daily market, in different neighbourhoods (mercati rionali), where you find every sort of food and other products like clothing, and homeware.
When you’re visiting Tuscany, it’s a good idea to join in. Exploring food markets, you’ll get a chance to mix with local people, and try some delicious specialities.
Here we explore the biggest and historic markets, including the covered markets in Florence and Livorno, that are the Vips of Tuscany’s food markets.
Florence, San Lorenzo Food Market – Mercato Centrale
San Lorenzo Food Market in Florence is a real mecca for food lovers, set in a beautiful building that’s been completely vamped up in 2014. The culinary feast starts on the ground floor, where there’s a beautiful display of botteghe offering fresh food – fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, cheeses – and also wine, truffle oil, traditional sweets.
Insider’s Tip => One of our favourite things to do here is to get a sandwich, but not any sandwich. Try schiacciata (Tuscan flat bread with abundant olive oil) stuffed with salame toscano or mortadella… it’s to die for!
The San Lorenzo Food Market experience carries on upstairs, where a huge open space hosts a range of eateries offering fresh pasta, crostini, steak, traditional lampredotto, fried fish, burgers, Chinese ravioli and more. There are big tables where you can sit once you’ve ordered your food and drinks. There’s also the possibility to buy some traditional products in beautifully designed packaging, to try some wines, and to join an excellent cooking class with a chef.
It’s true that it now caters to tourists more than local people, and some Florentines miss the old San Lorenzo Food market, that was very down to earth and cheap. But nevertheless this is still an amazing place for anyone who enjoy food!
WHERE IS IT: Via dell’Ariento, a few steps from San Lorenzo Church and Medici Chapels. Outside you find the popular San Lorenzo Market, one of the places to buy leather goods in Florence.
OPENING TIME: every day from 9am to 11pm
Florence, Sant’Ambrogio Market
Sant’Ambrogio is the other historic food market in Florence, a big covered market where you find food – from trippaio to fruit and vegetables, bakeries with sweet and savoury treats, and a few eateries and trattorias. There are other stalls outside, with more food and cheap clothing. You could say it has a much more authentic feeling, being less touristy, and caters for the ‘real people’ who live in the neighbourhood.
WHERE IS IT: Piazza L. Ghiberti
OPENING TIMES: every morning from Monday to Saturday, 7am-2pm (closed Sunday and festive days)
Livorno, Vettovaglie Market
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.
=> 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!
What to try? 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).
WHERE IS IT: Via Buontalenti, along the Fosso Reale.
OPEN: from Monday to Saturday, 7am – 2pm.
Pisa, Food Market in piazza delle Vettovaglie
Pisa’s main food market is in Piazza delle Vettovaglie. The name means ‘provisions’, and the square was built in the 16th century and given its loggiato (that recall those by Brunelleschi in Florence and Vasari in Arezzo) to host a market. This area has always been a busy part of the town, as it’s close to the centre and the river Arno. The Medieval edifices were put down to create a space for the market, and later a stone fountain was added.
Today various food shops flank the square, and in the morning stalls come to sell fresh food, and cheap clothing. It’s lively, busy and has had various problems with noise and bad behaviour, becoming the night life of the town.
=> Discover the Top 10 Attractions in Pisa
Siena, Mercato delle Merci
Every Wednesday morning, the streets around the Fortezza are filled with colours and flavour. Walking around in Siena is always a pleasure, with all its warm red brick and wondrous Medieval vibes, but the weekly market makes it extra special. There are stalls that sell clothing, fabrics, local crafts, but we’re here to talk about food, so let’s get to the pecorino cheese, the savoury finocchiona, fresh fruit and vegetables, herbs, traditional cured meat of every sort and the inevitable porchetta (pulled pork) sandwiches. Colourful and busy, it’s a great place to soak up the magical atmosphere of Siena, and mix with the locals that come here for their shopping.
WHERE IT IS: near the Medicean Fortress, un the gardens of La Lizza.
OPENING TIME: Wednesday morning, from 8am to 1pm
Insider’s Tip => As parking in Siena is never a joke, remember that on market day the town gets very busy and finding parking can be tricky. It’s best to head to the Santa Caterina Parking, which is a bit further away, because the Fortezza parking lot gets full very quickly.
Other Weekly Markets around Tuscany
You understand that giving a full list of all Tuscan Food Markets is an impossible task, given that literally every small town and village has one. Here you find some of the more popular destinations – these are weekly markets in the town’s centre, where you find fresh food, traditional products and other goods like cheap clothing and homeware: San Gimignano on Thursday in Piazza Duomo and piazza della Cisterna, Greve and Castellina in Chianti every Saturday morning, Montepulciano every Thursday morning, Montalcino on Friday Morning, Volterra every Saturday morning (in Autumn and Winter Piazza dei Priori, Spring and Summer near the Roman Theatre).
Experiencing a Tuscan market will make your visit more authentic, you’ll discover great traditional food, fresh ingredients and see where all those amazing dishes originate!