The Central Market in the San Lorenzo neighborhood is the largest covered marketplace in Florence, the city that hosted the filming of the movie based on Inferno, Dan Brown’s latest bestseller.
The San Lorenzo Market is actually comprised of two separate markets: an indoor market known as the Mercato Centrale, or Central Market, home to all things food related, and the outdoor section that lines the surroundings streets of the large Mercato Centrale building, which has leather, clothing, and many souvenirs for sale.
Between the hundreds of stalls on either side of the street you will find vendors selling pottery, clothing, notebooks, souvenirs, and various leather goods including bags, belts, wallets, and jackets. Many of the stall owners have small warehouses closeby where they restock every night and store their stalls.
The Central Market is a two-level food market, making up the second half of the San Lorenzo Market. It is located in a beautiful building designed by Giuseppe Mengoni, the same architect who designed the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, built from 1870-74 when Florence was still capital of Italy.
With cast iron and glass all around, the building combines classic with modern: the exterior is an ample, squat base made out of local pietra serena similar to the nearby Palazzo Medici Riccardi, with loggias and 10 arches on each side, while the inside is spacious and bright with its glassed ceiling. It certainly recalls European architecture, most notably Parisian.
On the ground floor, you will find the butchers, fishmongers, fruit and vegetable vendors, and small specialty shops selling local olive oils, meats, cheeses, and much more like cow stomach, brains, and tongues. Enter through Via di Ariento or Piazza del Mercato Centrale, Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except not from mid-June through September). The market is closed on Sundays and holidays.
The New 1st Floor
In spring of 2014 the first floor of the market was re-opened to the public and is now open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to midnight. With 3,000 square meters of space and 500 seats, the area is large enough for twelve individual stalls or sections, each dedicated to a different Italian specialty such as cheese, Chianti wine, or baked goods. Imagine a one-stop shopping center for food divided into categories and stalls in which you can either buy specialty items to bring home or sit down to a farm fresh meal of your choice.
Other sections include the gelato and chocolate stall, the pizza and pasta stall, the meat stall, the fruit and vegetable stall, and many others.
Each individual stall showcases Italian specialities from all over the country (so not just Florence) and allows you to see the process first hand with clear glass windows that reveal what really happens behind the scenes. You can watch how bread is made, how the famous bufala cheese is handcrafted, or how artisan gelato is still made from scratch.
This new floor of the market is not only a hub for food, but also for Italian culture and history. Many of the specialty items represent a different method of production, dating back in time, drawing upon old Italian cultural traditions. The pizza stand is not any old pizza that you will find anywhere in Florence, but is made according to the traditional Neapolitan way, the manner in which pizza is said to have been invented. Watch how the famous mozzarella di bufala is still formed per the classic method, as it is still made today in Southern Italy.
By allowing visitors to see the production and engage in the process of artisan culinary traditions, the new Central Market acts as a cultural center for culinary traditions throughout Italy.
There is also a coffee bar, a ‘Fiorentina’ store, selling all you need to show off your pride for the Florentine soccer team, and a Giunti bookstore specializing in cookbooks and other culinary subjects.