Florence, the city of celebrated covered bridges, world-class artwork, architecture, and history, also feeds its citizens very, very well. It is the capital city of Tuscany, after all! The rich wine, cheese, and olive region flows from the hills and fields into the bustling urban hub.
Why not pepper days spent visiting museums and galleries, climbing steps, and admiring fountains with a visit to a few of the city’s acclaimed food markets? Prepare for a palate-pleasing and tummy-filling experience. While central markets fill with tourists and visiting foodies, other markets may offer more authentic and local experiences. It depends on how you like to fill your plate.
I’ve picked out several independent and guided tour ideas for those wanting to explore their culinary senses like a Florentine.
Prepare for a sensory overload when you make your way past the leather workers and vendors outside Mercato Centrale. Fantastic displays of meats, fish, vegetables and cheeses cover tables well-designed to tempt your tastebuds.
Above the market floor is a perfect place to people-watch, sip wine, listen to music, and savor each bite of your bounty. The market usually closes about 2pm so arrive early, fill yourself to bursting, and then do as the Italians and take an afternoon nap.
After dusk, from 8pm onward, join the locals at the Mercardo plaza. Sip a few glasses of Prosecco, admire the servers’ balancing skills, or for a few more Euros enjoy a wine tasting session.
Venture across town to explore the slightly smaller market of Sant’Ambrogio. Sample more than food here; you’ll be mixing with the locals searching for the best pasta, seasonal vegetables, plants, kitchen utensils, and clothing. It’s open mornings at 8am till 2pm from Monday to Saturday.
Mercato Nuovo or the Porcellino Market
The Loggia del Mercato Nuovo originally opened in 1551 as a refined place for local merchants to sell luxury goods. Today it’s filled with tourist products but just outside is a special porker. It’s a copy of the original fountain by Pietro Tacca of a bronze wild boar. While the body is darkly patinated, the snout remains shiny. According to a popular tradition, when you rub the nose you’re guaranteed to return to Florence. You can test your luck at any time in the open plaza.
Wine tour in the Oltarno District
Explore the Florentine Oltarno District at sunset with an expert guide. Sip a glass of Chianti and bite into crostini prepared in a famous local wine shop. The small tour group will then stroll across the river as the sun turns the water to sparkling gold, and stop at the Piazza Signoria to refill glasses and enjoy more appetizers. A visit to Piazza Duomo completes the two-hour tour. Tours run with local guides, rain or shine.
Find out more about the region and foodie tours of Florence:
- Set up your own market visit itinerary with the Walkabout Florence suggestions.
- Explore the history of the markets of Florence.
- Reserve a place for a gourmet food tour.
This post is part of the Hipmunk City Love project.
Great pics! I loved Florence, definitely my favorite spot in Italy.
Thanks, Mary. I can’t wait to return.
Such a great city, love everything about it!
I’m with you on that. Florence is magical.
A great way to visit a city and learn about its culture is through its markets!
I love them – indoor & out, super & specialty. Food is our universal language.
I had my first gelato in Florence and can still remember how wonderful it was. I remember rubbing the snout of that wild boar in the market too. Thanks for bringing it all back!
So glad you enjoyed the post and trip down Memory Lane, sense-memory with that first gelato.
Florence is a delight for all of the senses, but especially for making the stomach happy! Lol! 🙂 Wandering through the markets is a wonderful way to become acquainted with Florence and her unique culinary wonders. We spent the morning at Sant’Ambrogio recently and were amazed at the variety and spectacle of food available. YUM!!
How sweet that you were there so recently. Yes, Florence is special kind of culinary adventure and those markets an inspiration.
Markets are always a great adjunct to the experience of any place. Florence is such a beautiful city and eating the food of the people can only make the experience of it a little more than perfect.
You are so right, Yasha. There’s nothing quite like shopping where the locals do wherever you are in the world.
Everything I read about Florence sounds wonderful and your post only adds to our desire to visit this amazing city which is rocketing its way up our “must see” list for Europe. Love the idea of days spent wandering museums and art galleries and then feasting our way through the Florence markets and restaurants! Europe, here we come!
You lead a charmed life!
I just unearthed a photo of a friend taken in Florence and I think he was sitting on the boar in your photo of the Sant’Ambrogio market!
How fun is that?!
I am looking forward to eating my way through Italy within the next few years. Wandering through the markets and tasting the local foods is always something I enjoy.
Sounds like my kind of trip too!
We were just there and I miss it already! Thank you for the wonderful reference post! I will be sharing it!
I envy you having just returned from Florence. How I long to go back too.
I remember going into the Mercato Centrale and being overwhelmed by the smells and the colours of the fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s worth looking in the shop windows too – some of the food shops have amazing displays. I remember one in particular that had displays of pasta that were a work of art in themselves.
That sounds like a magical way to spend a full day in Florence.
Loved this tasty tour through some of our Florence favorites!
Sounds like the Porcellino good luck is working for you.
A really handy post! I’ll be in Florence in May and was planning to eat dinner in the Mercato Centrale but it looks like it closes at 2:00 pm – so thanks for that info! I’d better make sure we get to the market early.
Glad to be of help. There may be more seasonal hours to accommodate tourists. I’d check with the Mercato site.
We love wandering the markets in any new destination to get an idea of what the local best is, as well as entertain ourselves with people watching. Love the porcellino’s nose! 🙂
The markets were one of my favorite aspects of traveling through Europe. Now, given the chance, I’ll visit them wherever I go to connect with locals and what they’re eating.
Whenever we’re in Florence we always head back to the Mercato Centrale. It just doesn’t seem right not to start our visit there! Sant’Ambrogia was also my local market when, many moons ago, I spent a month in Florence! Thanks for the memories!
You’re lucky to have visited Florence several times. Seems like the Porcellino magic is working for you!
Thanks for all the good reasons to return to Firenze—-as if I needed any new reasons.
There’s so much to see and experience in Firenze. You can’t do it all in one trip.
Love Florence and all of the different food experiences ..gelato being a major food group
Funny how that’s so true in Italy!