Spring is prime time for checking out food markets in Italy!
The grey of winter slowly bows out while the bright, sunny colors of spring are competing for prime spots at local markets. People come with empty baskets on a mission to leave with them spilling over for the walk home. These are the markets you can’t help but photograph. I enjoy these markets not only for their beauty, but to watch people visit with their neighbors and the farmers selling produce, to talk about how good the artichokes look this year or how too much rain wasn’t good for the strawberries. Since I don’t have my own kitchen while I’m visiting, I like to buy snacks like berries or olives that I can take on the go.
One of my favorite markets to visit is the Market Centrale in Florence. When I first visited this market many years ago it was much smaller and more what I might call “authentic Florence”. However, since then it’s been remodeled and although I thought it would now be a tourist trap, it actually surprised me. While now set up to deal with the thousands that visit daily, it has also kept a lot of the authenticity we love (mostly on the bottom floor). You can still find the same butcher, fish stand and bakery, but upstairs is a ton of new food options and plenty of seats to sit and enjoy your meal (or even a glass of wine or beer). They even have a cooking school if you find yourself dreaming of becoming a Florentine chef!
If you come across a market with cheese, it’s a great opportunity to taste cheeses from a local maker and if they vacuum pack you can even take the cheese home with you (as long as you have a cool place to store it until you leave.) I’ve also come across some amazing soaps, honey and jams.
There are also great flower and plant markets – these are fun to admire and see what kind of flowers you would grow if you lived here!
Don’t be afraid to visit markets you come across in neighborhoods, big or small, if nothing else you’ll probably find some kind of fruit or vegetable you’ve never seen before. Enjoy!