Il Mercato Centrale

Fresh food, and fast, in San Lorenzo

One of the joys of living in Italy is eating. Ask any local or expat and a big part of their day revolves around food. Florence has many places to enjoy the best seasonal dishes and the latest addition to San Lorenzo′s Il Mercato Centrale will have any foodie heading to its upper hall upon opening hour. For years the upstairs of the nineteenth-century building lay dormant, eager for a reinvention. Having opened in 1874, the original design of the market was by the renowned architect of the day, Giuseppe Mengoni, who also created the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan. In 2014, the building celebrated its 140th birthday and to celebrate, the new dining hall was opened.

A sun-drenched glass house with exposed iron metal beams and modern, oversized light fittings fill the ceiling space. It′s bright, contemporary and without any Italian design cliches – there are no checkered table cloths here – rather communal tables to share with friends (new or old) and counter after counter of food stalls offering Italian tastes to savour. SUD create perfect southern-style pizza with chewy base and dripping in creamy mozzarella. With only four pizzas to choose from, they are serious about quality ingredients, the less is more approach which characterises Italian cuisine. TOSCA is a trattoria-style affair: sit at the long gallery table to watch the chefs, all decked in whites including tall chef hats, prepare fresh pasta, meats dishes and dolce (sweet dishes) to devour. If cheese is your weakness, FRANCO PAROLA will excite, offering hundreds of creamy treats to choose from plus a side window to watch cheesemongers at work, creating silky burrata which almost melts in your mouth.

The food stalls compliment one another run by small independent food artisans passionate about Italy and their products covering products from bread, meats, cheese, chocolate, gelato, fresh gnocchi, seafood and fried rissoles. Plus a Chianti wine bar, Eataly store for taking home products and a cooking school run by Scuola Lorenzo di′ Medici. Open daily from 8am it′s a worthy stop on your eating adventures in Florence. If arriving before 2pm, make time to peruse the downstairs market with stalls selling fresh produce and a number of locations to sample olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pesto, and local wines.

Photo credit: Nardia Plumridge / Mercate Centrale