Florence has earned its place on the travel destination bucket lists of people around the world. This captivating city was the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and that major artistic, cultural, and scientific movement has left the city with an unparalleled legacy of beautiful architecture and art. Home to works by some of the world’s most famous artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, Florence is a cultural and historic powerhouse even by the already-high standards of Italian cities.
But Florence has more going for it than just its history, as rich as that is. It’s also a fantastic place to shop and dine. And no other locations in the city combine those two activities quite so beautifully as the markets of Florence.
For centuries, the markets of Florence were a way of life. Local farmers and artisans sold what they produced to people in the city for generations, and this tradition continues today. Many of the markets of Florence have been in operation in more or less the same form as they are now for hundreds of years. So doing some shopping in these markets brings you closer to the history of Florence as well as its lively modern culture.
Leave your bags behind at a luggage storage facility at Florence Train Station, and check out these great places to shop. Not only will you be immersing yourself in the authentic culture of the living city, but you’ll probably also pick up some great souvenirs and bargains along the way.
The closest market to Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station, Mercato Centrale, is also the main market of the city.
The two-level market hall was built back in 1874 in a time when Florence was the capital of Italy, but there was already a lively market here long before a purpose-built market hall was made for it. On the ground floor of the building, you’ll find butchers, fruit and vegetable stalls, and specialist stalls selling local products like olive oil and wine. If you’re staying in a short-term rental apartment and cooking some of your own meals to save money, this is the perfect place to stock up on supplies. But even if you’re not, it’s a great place to interact with local vendors, try some free samples, and soak up the atmosphere as Florentine locals do their shopping.
The upper floor, though, is where things get really interesting. This 500-seat food court has room for 12 different stalls selling incredible food, much of it sourced directly from the stalls on the lower floor. That makes this indisputably one of the best places to eat in Florence, and you’ll be able to try both local recipes and fusion food from around the world thanks to the eclectic nature of the vendors here. Visit the market in the morning and then head upstairs for lunch to make the most of the lively atmosphere.
Outside the market hall itself, there’s more shopping to do. Other unofficial vendors set up stalls in the streets surrounding the market, so you can buy just about anything here, from a cheap fridge magnet to a highly expensive leather jacket. Just keep your wits about you, as these stalls offer goods of varying quality, so it pays to know what you’re looking for.
Located in the piazza that shares its name, Mercato Nuovo or New Market is about one kilometer from the station, so expect a walk of around 10 to 15 minutes. However, it may well take longer because heading to this centrally-located market will take you past some of the most beautiful buildings and areas in the historic center of the city.
You’ll know you’ve arrived by the urban buzz you’ll find at this famous market. It’s sometimes known as the Mercato del Porcellino, and you shouldn’t miss the famous bronze statue of a pig in the heart of the markets. Rub his snout for good luck before you attempt haggling over prices here.
The impressive loggia that covers the market was built in the 16th century, back when this supposedly new market was mostly devoted to silk and fine linens. There’s more historic interest, too, in the form of the Pietra dello Scandalo, or stone of shame, where during the Renaissance, people who couldn’t pay their debts were chained up and smacked on their bare bums.
You won’t see too much of that in the modern market, though. Instead, you’ll mostly find souvenirs, along with some leather goods.
If you want a more authentic experience, you can travel just a little further to La Fierucolina in Piazza Santo Spirito. This market is held on the third Sunday of every month, and although it’s only a 20-minute walk across the river, it’s far less popular with tourists and far busier with locals.
This is primarily a food market, and you can get some incredible local products here, although they rarely come cheap.
Mercato delle Pulci
Held on the second Sunday of the month, this is one of the biggest and liveliest flea markets in Florence. Part of the joy of visiting here is you never quite know what you’re going to find. Antiques and vintage clothing rub up against souvenirs and other items of dubious quality, so you’ll need to be careful. Still, that’s part of the fun of exploring this vibrant place, and it’s well within walking distance of the city’s main train station.
Markets in Florence
Shopping at the market is a big part of life in Florence and has been for centuries. Therefore, you should make time and space in your budget to check out at least a few of the city’s markets. Whether you’re after the perfect souvenir or looking for something for lunch, you can find everything you need at these great shopping destinations.