By Richard White, November 5, 2014
Like most European cities, Florence's city centre has several markets, some are more focused on food, others on fashion and some even have a weekly or monthly flea market. For example, when visiting Frankfurt, we always try to make sure we are there for their Saturday flea market along the Main River, as it is a great place to shop and people watch. In Florence, you have your choice of several different markets depending on the day of the week.
Mercato Centrale is both and open air and indoor market. The open air area is full of vendors selling everything from socks to trinkets and like most Florence markets a plethora of leather goods. The ornate two-story Mercato Centrale building was built in 1874, after the Mercato Vecchio was demolished to make way for the Piazza della Repubblicaa few blocks away. Here you find lots of permanent vendors as well as upscale touristy restaurants and shops. For those of you familar with Vancouver's Granville Island Market, or Seattle's Pike market there are many similarities.
Piazza Ghilberti Market (food and clothing) is also open everyday and given its location on the east side of the City Centre you get to mix a bit more with the locals than the Mercanto Centrale. It too has an outside stall area that is very animated and an indoor space. Best to get there early, as it can get quite crowded later in the morning and most of the action is pretty much over by noon or 1 pm.
On your way to the Ghilberti Market you might want to stop by the small antique market on the Piazza del Ciompi which operates from Monday to Saturday opening about 10 am the best we can tell. Seems like the vendors open whenever they like. The entire piazza looks a bit ramshackled, but there is a good selection of second-hand stores to explore.
The Flower Market takes place on Thursday morning under the colonnade of the Palace at the Piazza della Republic. It is not a very large market, probably only a 15 to 20 minute "look see" for most people so combine it with some other activities that day. It is very colourful and refreshing as Florence's City Centre has very little vegetation.
On the third sunday of the month at the Piazza Santo Spirito is a craft and food market. The crafts are very limited, but there are a few things you won't see at other markets, like the lady hand-weaving baskets or the hippy guy making hand-made shoes. We were told this is where the local foodies shop.
The third weekend of the month there is also an antique market at the Fortezza de Basso / garden. Unfortunately, we didn't get there so can't comment on the quality of the experience.
World's Longest Flea Market
Every Tuesday from 7 am to 2 pm you will find the mother of all flea markets in Florence's Le Cascine Park along the Arno River. It is a linear market that goes for over 3 kilometres with vendors on both sides. It took us almost two hours to do one side and we weren't looking at everything. While some vendors might stay there until 2 pm, we saw some beginning to pack up just after noon. There are a few food vendors, but it is most clothing vendors - not designer knockoffs, but rather mostly new cheap clothing, shoes, accessories, and kitchen products. This is not a "made in Italy" fashionista experience and not a place for vintage treasure hunters.
That being said there were some treasures to be had if you were prepared to dig in the pile of scarfs. Brenda did manage to find two vintage scarves for 1 euro each and a modern Italian made sweater/coat for 40 euros.
It was a great walk in the park, a chance to mingle with the locals and people watching. What more could you ask for?
Postcards: Le Cascine Flea Market
Postcards from Ghilberti Market
Postcards from Piazza Ciompi Market
Postcards from Piazza Santo Spirito
This piazza dates back to 1252 when Augustinian monks built a monastery and church. Today it is a bohemian hang-out with restaurants, cafes and a market.
Postcards from Mercanto Centrale
Postcards from the Flower Market
One of the things all of Florence's markets have in common is that they are enjoyed by everyone from young children to seniors. More and more urban planners and designers are cognizant of the 8/80 rule that states; if a place or space is attractive to kids 8 and younger, as well as 80 and older, it will be attractive to everyone in between. While exploring the markets and streets of Florence, I have seen more seniors hobbling with canes along the busy and bumpy streets, sidewalks and piazzas than I have seen anywhere else in the world. Kudos to them...I don't know how they do it.
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