Food markets in Italy can be found in every city, town and village. In the larger cities the food markets are generally in permanent locations and even within permanent structures. In the smaller towns these markets may appear once or twice a week, pack up, and move on to the next town. When visiting smaller towns it’s best to check ahead and find out what day of the week the market will be there. Here are a few permanent food markets in the larger cities.
Bolognia has been called Italy’s heart of food. My pick in this city is Mercato Centrale, Bologna. The main produce market overflows from via Francesco Rizzoli to il Quadrilatero. The surrounding region of Emilia-Romagna is home to some of Italy’s greatest gastronomic gifts (prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano, mortadella, balsamic vinegar, and more), and you can find them all here, along with fish vendors, meat stalls, fruits and vegetables, and a great housewares store, Antica Aguzzeria del Cavallo, which carries every kind of pasta cutter imaginable. For me, the highlight of the market is A.F. Tamburini, a 78-year old pasta and provisions store where you can buy excellent ravioli, tagliatelle, and tortelli, either fresh or, in the adjoining cafe, cooked and served with a rich ragù bolognese. (9 via Francesco Rizzoli, Bologna.)
San Lorenzo is the best known food market in Florence. Recently renovated it’s worth timing your visit with lunch. Head upstairs to the food and wine court for regional wine tasting, homemade pasta dishes, and the most delicious pizzas. On the market’s ground floor you’ll see locals chatting, smelling fresh produce, and purchasing food for the family meals. Many Italians still buy their food daily preferring fresh, seasonal produce to frozen heat in the microwave meals.
Rome is world famous for food markets. Testaccio Food Market has been around for generations and despite a move to brighter quarters, it has retained its charm. You can find it near the MACRO museum. It’s a cross between a supermarket and an outdoor market, with wide aisles for locals to bustle past as the pull their food baskets. As expected, Rome’s food markets are frequented by Romans so it’s a great way to get a glimpse of local life. Produce at Testaccio is usually seasonal which offers yet another insight into local life. The market is in a working class neighborhood, so other than the late morning food tours, you won’t see many tourists.