The Italian Marketplace
When it comes to shopping, most Americans are used to walking into a Publix or Whole Foods to buy their groceries, yet the Italian marketplace is a completely different experience. The closest place that mimics it is a Farmer’s market but even that is still far off in comparison. The Mercato Centrale, located in the heart of Firenze, is one of the oldest market places in Italy. It is a two story establishment with restaurants on the top floor, but the main attraction lies on the bottom floor. The Market is home to several different vendors and sellers, providing everything from exotic spices and herbs, to this seasons fruit, to fresh baked goods, to whole slabs of meat.
The market for Italians is not just a place to buy fresh and local produce, for them there is an added social aspect. People come to the market 2-3 times a week not just to restock but to see familiar faces. Friendships and long-term partnerships with both vendors and other shoppers are formed at the mercato. Italians develop a sense of trust with their vendors and with this trust comes the assurance that you are receiving good and clean produce. A good thing to look for when shopping for produce are items with DOP or IGP labels. This means the item was produced locally and followed government regulations that ensures the quality of this product. While a DOP label is better than IGP, they are both great quality indicators. Some of Tuscany’s highest DOP rated products are Culatello (cured ham) and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Both are all natural products made using no preservatives or additive substances. The next time you find yourself at the Mercato Centrale in Florence, make sure you stop and grab yourself one of these prized items. Even if you do not go to buy produce, take the time to look around and then head upstairs for a nice lunch.