Markets in Tuscany
There are daily produce markets selling excellent fresh food, and all sorts of other stuff
There is a market here in Chianti every day of the week, and dozens of markets weekly all over Tuscany. They great places to buy:
- fantastic selection of local produce, including all in-season fruit and veg, several butchers and fish-mongers (excellent fresh fish!), and freshly roasted chickens, rabbit, and porchetta (whole roast pig, seasoned and sliced). Some stalls only sell fruit and veg they grow themselves, and these are usually the best to go for.
- excellent prosciutto, salami and cheeses
- embroidered linens, including table-cloths, sheets, towels, bed-spreads, and excellent quality lace
- clothes for every taste, good shirts and silk ties
- great value Italian shoes - some real bargains here if you look carefully
- plants and flowers
- pots, pans, crockery, porcelain and other kitchenware
- tools and other hardware
How to shop at the market
Most of the local markets are more for locals than tourists. They are often busy and crowded, so meander and browse at your leisure, but beware of groups of elderly blocking the paths as they have a chat, and mothers with buggies trying to push through. Before you go, there are a couple of things you should know:
- Haggling is not frowned upon, but it's not common. So don't try and haggle for goods unless they are big-ticket items, like bed linen sets or shoes, in which case it doesn't do any harm to ask for a 'sconto', but do not be disappointed if you're not offered one. Market goods are not generally very expensive to start with.
- Italians don't queue. It's not that they are rude, or don't like to queue, it simply isn't in their genome. When things are calm and relaxed, Italians will gladly ask you if it's your turn. But if things get busy, all bets are off, it's everyone for themselves. So if you are at a crowded vegetable stall, and you try and wait your turn, you will probably never get served, and may starve. Be forceful, and when you think it's your turn, stick your hand up and shout "tocca a me!" ("It's my turn!").
What to try
Some of the things you should definitely try include:
- Find the stalls that sell freshly roasted chickens, and find the one that's busiest. Take a ticket, buy a chicken. They are fantastic. And if you are feeling more adventurous, ask if they have any roast bunny (coniglio) – very tasty – and try some fried polenta. And the fries. ANd the little fried mozzarella balls. And...
- Look for the stalls selling freshly roasted pork, or 'porchetta'. There are two types, normale and 'salata' (salty). Ask for a bit of both. Goes really well with a well-dressed fresh green salad (salt, pepper, wine vinegar and a good oil). If you prefer a sandwich, ask for "un panino alla porchetta, per favore".
- Buy lots of small pieces of different cheeses, and salamis. Don't be shy - the vendors are used to Italian grandmas buying a couple of slices of everything.
- Look for the fishmongers and buy some fresh fish (make sure the fishes' eyes are black, not cloudy, and ask them to clean the fish for you).
- If you are feeling adventurous, find the stall selling lampredotto, a proper local's sandwich. If you can get past the gagging reflex, it really is very good.
Market days in Tuscany
Near us, these are the markets we tend to use the most:
- Monday there's one in San Casciano, 25 minutes away, a good-sized market in a very pretty, un-touristy town
- Tuesday is Poggibonsi - a big market, selling everything from knickers to chainsaws, and a big fresh-produce area, including come excellent fishmongers and cheese sellers. Starring our favourite cheese man, brilliant vegetable lady, and lovely finocchiona & salsiccia man. 20 minutes away, and we go every week.
- Wednesday is Certaldo (40 mins) and Siena (35 mins), one of the biggest in the area, where you can get almost everything (though not great for food)
- Thursday Tavernelle (15 mins), San Gimignano (30 mins)
- Friday: Colle Val D’Elsa (30 mins) - another big local market
- Saturday is our small local market in Castellina in Chianti (great fruit and veg man, and excellent rotisserie chicken), and Greve in Chianti (30 mins)
- Sunday - Panzano, a small market except in the 1st Sunday of the month....see below
All these are morning markets and will be shut by 1pm approx.
And don't forget the indoor Mercato Centrale in Florence. It's open every day, has an amazing selection or food produce of every kind. Plus there's a brilliant food-hall upstairs, a great place for lunch.
Antique markets in Tuscany
There are lots of other markets that are worthwhile exploring:
- On the first Sunday of each month there is an arts, crafts and antiques (flea) market in Panzano in Chianti, which also sells locally produced foods, soaps, cosmetics. Can be a bit expensive, but a great place to find unique presents.
- On the 4th Monday of the month Radda in Chianti has its market, 3pm- 8pm
- Siena – Piazza del Mercato - Third Sunday of the month - Collectibles and antiques
- Florence - Piazza dei Ciompi - Last Sunday of the month - Antiques
- Arezzo - Piazza San Francesco and Piazza Grande - Antiques and modern
- Orbetello (GR) - First Saturday and Sunday of the month - Antiques and modern
- Pistoia - Via Pacinotti former Breda Area - Second weekend of the month - Antiques
- Pisa - Loggia dei Banchi - Second Saturday and Sunday of the month - furniture, prints and various objects
- Prato - Collezionare in Piazza - Fourth Saturday and Sunday of the month - Antiques
- Lucca - Via del Battistero - Third Saturday and Sunday of the month - Furniture, sculptures in wood and marble
This link has a good list of antique markets and flea markets, if that's your thing. (Thanks to Linda B. for the info.)
This is not an exhaustive list and there are several markets in Florence selling various wares every day of the week. It is a great opportunity to sample local cuisine as the stall holders are keen for anyone to try before they buy.
Market tours in Tuscany
We've found a couple of interesting food and market tours which might be worth exploring. We've not tried them ourselves yet but they look fun!
Karen & Ali - UK 2014