First, I must apologize for my silence lately. My lack of posting has been intentional, as I was giving my undivided attention to enjoying the time that my parents spent visiting us in Italy. Now I am getting back on track just in time to pack up and go back home next week, and then I will return to my usual M/W/F posting schedule. Thank you for your patience and continued support of my blog. Now, for today's post...
Those who know me well know that I just cannot pass up an opportunity to check out a cool market and pick up a souvenir cookbook. Luckily, Florence was one of our destinations while showing my parents around Italy when they visited recently, so they were totally on board with a market visit...or two.
Mercato Centrale is a hybrid combination of farmer's market and upscale urban market. On the lower level you will find a huge variety of ingredients such as spices, fish, vegetables, homemade pasta, etc. as you wander the aisles. If you've been to Reading Terminal Market in Philadephia, the main level of Mercato Centrale is very similar in style and feel. Upstairs, you'll find a trendy food-court-style market filled with restaurants and specialty food shops, and even a cooking school. (I cannot remember a time where I was so envious of a group of girls!) The upper level feels very much like Eataly mixed with GR Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, MI.
Our first of two visits was focused on the upper level. We took a nice stroll around to get a look at all of the offerings, and there were a lot of great things to choose from! We ended up deciding on a couple of wood-fired pizzas, some homemade gnocchi, an assortment of tartlets, tiramisu, and of course--gelato. We were all very satisfied with our choices, and we left feeling full, happy, and energized before our evening walking tour of Florence. By the way, I highly recommend that tour.
I couldn't leave without my obligatory souvenir cookbook though! Ifound the perfect book at a little stand on the upper lever near the back corner: Around Florence by Csaba Dalla Zorza. It's big and beautiful. Filled with stories and recipes in Italian, and the photography is absolutely lovely. Luckily it weighs less than it looks like it should (3.5 pounds)...My darling husband is beginning to grow concerned about the weight of my luggage upon return to the US. I say it's worth it if I have such great additions to my cookbook collection in tow.
Our second visit was to the lower level of Mercato Centrale on a Friday morning. We wandered the aisles admiring the freshly caught fish and seafood. We picked up some fruit and the guys grabbed their morning coffees. There is a stall in the rear right corner that has the most incredible variety of nuts and dried fruits I have ever seen, and the prices were amazing! I'm still kicking myself for not buying a lifetime supply of hazelnuts...
Then it was on to the pastries. We chose an assortment of pastries for our breakfast and enjoyed them outside while people-watching as shoppers wandered through the outdoor market stalls that sell mainly leather goods, t-shirts, jewelry, and other souvenirs.
Bottom line: Mercato Centrale has a little something for everyone, and if you should find yourself in the Florence area I highly recommend you set aside some time to relax and enjoy what it has to offer.