Mercato centrale, as it's name suggests, is placed bang in the centre of Florence. And it's a food market. It's kinda like Borough Market is to London.
Inside you'll find the odd tourist that's found their way there but you'll mostly see chefs buying wholesale and locals buying their ingredients for that night's dinner.
The smell of truffles as you walk in will wash over you and, if you're anything like me, pull you in like the tractor beam in Star Wars. It's got some amazing wines (nearly all varieties of Super Tuscans), cheeses, olive oils, bread, huge bags of fresh porcini mushrooms (depending on the time of year) but, for me anyway, the main reason to go is for the cafes at the rear of the market. There's always a queue and it's packed with locals. A good sign. It's very cheap (about €3.50 for a main and €2 for a medium caraffe of wine. The porchetta sandwiches at Nerbone at €3.5 are an absolute must. They're incredible.
Piazza del Mercato, Florence, Italy
Google map: bit.ly/12SI4Jr
Individual shops on every corner from shoes, clothes, unique stationary etc.
With the added advantage of picturesque outdoor street market, with quality leather in all shades of the rainbow and styles from briefcase to handbags.
Mercato nuovo smaller market next to statute of il porcellino - the saying goes if you touch it you will return again, which would be wonderful mixing sightseeing, great food and shopping.
Ponte Vecchio for the special present of jewellery and watches.
Plaza di San Lorenzo, 50122 Florence, Italy
+39 055 23320
Google map: bit.ly/trDkS7
I“Wonderful hotel, wonderful staff, wonderful location in a beautiful city.”
Hotel Il Perseo
I have been staying at this hotel since early 1998 and have returned in every year except one, since. The building has changed a great deal since those early days and is now modern and has every facility.
I am now 69 and would be perfectly happy to stay here alone. The staff are fantastically helpful and have a vast knowledge of their city. Louise (New zealander/Italian), and Laura (Italian) are exceptionally helpful and will book museums, restaurants etc willingly. They will tell you the italian for something you might want to buy in case the shop does not speak other languages. Wonderful!!
The rooms are comfortable, very clean and bright, with ensuites and TV. Some have outstanding views over the city. Breakfast is a good, varied buffet with loads of tea, coffee, juice etc.
It takes less than two minutes to walk to the duomo and five to Mercato Centrale (a must for food lovers). All major places of interest are within easy walking distance.
I have stayed in hotels of all star ratings from no star to five-star, huts in the african bush, YHA's etc but this is one place I return to again and again where the staff feel like old friends and the welcome is superb. GO THERE!!
The value for money is unquestionable.
Via Cerretani 1R, Florence. 055 212649
200m from SMN station and Bus Station, take Via Panzani which leads to Cerretani.
If you have more time while in Italy and want to experience one of its most beautiful countrysides, take the Eurostar train from the Termini station in Rome and go to Florence.
The trip takes you about 1h and 50 min and it is all worth it. You dart through Tuscany at 200 km an hour on your way to Florence and you see for yourself the undulating hills, the cypress trees and on the top of the hill, villas and agriturismi Tuscany is known for.
And once you get to Florence go off the beaten tourist track – do visit the market of Florence and dive into the colourful atmosphere, the smell of leather and the art of bargaining. You can find there some great gift to carry home – especially the pashmina shawls and the silk ties.
I love going to Florence from Rome – even for a day and if you find the time to do it you will not regret it.
For more Italy travellers inspiration here is a cool blog: www.italytravelnotes.com
A stunning shop-cum-gallery selling original etchings and frames made by the artist-owners and their friends. No "art snobbery" here - the owners are English-speaking and happily spend time with you, explaining how they make the etchings and frames. With our purchase, we got a cup of tea and a fab local restaurant recommendation. Whether you want a unique memento of Florence or an original gift, Il Tamarino is well worth a visit.
Il Tamarino Stampe d'Arte
via del Moro 46R
Tel. 055 282457
An independent bookstore in the heart of Florence. They sell new and secondhand books in Italian, English, German etc. Check out their bargain baskets which have well-loved books available at maximum 1 euro or even free!
Via Delle Oche, 4r
Tel: 055 293460
The famous medieval, house-bearing bridge that would probably win the prize as the most photographed Florence icon. It spans the Arno in the centre of the city and probably affords the best views of this often disappointing river from its central open arches. The houses are now mostly shops selling jewellery, leather goods and other expensive designer items, but it’s not obligatory to buy anything of course. After all, it is just a bridge, and still works perfectly well as such.
A huge covered food market, open Monday-Saturday 7am-2pm, also Saturday 4pm-8pm.
More fabulous Italian food than you can poke a stick at - and infinitely better priced than those “Tuscan specialty” shops pitched at tourists. If you plan to drag home your own body weight in formaggi, porcini, salsicce, lenticche and vino then this is the place for you. Also a few sit-down places for a super-cheap lunch - mind the pigeons though.
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