Growing up on a farm in the U.S. put Amber in direct contact with the wonderful world of fresh food. Luckily she moved to Italy where it hasn’t been difficult to indulge in fresh vegetables. Besides from eyeing produce at her Celio corner market, she can usually be found in front of her computer (or better, typewriter) writing and editing.
One of the best ways to eat in Italy is to visit and shop at a local market. From south to north and through the whole width of this thin peninsula, outdoor markets abound. Get a real taste of the local culture while watching the bustling shoppers banter with vivacious vendors. But most importantly: Don’t forget the food! Seasonal fruits and veggies, farm-made cheeses, fresh fish and meats, and local wines (Mamma mia!) fill friendly stalls. Italy can boast some of the best food in the world and that food is at its very best in the many local markets around the country. So if you’re in any one of these cities below, you won’t want to miss some of the best markets of Italy!
Piazza Campo del Palio (Asti, Piedmont)
On Wednesday and Saturday mornings head to the Campo del Palio in Asti for Piemonte’s largest market. This market is the place to be for figuring your way around the specialties and seasonal produce of the region. Whether you’re on the hunt for chestnuts or apples or for a bottle of sparkling Asti Spumante, you’ll certainly satisfy your inner foodie. Of course, if you come on the third Sunday in September, the bareback Palio horse races will win more of your attention than the market.
Rialto Fish Market (Venice, Veneto)
So it hasn’t been 1000 years that the Rialto has been the commercial heart of Venice, but almost. Hidden behind the beautiful Rialto Bridge and through the arches of its relatively new (yet Venetian Gothic inspired) loggia is Venice’s fish market. Come face to face (and sometimes it’s not pretty!) with all the fruits of the sea that the Venetians feast on every day. If you prefer less fishy fare then go to the fruit and vegetable market (called the Erberia) nearby. It’s best to come early for the freshest catch, and keep in mind that it the market is closed on Sunday and Monday. The Rialto Fish Market is located in the Campo della Pescaria.
Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza della Frutta Market (Padua, Veneto)
Situated on either side of the elegant, thirteenth-century Palazzo della Ragione are Padua’s two outdoor markets. While each piazza was named for what each market once specialized in—herbs and vegetables in the Piazza delle Erbe (Square of Herbs) and fruit in the Piazza della Frutta (Square of Fruit)—now shoppers can find everything everywhere. Take a walk under the arches of the palazzo’s charming arcade for more permanent shops hawking super fresh and local meat, fish, cheese and bread. Vendors set up shop every morning but Sunday.
Mercato Centrale (Bologna, Emilia Romagna)
It’s been said that Bologna holds the heart of food in Italy. With its amazing mortadella and other cured meats, parmigiano-reggiano, egg pasta, and balsamic vinegar from nearby Modena, Bologna (and its region, Emilia-Romagna) boasts some of the richest and most lavish food in the country. There’s no better place to get a tasting of the city and region’s offerings than at Mercato Centrale, which meanders between Via Pescerie Vecchie and Via Draperie.
Antique Market (Arezzo, Tuscany)
Even if you can’t eat the antiques spread through Arezzo’s streets on the first Sunday of every month, a trip to this market can be more than satisfactory. Browse the sometimes fantastic but rarely usual antiques laid out in the city’s sloping Piazza Grande and the surrounding streets. Who knows, you might just find the strangest treasure—who doesn’t need a fifteenth-century hymnal?—to remember your trip to Arezzo (and Italy) by.
Santo Spirito Market (Florence, Tuscany)
Go Oltrano (or over the river) to the Santo Spirito Market while in Florence to escape the ferment of tourists. In Piazza Santo Sprito a daily market is held selling the freshest fruits and veggies among other odds and ends like housewares. And on the second Sunday of every month, the organic farmers, cheese makers, and artisans descend from the rolling Tuscan countryside onto the square for the Fierucola Market.
Testaccio Market (Rome, Lazio)
Though the Testaccio Market has moved to its new bright white location, it has managed to retain its old-world charm. Now located near the MACRO museum, the Testaccio Market is a neighborhood staple. Take a walk through the well-organized aisles to buy or just admire what the Romans will be having for supper. Tag behind the old ladies pulling their grocery carts as they are probably headed to the best greengrocer or butcher in town. (Oh and if you’re lucky, you might bump into one of our food tours in the late morning!)
Porta Nolana Fish Market (Naples, Campania)
Central Naples chooses its catch of the day at the Porta Nolana Fish Market. Sprawled out below the the two round towers of the old Aragonese gateway—once the entrance to the city from the port—stalls and stalls squirm with fish, clams, mussels, eels, oysters, dead or alive, you name it! And if you’re looking for more than just fish, the Porta Nolana Market has that too: be sure to pick up some heavenly, creamy mozzarella di buffala just shipped in from the outlaying Campania region.
Ballarò Market (Palermo, Sicily)
All the chaos and southern energy of Palermo ferments at the Ballarò Market that bustles every morning in the piazza of the same name. As close to the raucous vibes of an African souq that you can get in Europe, the Ballarò Market could be the quintessential Sicilian experience. Even if you don’t need to pick up your daily serving of weird Sicilian vegetables—check out the cucuzza, a long, bean-like squash—there’s plenty of street food available. Dig into a pane e panelle, chickpea dough deep fried with eggplant, served on bread. Buonissimo!
Fish Market (Gallipoli, Puglia)
While in Puglia do as the Pugliese. Gallipoli is a small sun-drench town jutting into the Ionian Sea side of Italy’s heel. Surrounded by cerulean waters, Gallipoli catches some of the best fish in those parts and offers it up every morning near the port. How can you pass up a languid stroll admiring shrimp and calamari? Of course, the best way to take it all in is on the way to the beach. Buon appetito!
Do you have a favourite market in Italy? We would love to hear about it!
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