I was school-girl giddy about going to Mercato Centrale in Florence. This is one of the most impressive indoor produce, vegetable and meat markets in Italy, a foodie masterpiece. It is the principal marketplace in town, where you can buy your groceries, oils, vinegars, etc. or eat a meal on the fly at one of the focaccia or pasta booths.
Immediately upon entering the double-doors we were struck by the openly hanging prosciutto, salamis, and other cured meats. Along with the hustle and bustle of cheesemongers, butchers and hungry patrons. It was a welcomed gastronomical sensory overload.
I didn't make it past the first booth where they were handing out free samples of Wild Boar salami. Not only was it something I had never eaten before, it was also delicious. We walked away purchasing a one foot link to bring home which they vacuum sealed so we wouldn't be tempted to eat it before-hand. Good idea.
Moving on to poultry. The aisles were lined with pollo purveyors and I was fascinated by the fact the they don't remove their heads or feet before displaying them. Most of the animals were kept whole, instead of butchered into parts like in America. We were told that it gives the perception of freshness and that the Italians are known for using the entire animal and not letting anything go to waste. Fried chicken feet anyone?
The vegetable booths were amazing in color and freshness. This was the point where I wished we had rented a cute little cottage with a kitchenette, so I could whip up something traditional with all the brilliant ingredients before me. I had visions of a large, spirited, al fresco dining experience with food and wine flowing freely. One of the million reasons to revisit.
A visit to Mercato Centrale is something that changes the way you look at food, freshness and the gastronomical experience. Even if you are not hungry, it is worth just taking a leisurely stroll through the aisles
Piazza San Lorenzo, Florence, Italy