One of my favourite parts of any food and wine tour in Italy is walking around the food markets found in every city, neighbourhood, town and village.
A walking tour of Italian food markets is a wonderful way to be a traveller not a tourist, joining the locals going about their daily business. The variety of cheese, salumi, meat, seafood, bread, vegetables and fruit is head-spinning – I always discover some ingredient I’ve never seen before. Here are five of my favourite Italian food markets ideal for walking tours.
Rialto Market Venice
This outdoor market alongside the Rialto bridge is one of my first stops on any food and wine tour of Venice. I love the fresh fish market, the buckets of trimmed artichoke hearts and seeing the fresh produce arrive by barge. A panini and glass of red wine at bar Al Mercà afterwards completes this walking tour of Venice’s favourite food market.
Quadrilatero Market Bologna
This collection of small, packed-to-the-rafters shops lining narrow laneways off Piazza Maggiore is the highlight of any walking food tour of Bologna. It’s the place to buy all sorts of produce, plus specialties like bronze presses for making passatelli pasta. An aperitivo on a bar stool at La Baita, outside Vecchia Malga deli, is a delicious way to people watch.
Mercato Centrale Florence
Florence’s ornate, glass-ceilinged two-storey market underwent a major refurbishment in 2014, creating a huge artisanal food court on the first floor while the traditional vendors remain on ground level. Mercato Centrale is a wonderful market to walk around in any weather – be sure to try the schiacciata (Tuscan flatbread) at Pany da Lory.
Campo de’ Fiori Market Rome
Rome has many food markets – but Campo de’ Fiori near Piazza Navona in the historic centre is likely the oldest. While stalls selling souvenirs and other touristy bits appear later in the day, it still has plenty of traditional character and I love an early morning walk around this iconic Roman food market.
Catania Market Sicily
The fish and produce market at the bottom of the old city of Catania, at the foot of Mt Etna, is a huge warren of streets, stalls, carts, smells and noise reminiscent of an Arabic souk. Even walking past the graphic displays of the offal butchers is not for the feint-hearted, but the piles of artichokes and other produce spilling over the stalls should appeal to everyone.
Updated 22 Dec 2023