Thanks to all of you who have sent a quick note to let me know of great places you recommend in Italy. I’m still here and am actually getting homesick for Alabama. Imagine that!
One place Bob and I knew we wanted to revisit from a previous trip was Mercato Centrale in Florence. The San Lorenzo Market surrounds the outside area with various vendors selling leather goods and trinkets. This area is fun, but wasn’t really the big draw this time, Instead, we were in search of something specific on the inside of the building.
The Mercado Centrale is indoors and houses two floors of everything good to eat you can possibly imagine. The first floor vendors specialize in all Italian foods like bread, cheese, fresh vegetables and fruits, wine, dried herbs and special cuts of meat. If we had planned on cooking, it would have been a dreamy place to shop.
Some foods like salads and pasta dishes are already prepared and ready to take home. Some food can be sealed for travel, but we were here during the first part of our trip, so there was no way to keep it fresh.
The original building was errected in 1874 (when Florence was the capitol of Italy) and the current market was opened in 2014.
The downstairs market closes at 2pm Monday – Friday and 5pm Saturdays. It is closed on Sundays and holidays, so be sure to check before you go.
After touring the first floor, the real treat is on the second floor where you find all sorts of Italian specialties being cooked and served in a large open room that seats approximately 500 people.
Even sushi, which has obviously become a world-wide favorite is prepared fresh to your specific order. Here, the chef produces asian style dumplings or their version of ravioli.
Truffle plates featuring local truffles, salamis and cheeses are popular. Il Tartufo is the restaurant that specialized in all things truffle related, and it’s where I found one of the best dishes of my entire trip.
Carbonara al Tartufo Nero — or Carbonara with black truffles. It was so amazingly delicious. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life — but then I’d have to roll myself everywhere.
But this is what we really came for, a Florentine steak from Tosca. We’d had a steak here a few years ago when we traveled with our boys, and it was the best steak we’ve ever had. Of course, since I’d already had the pasta (I couldn’t resist) I only tasted a bite or two of Bob’s and it was still the #1 steak I’ve ever had . . . in my life.
And no, we didn’t eat dinner that night because we were so full from this incredible lunch! We also walked about 8 miles that day, so we didn’t feel too guilty!
A cooking school, also located upstairs, ensures there will be plenty of new chefs who continue the culinary traditions of Florence.
Are you craving Italian food now? I’ll be home soon with a few authentic recipes I’ve picked up while here. Anyone for real Bolognese? Stay tuned!
Click to see my story on what to wear in Italy.