Unusually it’s taken me three days to get to the local main market. But there’s so much to do in Florence with my time divided between art and food, not to mention just wandering round and appreciating how beautiful Florence is, that today was the first chance to go. I’m always up early and it turned out to be a great bonus for the market was fairly empty still when I arrived. I’ve been there before when it’s packed. It’s a large covered market although there are lots of stalls surrounding it outside selling mainly leather goods, for leather is one of the most famous things to buy in Florence.
The market has been there since the late 19th century. It sells every kind of food you could possibly want to find from meat and fish and vegetables to the best olive oil and cheese. You’ll find local cantuccini and huge fresh porcini. Here are some of the photos I took.
Through some windows I could see people making fresh pasta.
Upstairs there are lots of cafes and stalls selling all kinds of food so it’s a great place to head to eat. There’s an Eataly outlet too.
My plan for the next part of the day was to take a bus to Fiesole. Fiesole is up in the hills above Florence. It’s just a 20-minute journey on the No.7 bus from Piazza San Marco to Piazza Mino in the centre of Fiesole (€1.20 each way). I partly wanted to escape the madness of busy Florence for a while but also wanted to see the stunning views across the city. Again. I’ve been to Fiesole before but many years ago. In the peak season coach loads of tourists go there for the views but luckily it was fairly quiet, and again, arriving early I had the famous viewpoint to myself for a while.
I walked a bit further up to Chiesa di San Francesco, a 14th century church.
It was a lovely little church and a wonderfully peaceful place to sit for a while. Then it was time to head back down the steep narrow road to the centre of town for lunch.
I’d remembered having great pizza in Fiesole before. Unfortunately what I ended up having was one of the worst pizzas I’ve ever had! However, it wasn’t really a big deal as I’d otherwise spent a wonderful three hours in Fiesole. I took the bus back down to the centre of Florence and decided to seek out Vivoli Gelateria for some ice cream. Well, when in Italy you need gelato every day! Vivoli is the oldest gelateria in Florence – and Florence is where modern gelato was born back in the days of the Medicis in the early 16th century. Vivoli is where I first experienced the wonder of Italian gelato – 40 years ago! And I’ve never forgotten it.
It was mind blowing. I’d never had anything like it. Vivoli once claimed to sell the best ice cream in the world. Perhaps it wouldn’t be able to now for even in Italy there’s been something of a gelato revolution with new artisan gelaterias popping up all the time, but Vivoli can still claim to serve some of the best.
I had chocolate + orange and zabaione (€2.50). I had to have the zabaione because I do actually remember that’s what I had 40 years ago! It was still wonderful. The chocolate was rich and deep in flavour with gorgeous slightly bitter pieces of candied orange peel; the zabaione deliciously creamy. They serve the gelato only in cups; no cones. This is because Italians think you shouldn’t taint the taste of good gelato with a cone! Vivoli’s great ice cream lives on.