2001...at the MERCATO CENTRALE, Florence, Italy
In 2001 my friend Douglas and I spent a week in Florence, Italy. On one of those days we decided to go our separate ways. This meant that I could do exactly what I wanted and my choice was to spend the day wandering the streets of the city. It would be both inexpensive and healthy.
I started my walk around 7am, after a light breakfast, (hard roll & black coffee) . I had no destination in mind and was going slowly because I didn’t want to miss a thing. Every store window seemed to be more appealing than the one before. The shops were open and the city was alive and vibrating with energy. (This would wind down at 2pm when they closed for a two hour “rest”.)
About 9:30 I found myself at the famous San Lorenzo street market. This is a seemingly endless conglomeration of souvenir carts and stalls, most of them under colorful tents, with sellers hawking their wares. They literally bombard the buyer and I was not in the mood for this so when I saw a group of shoppers enter
a large building I decided to follow them.
With surprise and delight I realized that I had found my way to the famous indoor Mercato Centrale food market. From all that I’d read this is a “must see” when you are in Florence, but it was of no interest to Douglas. Now I was here and I could take all the time I wanted to savor the atmosphere and the aromas.
The market is a huge, open expanse, with hundreds of individual stands displaying fresh foods as works of art. The main floor is devoted to meat, cheeses and dry goods but it was the upstairs that took my breath away. This area consists solely of fresh fruits and vegetables…a literal cornucopia of colors, shapes and sizes for the shoppers consideration.
I watched with delight as the local women bargained for their daily groceries. The good natured bantering was carried on with laughter and lots of gesturing and I joined in the fun. I knew that I couldn’t carry much because I still had a long walk ahead, but I finally bought a large bag of the most delicious dried apricots that I’ve ever eaten.
It was well past noon when I left the market and I continued my stroll through the streets of Florence. It didn’t concern me that I’d had no lunch because I had that wonderful bag of apricots & by 2pm I’d eaten most of them. All of a sudden my stomach gave a lurch and I thought, “Oh, no, what have I done? I might as well have been eating prunes!”
I won’t go into the sordid details but I was getting a bit panicky. I realized that all the shops were closed & I had no choice but to hail a cab and, luckily, he did get me back to my room “in time”. I realized that my inexpensive day and my leisurely walk were over and I was (literally) too “pooped” to go back out again.