Last updated on February 23rd, 2024
No matter how many times you have been to Italy there is always something new to discover. If it’s your first time or your third, you are probably looking for authentic Italian experiences that you will remember for a lifetime.
After living la dolce vita here in Florence for close to 15 years now, I have come to adopt the local traditions and way of life, starting with shopping and eating locally.
In this article, I will share with you my top insider tips and rules for how to shop at markets in Italy as well as the absolute best street markets to visit on your next trip!
There is no better way than to immerse yourself in Italian culture then through the locals. Any Italian will tell you this means starting from the farmers market so let’s dive in!
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What Are The Best Markets In Italy?
The best markets in Italy are usually those that have been established for quite some time and support local farmers, producers and artists.
Typically this means that the best markets in Italy are catering to the local residents and may be slightly off the beaten track.
Types Of Markets In Italy
Italy has a strong tradition of shopping locally and in season weather this means food shopping, home shopping or for personal goods. Because of this, daily markets are littered through every town in Italy, sometimes everyday and other times once a week.
|Type Of Market In Italy
|What They Sell
|A little bit of everything including food, clothes, fabric, flea, books, etc.
|Mercato (will usually have a specific name in relation to the geographical location of that market)
|Food, produce, vegetables, regional products, bread, honey, olive oil, etc.
|Farm to table produce, home goods, artisan products
|Antiques including books, paintings, furniture, lighting,
|Mercato delle pulci
|Vintage goods, used goods
|Mercato di cuoio/ pelle(a leather market may have a specific name other than this general term)
|Leather goods such as belts, bags, jackets, wallets
|Holiday Market (referring to a Christmas market in Italy)
|Mercato/Mercatino di Natale
|Christmas goodies including holiday treats, ornaments, chocolate, candy, spices, cookies, local goods, Christmas gifts and decorations.
|Foreign Market (French, German, for example)
|Mercato Francese, Tedesco, etc.
|Food and goods from a specific country or region such as at the French market selling croissants, baguettes, tea towels, lavender, French pottery, pâté, French cheese, etc.
|Mercato dei fiori
|Agricultural items, flowers, plants, seeds, bulbs, pots, etc.
General Markets In Italy
Mercati in general are large open air markets in Italy that sell a wide selection of goods and products that cater to every need and desire.
The concept of these markets in Italy is that someone living close by can come and get everything they need to live without going to several other stores. It’s still very common for elderly Italians to do most of their food, home and personal shopping at markets.
Good To Know: Markets in Italy can either be covered (indoors), on the street, in a piazza or both!
You will find venders selling:
- Food including produce, cured meats, cheese, and bread
- Clothing including shoes
- Towels, sheets, bath mats.
- Home goods such as brooms, mops, fabric, cleaning supplies
- Food trucks
- Pet supplies
- Sewing, knitting and repair items
My Favorite General Market In Italy: Sant’Ambrogio Market in Florence (indoors all food and outdoors is mixed, depending on the day)
Food Markets In Italy
Food markets in Italy can be interchangeable with farmers markets. Usually when we talk of a food market in Italy there will also be some artisan vendors also selling pottery, street food, homemade soaps, honey, etc.
A food market in general will not necessarily only have local farmers but also third party vendors that buy produce from the farmer and then sell to you.
Some food markets in Italy are specific to a certain category such as the pescaria at the Rialto Market in Venice;
My Favorite Food Market In Italy: Trionfale Market in Rome. To learn more about my favorite food markets in Italy read Food Markets in Italy.
Farmers Markets In Italy
Farmer markets in Italy known as fierucole, are specific markets with vendors selling their own items that they have produced, oftentimes organically. This includes items such as:
- Baked goods and bread
- Local cheese, dairy products and cured meats
- Hand carved wooden objects
- Handwoven fabrics, towels and tablecloths
- Handsewed clothing
- Hand crafted items such a jewelry or pottery
- Usually organic produce
- Foraged mushrooms and greens
True fierucole or farmers markets usually take place once a month in a city.
My Favorite Farmers Market In Italy: Fierucole in Piazza Santo Spirito in Florence (3rd Sunday of each month)
Antique Markets In Italy
Antique markets in Italy specialize in antique items including home wear, cutlery, furniture, lighting, books, paintings, jewelry, clothing and home decor.
The best antique markets take place only once a month and usually are made up of vendors from all over Italy.
My Favorite Antique Market In Italy: The antique market in Arezzo in which vendors set up tents throughout the town take place on the first Sunday of each month.
Flea Markets In Italy
The term flea market, known as un mercato delle pulci sometimes is used interchangeably with an antique market. You might find piles of used goods, clothing or stock items from a store but you most likely will also see vendors selling antiques or items that they don’t even know are antiques!
My Favorite Flea Market In Italy: Portici di Medicina Mercatino dell’antiquariato on the first Sunday of each month in (Provincia di Bologna)
Leather Markets In Italy
Leather markets are usually markets that take place every day or at least Monday-Saturday in a single location, most famously in Florence. They will sell every kind of item you could want made of leather including great souvenir and gift items such as belts, small change purses, coin holders, leather bowls, bracelets and keychains.
If you are on the market for a leather bag, jacket or wallet, you will find them here too. Be sure to walk around and chat up the vendors to find out more about where their products come from.
Unfortunately, many leather products sold in Italy are now made abroad. Ask the vendor where the leather is made and look for a “Made In Italy” stamp on the goods.
My Favorite Antique Market In Italy: Mercato Nuovo in Florence
Holiday Markets In Italy
Holiday markets in Italy usually refer to Christmas markets that usually start at the end of November and go through the night of Christmas Eve. They sell all sorts of traditional regional food, gift items, holiday decorations, drinks and items for children.
If you are visiting Italy in December, be sure to check out if there is a Christmas market being held in the cities or towns you are visiting.
My Favorite Christmas Market In Italy: Bressanone Christmas Market (Trentino-Alto Adige)
Tuscan Travelers: Don’t miss Montepulciano’s Christmas Market.
Special or Foreign Markets In Italy
These markets are usually rare, only once a year in a certain city and may or may not be outdoors.
These types of markets will usually be themed according to a specific geographical location. For example, a market selling all things relating to France or a market selling all international goods.
These markets will be advertised in newspapers, online and on local billboards so keep your eyes peeled.
Small markets will be held in squares outdoors while large events similar to trade shows will be held at an indoor venue usually with an entrance fee. A good example of these trade shows is the Artigianato in Fiera in Milan.
My Favorite Foreign Market In Italy: Mercatino Regionale Francese every spring in Florence.
Flower markets usually take place in the spring and the fall for one weekend. They are so beautiful and a great place for kids to run around outdoors (usually in a very green part of the city).
My Favorite Flower Market In Italy: La mostra dei fiori in Florence at il Giardino dell’Orticoltura (one weekend in the fall and one weekend in the spring)
When To Visit Markets In Italy
The best time to plan your visit to a market in Italy is early in the morning. Most farmers markets start around 8:00 am and go through 12:30 or 1:00 pm.
The earlier you get there, the more choice you will have in terms of selection and vendors. The most popular and best vendors are less crowded early in the morning and have the best selection of food, produce, household items or souvenirs and gifts.
Some vendors pack up and get out early around noon to avoid the chaos while others do so because they have sold out.
When Do Markets Take Place In Italy
Markets in Italy usually take place in the morning either everyday or for smaller villages and towns, one morning a week.
The best way to find out when the local market is held is to ask a local or ask at the tourist office.
Some markets in Italy also come in the shape of an annual or bi-annual event. In this case, they are better classified as trade shows or fairs but are often named as a market for advertising purposes.
Tip: If you have missed the local market and are looking to pick out the best produce, check out a small alimentari (a mom and pop small grocery that will have the best local selection). If not, grocery stores are your next best bet for fresh produce, food items and household goods.
How To Shop At Markets In Italy
Shopping at markets in Italy is slightly different then shopping in stores and grocery stores.
- Always do a walk through of the street market in Italy first to see what there is and all the possibilities and prices before you make purchases.
- Feel free to browse stands, touching non-food items and keeping paws off food items.
- Get the vendors attention by making eye contact, smile and say buongiorno, which will help let them know that you need help.
- Let the vendor serve you, offer advice and suggestions based on what you need, want and like.
- Pay with cash
- Always say goodbye and thank you, grazie e arrivaderci.
Good To Know: You are not expected to tip at markets in Italy. To read more about tipping expectations, read Tipping In Italy – When & How Much From A Local.
Guidelines For Shopping At Markets In Italy
- Greet the vendors: Even if you don’t actually purchase something from a vendor or stand, it’s common courtesy in Italy to smile and greet the vendor with a buongiorno if you are looking at what they are selling. When you have finished browsing, be sure to say grazie, arrivaderci.
- Don’t Touch The Produce: One of the biggest rules at a market is to not touch the produce or other food items that are being sold.
- Don’t Serve Yourself: Wait to be served by the vendor. It’s helpful to make eye contact with them to let them know you need help.
- Wait Your Turn: Italians don’t like to form lines. Be courteous and try to understand who came before and after.
- Carry Cash: For small purchases, cash is best. Larger purchases can be made with a card but not always.
- Bring Your Own Bags: It’s helpful to have your own bags with handles. Much of what you buy will be given to you in a small brown bag with no handle.
- Buy What’s Local: Buying seasonally is your best bet to the freshest and tastiest food.
- Always Bargain: Don’t be afraid to bargain. It’s natural and expected. Don’t expect to get deals on small purchases but if you are buying more than one or spending a lot of money (say on a leather bag), bargaining is a-ok!
- Only Take One Sample: Don’t take several samples, especially if you have no intention of buying from that stall.
- Don’t Eat And Drink While Browsing: Eat and drink outside the tents.
My Top Tips For Shopping At Markets In Italy
- Walk the market before purchasing. Get an idea of all the vendors before you make your decisions. You might find better bargains or other items you hadn’t intended to buy.
- Be specific about the kind of produce you want. Ask for fruit that is ready to eat now or specify if you are traveling and want it to last a couple of days.
- Feel free to touch clothing, household goods and other items at markets in Italy.
- Don’t touch food items.
- Hit the market in Italy early for the best selection and to beat the heat.
- Because the best markets in Italy are catering to locals, take a look around at surrounding shops, bars and restaurants as well, which are usually pretty good.
- Most clothing vendors have a small space to try on clothes with a mirror.
- Vendors often keep backstock. Ask if you don’t see your size or exactly what you are looking for.
- Don’t invite pickpockets by wearing a backpack.
More On Markets: For my tips and guidelines on shopping at street markets in Italy read 10 Rules for Shopping at Markets in Italy.
Helpful Vocabulary For Shopping At Markets In Italy
|I would like…
|May I try (it)?
|May I try…
|Cosa c’è di stagione?
|coh-zah cheh dee stah-joh-neh?
|What is in season?
|Cosa mi consiglia?
|coh-zah mee cohn-seel-yah?
|What would you recommend?
|Do you have…
|How much does it cost?
|Posso avere una busta?
|pohs-soh ah-veh-reh oon-ah boo-stah
|May I have a bag?
|Posso pagare con…
|poh-soh pah-gah-reh cohn…
|May I pay with…
|Una carta di credito
|cahr-ta dee creh-dee-toh
|A credit card
|Ho bisogno di aiuto
|oh bee-sohn-you dee ay-oo-toh
|I need help
|Ci sarebbe uno sconto?
|chee sahr-ehb-beh oon-oh skohn-toh
|Is there a discount?
|Se compro due, c’è uno sconto?
|seh kohm-proh doo-eh cheh oon-oh skohn-toh
|If I buy two, is there a discount?
|Chi è l’ultimo?
|kee eh lool-tee-moh
|Who is the last (person in line)?
|Half a kilo
|No thank you
|It costs too much
Numbers In Italian
Listen to me pronounce the numbers 0 – 10: