Livorno's Mercato Centrale a cultural treat, more than mere provisions for adventurous shoppers
March 29, 2013
VICENZA, Italy - Fresh fish, meat and poultry, fruit, vegetables and bread - just about everything and anything on a shopping list can be found in local mercati or markets. Same goes for clothing, household goods, Italian coffee, delicacies and fresh pasta - and on top of the shopping, local markets offer a look into the daily culture and true life of Italians.
One of the most historical, and some say most beautiful, covered markets in Europe is the Livorno Central Market - Mercato Centrale di Livorno. It is located in a large, 18th-century, art nouveau-style building on Aurelio Scali Saffi right next to the Royal Canal in Livorno.
There are five entrances leading to the main market area. The grandest of them is on the canal side of the building, with two large columns on each side and large iron shutters in the arch above the doors.
The inside is bright and airy because of the high, decorated ceilings and the natural light from the large arched windows. Iron trusses, finely decorated in a floral motif, line the interior of the main pavilion ceiling. Iron details and intricate cornices accentuate the structural details. It is art in service of daily life.
The market has undergone several renovations since it was finished in 1894. The largest followed World War II, when bombing devastated the city center. During this renovation the skylight over the main pavilion was installed.
The main pavilion currently houses 34 shops and 230 stalls presenting a mindboggling variety of foodstuffs. The Mercato Centrale di Livorno is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Adjacent to it, on Via Buontalenti, is the central clothes market, and one block from there is the outdoor fruit and vegetable market in Piazza Cavallotti. They are open at the same hours as the Mercato Centrale, or until they are sold out.
There are also several markets in the Pisa-Livorno area to appease even the pickiest shopper or eater. Almost all of them have the same opening hours, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
One of the busiest area markets is in Pisa on Via Buonarroti. This outdoor market takes place every Wednesday and Saturday. Vendors here sell a wide variety of clothing and household items.
The historic Piazza delle Vettovaglie offers a daily food market, just a block away from Borgo Stretto, the main pedestrian shopping street. This market dates back to the 16th century and the buildings adjoining it date back to the 11th and 12th centuries.
Marina di Pisa, Tirrenia and other beachfront towns have markets several days a week during the summer months, and some extended hours during Italian holidays. All the area markets offer anything a shopper can think of and a few things they would not even dream of.
There are very few towns or villages in Italy without their own market. Go out and look around to see an aspect of Italian culture, shop for bargains, people watch or just experience the lively atmosphere of Italian life.