When business and beauty go hand in hand
Until the 1870’s Florence had one big market (known as “Mercato Vecchio”) in the area now occupied by Piazza della Repubblica. The place was highly crowded and insalubrious, causing frequent epidemics, so the city council decided to pull it down and build three separate markets, one for each of the most densely populated city quarters: the Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo
, the Mercato delle Erbe (or di Sant’Ambrogio) in Santa Croce
, and another market in San Frediano beyond the Arno (which however was closed in the early 20th C.). The great hall of the Mercato Centrale was opened in 1874 with an International Agricoltural Expo, and to this date retains a singular beauty. Built in iron and glass by Milanese architect Giuseppe Mengoni – designer of the impressive Vittorio Emanuele II Gallery linking Piazza Duomo with Piazza alla Scala in Milan – the building has huge glass windows providing a great deal of natural light, with the pleasing effect of an open-air market. In the late 1970’s an underground parking was created, while the massive hall was split into two floors: on the ground floor you will now find butchers, fishmongers, cheese stalls, general groceries and delicatessen, while the first floor is a triumph of colorful fruit, vegetables and flowers.