As many of you know, I love my food! Having a mother who was an excellent cook and a father who wholesales fruit and vegetables meant that we always ate excellent produce in abundance. So I love nothing more than a wander around a market and the opportunity to taste the latest seasons’ offerings. Last week I had the privilege of tagging along on a Market and Deli tour with Florence Urban Adventures. Linda Sorgiovanni was our fantastic tour guide. Apart from being a fellow Aussie – her knowledge of the local foods, wines (she is also a sommelier) and local suppliers was incredible and the two hour tour passed by way too quickly!
Even though I have lived here for over 12 years, it is always fascinating to see the city from someone else’s perspective. When you live somewhere for long enough and are bogged down with the daily responsibilities of work & family (and keeping yourself sane with two young boys), you can miss what is literally right under your nose! Take the Sant’Ambrogio market for example. I have always either shopped at the central market or the small local shops in my street. The Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio is five minutes from my home in San Niccolò but since having children, I am embarrassed to say that I had kind of forgot about how close it is and so don’t go there nearly enough. Seeing the market through Linda’s eyes and meeting some of the very colourful characters who work there was a refreshing re-introduction to my local market.
Firstly though we started our tour with a walk around the gourmet supermarket Pegna which has been supplying Florentines with the best of the best food products from Italy and afar since 1860, we walked to the market. Here we had a brief introduction to the local specialities; olive oils, balasamic vinegar, pastas and wine. Here you can also find Amedei chocolate, an award winning chocolate from nearby town, Pontedera. Amedei pride themselves on the excellence of manufacturing chocolate. This excellence emerged due to Cecilia Tessieri’s deep passion for chocolate and a desire to find the world’s best cocoa bean in order to produce the most exquisite chocolate possible. Her devotion to work, together with a continual search for perfection, have all factored into making Amedei what it is today. Linda bought us some of this chocolate which we ate on our way to the market. We also stopped for a cappuccino and bignet. Once at the market, we drooled over the freshly made pasta, frittelle and coccoli before sampling some fried polenta.
Then it was time to taste prosciutto. Crudo, cotto and prosicutto di Cinghiale (wild boar) together with some fresh and aged Pecorino cheese all prepared with lots of enthusiasm by Urbano, one of those lovely characters that adds so much colour to your market shop! (apparently you must give him one kiss for every photo taken!) He is also an expert salesman and after tasting all that he offers, you will walk away with much more that what you originally came to buy as happened to us this past weekend when I went back to see him to buy some prosciutto. We walked away with two types plus a kilo of tortellini (after I told him that I was cooking Bollito – boiled meats in broth).
As we left the market, we stopped at one of the best local places you can go for an authentic panino but I wont tell you where, you’ll just have to be an Urban Adventurer to discover this local jewel!
Florence Urban Adventures is owned by the Australian tour company,, Intrepid and has over 150 locations where they offer a local version of their specialised tours. In Florence, you can also choose a Florence Foodies Walk or an Aperitivo Wine Tour!
I highly recommend this tour for an informative introduction to Tuscan foods and traditions!