One of the best way to eat in Italy is to shop at a local market. From North to South, every city or small town has its own weekly market where you can buy seasonal fruit, vegetables, cheese, fresh fish and meat but also cheap clothing, shoes, bags, kitchen supplies and more!
These markets are usually set up in the main piazza with trucks and wagons displaying the goods. Prices are generally very convenient and some stall holders produce their own products, which are often fresher and better than those sold by big supermarket chains. Experiencing Siena’s food markets is the best way to really get in touch with local culture, meet and talk with Sienese people and indulge in some treats that will make your tastebuds scream “thank you!”.
Here are some suggestions.
Wednesday Morning Market
Spreading around Fortezza Medicea and the Artemio Franchi Stadium, this is one of the largest markets in Tuscany and it is very focused on locals and not geared to tourists. This is not necessarily a bad thing since visitors can get a glimpse inside the daily life of one of the most beautiful cities of the world. Although you can also find clothes, antiques and any kind of kitchen supplies, the food section here is extensive and very varied: fresh fish, meat, cheese and the most coloured and fragrant fruits and vegetables you will ever see – the Tuscan sun works wonders! The market tends to be very crowded and you will probably lost your sense of direction if you are not used to this kind of situations. Here’s a tip: be clever and follow the old ladies pulling their groceries carts as they are probably headed to the best butcher or fruit seller in town. It could be considered stalking, but at least you will eat the best meat on the market for dinner!
If you are visiting the Val D’Orcia area, the weekly markets of Asciano and San Quirico d’Orcia are very well appreciated by locals, and you will probably find some of the same vendors of the Siena market.
The Antiques market takes place in piazza Mercato on the third Sunday of every month selling old items, second-hand clothing, carpets and antiques. It is small, intimate and the majority of the sellers are Italian. Some of them also have a warehouse to visit if you are very interested in buying or repairing something in particular. But since we really love food here, you will also find stands with local produce, fruit jams and any type of street food.
The secret behind buying fresh products at the weekly market is to wake up very early and start shopping even 10-15 minutes before the official opening; everything is already set up and vendors won’t mind to sell a few things in this moment of calm before the storm – this is a very useful secret my grandmother and my mother passed on to me when I left my hometown and moved to Tuscany. If you are not a morning person, you can go to the Consorzio Agrario – in the heart of Siena – where you can find a fantastic selection of all things Tuscan: Pecorino cheeses, chocolate, handmade fresh handmade pici pasta and the famous (and delicious) Cinta Senese prosciutto.
In Italy, food shopping is not just something you need to do every once in a while to feed your family, it’s something more. Going to buy groceries at the local market, walking through the stalls, touching, tasting and feeling the intense smell of fresh food is not just a necessity, it’s the realest expression of our culture.