One of the best ways to experience Italy’s culture and flavours 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 of the town with trucks and wagons displaying the goods. Prices are generally competitive and some stall holders produce their own products, which are often fresher and better than those sold by big supermarket chains (spot these as the ones with seasonal goods and no stickers on the food). Experiencing Siena‘s food markets is the best way to really get in touch with local culture, meet and talk with locals and indulge in some treats that will make your tastebuds say “thank you!”.
Siena Wednesday Morning Market
Spreading around Siena’s Fortezza Medicea and the Artemio Franchi Stadium, this is one of the largest markets in Tuscany and it is very focused on local needs. This weekly Wednesday market, also called “Mercato dela Lizza” for the area, lets visitors get a glimpse of 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 colourful 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 loose your way if you are not used to these kinds of things. 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 on the upside you’ll have a great dinner!
Siena Antique Market
The Antique market in Siena takes place in piazza Mercato on the third Sunday of every month. Vendors here sell a range of old items, second-hand clothing, carpets and antiques. This is a small market where the vendors bring out the best stuff from their warehouses, but often you can ask about other items if you are very interested in buying or repairing something in particular. You will also find stands with local produce, jams and 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 selling 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.
Mercato di Campagna Amica della Colonna San Marco
A new entry in the Siena market scene is one run by Campagna Amica, a foundation that brings together farm growers and agritourist producers in regular markets around Italy. Located in a residential area (via Paolo Frajese), you’ll find vendors specialized in single products, and very seasonal vegetables, as well as specialties like honey, cinta senese meats, legumes, fresh pasta etc.
Markets outside of Siena
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; often vendors do the rounds of the area’s markets, so you may find the same producer one day in Siena, the next elsewhere. Here’s a short list of some of the top markets in the province of Siena.
- Asciano (Crete Senesi): second Sunday of the month
- Buonconvento: antiquest market on the last Sunday of the month
- Colle val d’Elsa: every Friday
- San Gimignano: Thursday mornings
- Gaiole in Chianti: the second monday of the month in the afternoon!
- Montepulciano every thursday
- Montalcino every friday morning
Bonus idea: our friend Giulia – who often writes on this blog – lives not far from us in Val D’Elsa and offers a delicious market to table cooking class. This would be a great option if you want to experience a local market and don’t have a kitchen in which to savour its products!
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. So if you’re staying at Dievole, even if you don’t have a kitchen, we warmly recommend visiting these Siena markets or those in nearby towns in order to have the experience, and maybe savour a few fruits or pick up some edible gifts to bring home.