With the economic crisis in full swing, travelers are choosing to stay in more self-catering accommodations. Rental apartments in Florence give you the advantage of having a kitchen in which you can prepare local specialties and avoid tourist trap restaurants. You can save your money for a few special meals, and indulge in delicious lunches and some dinners at home. If you’ve rented an apartment downtown, in the Oltrarno, or just outside the center, you’re going to need to know where to stock up on the essentials, especially if you’re staying longer than a week. This map and list should help.

Le Cure piazza local market

TIP: One thing I’ve learned from experience is that many rental apartments don’t come with what I consider to be the essentials. If there’s a kitchen tool or food item that you can’t live without, bring it with you (a friend of mine, for example, carries a small high quality pepper grinder with her at all times, while I’ve been known to carry a single american cup measure and a grapefruit knife).

SECOND TIP: Most rental apartments come with plates and stuff, but often do not have any staples like sugar and salt. It is rare to find a place that has paper towels, sponge, and dish soap, so check before you go shopping and buy these items accordingly. You may also want to bring or buy a cloth dish towel.

Note that at Italian supermarkets, there are usually gloves and plastic bags provided to choose your fruit. You should don the glove, pick your food, and then weigh it at the weigh station. Sometimes you’ll need to note the number written on the sign of the item (example: arance, 3) and press the number. Other weigh areas have pictures that are usually ordered alphabetically by the item name.

Florence supermarkets map

Visualizza Supermarkets in downtown Florence in una mappa di dimensioni maggiori

Supermarkets in downtown Florence

Look at the map for the various locations of: Supermercato Il Centro, Standa, Conad. These little places usually have the essential dry goods at a premium, and a limited selection of fruits and vegetables in packages (bagged salad, a tray of bananas, etc). Your best bet for these fresh items is to purchase them at a local “fruttivendolo” near your apartment. You’ll spend a premium but they’ll be good quality, and you’ll have human contact with an opportunity to practice your italian.

update Fall 2010: Il centro has been popping up everywhere lately and it’s pretty convenient. In particular, the strategically located branch across from the Academia museum has a take-out window with prepared foods that you can eat in nearby Piazza san Marco if you’re on the run.

Update June 2014: The new line of Conad “Sapori e Dintorni” stores are excellent quality and have some good prepared food options with competitive prices.

Conad Sapori e Dintorni interior
Conad Sapori e Dintorni interior

Larger supermarkets just beyond downtown

Esselunga via Masaccio – just past piazza della Liberta’ may be one of the closest locations of this large chain
Standa via Gioberti is a large supermarket with a fresh fish section, just beyond the ring walls (not far from the Archivio di Stato) and easily accessible on the bike path.

Supermarket home delivery option

Esselunga, the major chain in this area of Italy, delivers for a reasonable price. Consider making a large online order and scheduling a delivery for the day you arrive, especially if you have children and need to order diapers, bottled water, and baby food. The website is in italian and you need to register to use the online shopping and delivery. To test the site before buying you can click on “visita libera al supermercato” and see if you’re able to navigate it.

Local markets

The two major markets in Florence are Sant’Ambrogio and San Lorenzo. The San Lorenzo market is of course a tourist destination; the outside area is known for leather and trinket vendors. The building at the center, open every morning except sundays, has fish, meat, fruit and veg, as well as a few tourist dry goods stores. The Sant’Ambrogio market is well frequented by locals and probably has the best produce in town. Outside stands sell random clothing and home goods.
Each residential area usually has its own market located in a central piazza. These markets operate every morning except sunday and start closing down around noon. There may be only one or two produce vendor carts amongst home and clothing vendors, but you can often get excellent fruit and vegetable at these local markets. See map for locations in Le Cure and others.

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