Welcome to our latest installment of Florence’s Monthly Markets! This is a particularly exciting entry because this may be – nay, it IS – my favorite market in Florence. I mean, I try and get friends to plan trips around being here for the third week of the month simply to partake in this joyous event. Clearly, I am partial.
For this month’s post, we are returning to the lovely piazza of Santo Spirito, where, on the 3rd Sunday of the month, the so-called Fierucola Market takes place. Also known (ummm…by me) as the “organic market,” their official website describes the offerings as falling into the categories of “organic farming on a small scale, manual crafts, and ‘common’ life.” Yes, yes, and perhaps something got lost in the translation on that last one. Either way, I’m in. Tell me more.
Fierucola Market (Organic Market):
When: 3rd Sunday of every month (see calendar below)
Time: All day: 9am – 7pm (though it is best to go early before specialty food items sell out!)
Where: Santo Spirito (see map below)
Notes: Cash (almost exclusively, and small bills always preferred)
The name Fierucola has quite a story behind it (for full details go to their official site, open in Chrome and click “translate”). It derives from a word used to describe the farmers, specifically female farmers, who came into Florence during special holidays to sell their goods – and not in a good way. This disparaging label that referenced these women’s “uncouth” manners in comparison to the fine Florentine ladies is now worn with pride and given a positive twist for the farmers of Tuscany and they stand by their long history:
Today it is believed that the profession of farming is only a vestige of a now outdated past. The Fierucola is founded on the opposite assumption, namely:
• That industrial agriculture is not agriculture, but rather an industry that cannot guarantee the quality of its food;
•That without the small local farm, there can be no rural development;
•That the productivity in a small, non-specialized farm is much higher than in an industrial monoculture and financial investments, that is to say, the cost to the community is infinitely lower;
•That manual labor along with the necessary knowledge is the key element of work and of human intelligence and can in no way be replaced.
Basically, don’t mess with these guys. They mean business. Don’t be surprised to see photos of the goats and sheep that provided the milk that produced the insanely fresh and humanely made cheese you’re eating. Do not expect to find any bread made from white flower. Expect all handmade products to be sold to you by the person who made them, if they are not actually still making them right in front of you. Basically, in a nutshell, amazing.
I usually go to get cheese, for which there are so many options that for the last year I have had a different one each time (though I am a sucker for Tomino and get that if there is any left). The cheeses tend to be divided between capra (goat) or pecora (sheep), as farmers often work with one or the other. Try them all if you are not sure which you like best, but you can also follow the lines which tend to form around the most popular stands. If you are a die-hard, go early…as in 9 or 10am or the best stuff will be gone.
There are also veggie stands and the people who work them have an intimate knowledge of their products. Looking for a new recipe or an introduction to a vegetable you’ve never seen or heard of? Ask them! They know the best way to cook it and the next month you can tell them how well it turned out before selecting your next vegetable adventure (Note, “Vegetable Adventure” is now a trademarked name for our future – albeit, as of yet, nonexistent – band. Hands off).
Along with the food products that usually burn a hole right through my wallet, there are also a slew of handmade products. Some of my favorites include handmade hats, baskets, pottery, jewelry, blankets made from freshly spun wool, and hand carved olive wood. There is also a woman who makes (before your very eyes) hand-woven stools akin to rattan (but not with palm leaves). Need to ask her what it is called…regardless, it is insanely impressive and makes me feel endlessly untalented every time I see it (don’t worry, it’s healthy and helps motivate).
Even if you’re not buying, this is a feast for the eyes and, like all the Florence markets, it’s a social gathering and a great way to start a Sunday. For more tips on what to do after the market, check out our first blog about a certain Flea Market on the 2nd Sunday in Santo Spirito