This Sunday 14 January 2024 we ended the celebration of is the mile stone of 150 years old of our St. Ambrogio Market, one of the favorite of Florentine.
Based on ideas drawn from the Halles Centrales market in Paris and the Covent Garden and Hungerford markets in London, Poggi proposed a system of covered marketplaces with a huge central market bordered by several smaller local markets. The new central market will be located in San Lorenzo’s Camaldoli neighborhood, with additional sites in Sant’Ambrogio and San Frediano (now defunct). The construction of the San Lorenzo market was unpopular since many densely populated, decrepit buildings had to be expropriated and demolished, but this was not the case for the other two markets, where the chosen locations were primarily covered in vineyards or vegetable and flower gardens.
In fact, the covered market of Sant’Ambrogio inhabited the “Ortone,” a herb garden originally owned by the nuns of the Santa Verdiana convent. In its stead, in the centre of the newly established piazza Ghiberti, a cast iron and glass structure was built, similar to the new San Lorenzo market but smaller in scale and less majestic. Giuseppe Mengoni was hired to design all three new markets. The Sant’Ambrogio building, which was inaugurated in 1873 (a year before the central market, which was unveiled alongside an International Exhibition of Agriculture, and two years before the covered market in piazza dei Nerli in San Frediano), stands out for its usefulness.
The three-metre-high outer walls are made of brick and are divided by gray cast iron columns that support the upper half of the building, which is enclosed by grill-style green iron panels to allow air to circulate inside. The pavilion’s roof is also cast iron and features the same grill structure for ventilation. Guppy e C., a Neapolitan company that built the building, imported the trellis beams from Belgium. The lower cornice is adorned with Florentine fleurs-de-lis, and intricate grey cast iron gates guard the numerous entries to the market corridors.
Because the surface area of the Sant’Ambrogio market could not be expanded, the wholesale food section was relocated to a new market in Novoli, which was then on the outskirts of town but conveniently accessible to the highway and airport. Work to consolidate the cast iron columns and metal structures in need of repair began in 1984, and additional roof work was completed in 2011. The building was additionally painted, and the lighting was upgraded. More recently, on June 6, 2018, the City of Florence dedicated 250,000 euros to improve access to the main piazza of the San Lorenzo market, including the loading port, as well as to eliminate obstacles entering the central corridor of the Sant’Ambrogio market.
Fruit and vegetables, spices, gastronomic specialties, flowers and plants, new and vintage clothes, leather goods, perfumes, and costume jewelry can all be found there, while inside the covered market, meat, poultry, fish, cheese, bread stalls, and a small supermarket selling multicolored grains and dried legumes from sacks, among other delicacies, abound. Customers can also eat and drink at Rocco’s classic Tuscan trattoria (since 1987), the tripe vendor, the bar, and, since October 2017, the “risto-macelleria,” a 19-seat terrace-restaurant above the Menoni butcher’s stall that has the only view of the closed market from above. Although active every day of the week except Sunday, there is a real energy on Saturday mornings when the market becomes the center of this area and the south of Florence.
If you like to know more about the city of Florence, come with us to discover the renascence town of Florence for Free. We are starting our tour from Santa maria Novella square, in front of Minerva Hotel.