It is well-known that tourists have always been in love with Italian food and wine, but the fact that the latter are fundamental elements in planning a trip to Italy is a phenomenon that we have only began to observe in the past few years.
According to the “First Report on Italian Food and Wine Tourism” – drafted by Roberta Garibaldi under the scientific supervision of the World Food Travel Association and the University of Bergamo – Italy offers 825 Protected Geographical Indication products, 5056 traditional agri-food products, close to 335 thousand food service businesses, over 23 thousand farm stays, 114 themebased museums related to food, and 173 “strade del vino e dei sapori” (roads of wine and tastes) to tourists from all around the world. As well as enjoying typical products, most popular activities include market exploration (82%), the search for historic cafés and restaurants (72%), as well as visits to farms (62%) and wine cellars (56%).
Tourists seek to find local products, listen to the stories behind them, meet their producers, and of course taste them. Markets are excellent places to get to know a city and area: they narrate their most authentic soul through the colours, scents, crowds, and of course the products.
Some have preserved their historic structure, like the Pignasecca in Naples, the Ballarò in Palermo, or the Rialto in Venice. Others have evolved through new features, including cooking lessons, new dishes, events and tastings, and even cutting-edge architectures. In 2014, in a historic building made of clad iron and glass designed by Giuseppe Mengoni, the Mercato Centrale (central market) opened in Florence. At the ground floor, it features the traditional butcheries, fish stores, fruit and vegetable stands, and little shops selling local specialties. The top floor has instead been completely renewed and re-opened with a designer’s touch, boasting 500 seats and a host of opportunities, including 12 shops, a space dedicated to the Chianti Classico consortium, a restaurant, a pizzeria, a pub, a café, a cooking school, a wine-tasting school, and a bookshop. Given its great success, the Florence format has been duplicated at the Central Market in Termini train station, Rome, in 2016, and at Porta Palazzo, Turin, in 2019, with the Milan central station venue soon following.
The MOG (Genoa oriental market) also opened in 2019. It includes 11 street food stands focused on local tradition, as well as a café, a wine shop, a cooking school, and a bread-making school at the top floor (about 2,000 m2 – over 21,500 ft2 in total), with the traditional market stands remaining at the ground floor.