Mercato Centrale (Central Market) – I will never forget this place. This is where I had my first authentic Italian pasta experience. Linguine al pesto, adorned with bite-sized pieces of green beans and potatoes, showered lovingly (and generously) with parmesan (?) cheese. I’m talking about FRESH pasta – wait half an hour – made to order pasta. Maybe even life-changing pasta. After my first bite, it made me cringe at the thought of going home to the boxes of dried grocery store pasta that were waiting patiently for me in the pantry. I should also mention that Mercato Centrale isn’t all about the pasta. That was only one of the good parts, along with the various other food options upstairs. Downstairs, you’ll find everything from fresh seafood, to fresh meat, to fresh fruits and vegetables. The main theme here is fresh. The only thing that wasn’t technically fresh was their dried goods. There are a few stores that sell risotto, olive oil, dried pasta, etc. – stuff that you can bring home as souvenirs.
Mercato di San Lorenzo (San Lorenzo Markets) – after you’re done enjoying the mind-blowing pasta from Mercato Centrale, the San Lorenzo Markets are conveniently located right outside. Two to three blocks-length of carts line the streets, selling things like magnets, keychains, shot glasses, jewelry, shoes, ties, scarves, and handbags. Though if you’re looking for a handbag made of real Italian leather, this is probably not the best place. The bags start from 20 Euros (though I’m sure you can haggle) but I’m pretty sure if it was real, the starting prices would be way higher. I also overheard someone saying that even though the bags indicate they’re ‘real Italian leather’, they’re actually made in China and then shipped over.