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 - the Italian way

Modena's Historical Market - Mercato Albinelli

Come find the heart of Modena's famous food culture at Mercato Albinelli.

Fruits and vegetables in a market with a fountain nearby

Market shopping forms the cornerstone of Italy's culinary culture and in foodie city, Modena, this historical, indoor market is close to celebrating its 100th birthday. Its here at 7 o'clock in the morning, you'll find restaurant chefs brushing shoulders with busy nonne in search of the freshest produce of the day, you may even bump into Massimo Bottura from Osteria Francescana.

Mercato Albinelli is the city of Modena's go-to spot for regional specialities with all you could ever ask for under one, big Art Nouveau roof. You can stop by for fruits and veg, find seasonal inspiration for lunch, top up on balsamic vinegar and other kitchen staples like local olive oil, aged Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh, creamy cheeses. You can buy your meat, fish and eggs for the day, grab a loaf of bread and then sit down for cappuccino e brioche because all this happened before breakfast! If you decide to drop by in your pausa pranzo, find a spot at the wooden tables and pick a wine - perfectly accompanied by slices of Prosciutto di Parma and Modena's flat breads, tigelle. Grab an orange, a peach or a punnet of strawberries and wash them in the fountain to munch on your way back to work, strolling under tranquil, celeste skies to the sounds of glasses clinking from nearby restaurants. This is the slow life, the good life, la dolce vita.

People hacing lunch at tables on a wide piazza with Italian church

Over 100 stalls fill the busy market 6 days a week from 7 o'clock to 3 in the afternoon. Many of these are family businesses handed down through generations, proudly keeping their trade alive. You'll find fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables, a seafood and fish stall, cheese and cured meats stalls, breads, pickles and antipasti galore. There are local wine merchants who offer a glass at their simple, wooden tables and fresh pasta stalls selling homemade gnocchi and polenta. The butchers have been here for decades as have the cake sellers with their local wares. Step through the black wrought iron gates off via Luigi Albinelli or access the market from the secondary entrance on Piazza XX Settembre and you step into years of tradition.

Black iron gates of Mercato Albinelli with people having lunch nearby.

The History of Mercato Albinelli

Founded in October 1931, the market was Mayor Luigi Albinelli's drive to put a roof over his vendors' heads and spruce up the hygiene of a long-standing town market packed into Piazza Grande. The area chosen to house Modena's new market was the old Contrada Carceri which by the name, suggests where the old prisons stood and where one could already find butchers and fishmongers selling their wares on the square. After an extensive restoration project, 1000 square metres of covered market space was designed in Art Nouveau style to encase Modena's newest market decked out with marble fish counters, running water at every stall and a special system to clean the floors. In the centre, a fountain was fashioned - the pretty statue of a girl carrying a basket of fruit: La fanciullina con canestro di fiori” by Giuseppe Graziosi, a local sculptor.

Since then, the market has increased in stall numbers and is now visited by an average of 30 000 people a week! It's an unmissable spot in the serenely potent city of Modena who holds many a claim to her fame. You'd never guess Modena was home to Ferrari and Lamborghini, Luciano Pavarotti, Osteria Francescana ('World's Best Restaurant' voted twice) and culinary delicacies like Aceto Balsamico and Lambrusco which are all produced here. Modena is one of the 'foodiest' of hubs in Italy's central region of Emilia Romagna that boasts the most IGP (Geographically Protected Products) in the whole of the country. You'd be forgiven for soaking up the bright sunshine, lounging on wide, open piazze, sipping on Lambrusco and thinking this was a sleepy place, just like I almost did...

Wine bottles in a market stall with wooden tables and empty glasses.

Local Specialties to Sample

Make sure to seek out these regional specialities at Mercato Albinelli. The stall holders are always friendly and keen to chat 'food', especially their own region's. They'll offer up recipe suggestions or let you taste samples whilst heartily suggesting local produce to try. Here are a few not to miss:

Italian cured meats in a glass counter with bottles on the shelf behind.

Tigelle are Modena's palm-sized flat breads made between iron or clay discs and best warmed and stuffed with creamy, spreadable stracchino cheese, mortadella, cured meats or grilled vegetables, also known as Crescentine.

Tortellini are Emilia Romagna's pride and joy. Sold by weight, find piles upon piles of tortellini strictly made the traditional way.

Glass market counter with balsamic vinegar bottles and local cheeses.

Aceto Balsamico di Modena must be sampled here in Modena, its home! There are different variants according to age mainly but the taste is simply incredible - a lot like a fortified wine, it is often treated as such. If there's one thing you go home with, pick this!

Lambrusco is one of Italy's rare sparkling, red wines. Light in colour and fresh in fruity flavours, before you knock it, you have to try it! This is the best place to do that. Pull up a chair at the little market wine stall and ask your host for, 'Un bicchiere per favore."

Parmigiano Reggiano from the city of Reggio Emilia, 30 km west along the A1, is another local product which will leave you with a lasting memory. Forget all you know about cheesy pasta dishes, this stuff is gold. Crumbly, crystally, tangy and simply divine just on its own, or perhaps with a glass of Lambrusco?

Gnocco fritto - the 'fried gnocco' (yes gnocchi are plural) is a golden, puffed-up pillow of deep-fried dough which the Modenesi love for breakfast with jam or with meats ad cheeses for lunch. Definitely one worth trying, you won't find it anywhere else.

Mamma mia, all this regional food talk has made me hungry!

I'm off to find the closest market.

What are you having for lunch?

Mercato Albinelli Market Stalls:

Open from Monday to Friday 7am -3pm and Saturday's 7am -7pm.

Restaurants and Bars:

Open from Monday to Sunday midday to 3pm and 6.30am to 11pm.

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