The best markets in Bologna are bursting with exquisite food, vibrant flowers, rare vintage goods, and local handicrafts. The city values artistry, whether that's handwoven fabric, artisan silver, or gourmet food. Many markets have been around for centuries, making them worth a visit as much for the beautiful period buildings as the merchandise.

    Bologna has a reputation for culinary splendour, so it's no surprise that the food markets here are sensational. Taste regional delicacies and indulge in decadent gelato or stock up on bottles of organic wine and olive oil. Dive in with the locals and bag a bargain at these flourishing Bologna markets.

    1

    Mercato Piazzola

    A historic market that attracts bargain hunters

    Mercato Piazzola has been a fixture at Bologna's Piazza VIII Agosto since 1251 when local farmers would trade their livestock here. More than 400 stalls selling clothing, homewares, crafts and food are set up at the marketplace every Friday and Saturday.

    The bulk of the market is clothes and accessories, including hats, handbags, belts, shoes, jewellery, perfume, and cosmetics. You can also buy rolls of beautiful fabrics, sewing equipment, sheets, and tea towels. Grab some snacks from the food stalls and have a picnic in Parco della Montagnola, a charming formal garden just north of the market.

    Location: Piazza VIII Agosto, 40126 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Friday–Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm

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    2

    Mercato di Mezzo

    Grab a mix-and-match meal at Bologna's oldest food market

    Mercato di Mezzo has been delighting the city's gourmets since medieval times. It's housed in an attractive 19th-century building and sells food products you won't find anywhere else. Highlights include organic wines, handmade pasta and gnocchi, fresh seafood, aged meat, and all kinds of bread and pastry delicacies.

    The main action is on the ground floor, where a central food court is surrounded by small independent vendors. Shop around the stalls for various snacks and small plates, then grab a seat at the communal wooden tables. Upstairs, there's an excellent pizzeria, while the basement has a craft brewery serving beer and hamburgers.

    Location: Via Clavature, 12, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 11 pm, Friday–Saturday from 10 am to midnight (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +39 37 9185 5172

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    3

    Mercato dell'antiquariato Santo Stefano

    The surroundings are as historic as the merchandise

    Santo Stefano Antiques Market (Mercato dell'antiquariato Santo Stefano) takes place every month in the pretty, historic square of Piazza Santo Stefano. At the centre of the square is Santo Stefano Basilica, a complex of medieval religious buildings with some gorgeous frescoes. It's a great spot to hunt for collectables or pick up something to decorate your home.

    Music lovers will enjoy the stalls of old vinyl, and there's plenty for collectors of military memorabilia, art or pottery. Keep an eye out for retro posters and postcards, vintage photographs, and religious icons. Take a break at one of the pavement cafes lining the square, or grab a gelato to eat as you walk around.

    Location: Via Santo Stefano, 24, 40125 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: 2nd Saturday and Sunday of the month from 8.30 am to 6 pm (open until 7 pm in July and August)

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    4

    Mercato Ritrovato

    Quality, eco-friendly food from local farmers

    Mercato Ritrovato is a sustainable food market in Bologna that sells seasonal fare direct from the producers. Its fresh fruit and vegetables are all grown in the immediate area, as part of Italy's so-called 'zero-kilometre' food philosophy. Shop for fresh pasta, organic wine, raw cheese, regional honey, Adriatic fish, and fair-trade coffee.

    Check out Vigne dei Boschi's biodynamic wines, balsamic vinegar aged in oak barrels at Acetaia Oddolini, or raw cheese from the Savena valley at Lama Grande. If you're after a snack, there's a roast chestnut stand on the back of a bike and several stalls selling artisan sweets. Cooking classes, workshops, tasting sessions, live music and dancing all take place there regularly.

    Location: Via Azzo Gardino, 65, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: January–May and September–November: Saturday from 9 am to 2 pm. June–August: Monday from 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm

    Phone: +39 32 8139 6004

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    5

    Mercato dei Fiori di San Francesco

    A colourful display of flowers and plants

    Mercato dei Fiori di San Francesco is a market that specializes in plants of all kinds. It takes place in a piazza outside the 13th-century Gothic church of Basilica di San Francesco. The historical piazza is a particularly beautiful sight early in the morning when stallholders arrive with their bright displays of flowers.

    What you can buy depends on the time of year, but there are flowers of all kinds, plus aromatic plants, herbs, and sometimes small fruit trees. Italian regions have their own special plants, so you might come across roses from Liguria or sunflowers from Tuscany. Come in spring for the most radiant display and a wonderful aroma of things in bloom.

    Location: Piazza S. Francesco, 8/7, 40123 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Tuesday from 8 am to 1 pm

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    6

    Mercato Bolognina

    A delicious way to spend a few hours

    Mercato Bolognina is a sheltered market which covers the pedestrian stretch of Via Francesco Albani, in the middle of Bologna's old town. It's one of Bologna's more authentic markets, where you can rub shoulders with residents doing their weekly grocery shopping. Stalls of fresh vegetables sit next to stands of marinated olives, cured sausages, chutneys, and preserves.

    Visit Caseificio Morandi Bologna for a wide variety of cow and goat milk cheeses, as well as delicious fresh yoghurt. Mucho Gusto Gelateria is popular for its ice cream, which comes in flavours like amaretto and bubble waffle. The street is home to several bars, and you can finish your shopping with a glass of wine at Il Pollaio or an aperitif at Bollore.

    Location: Via Francesco Albani, 10, 40129 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 7.30 am to midnight, Sunday from 3 pm to midnight

    Phone: +39 34 0325 9974

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    7

    Interscambio Bologna

    Discover eclectic antiques and unusual vintage finds

    Interscambio Bologna is a shop and flea market in Bologna that sells all things antique and vintage. Don't be fooled by the small upper gallery and its curated selection of art and furniture. Head down to the basement for a sprawling treasure trove where you might find anything from period telephones to old playing cards.

    Have a rummage among the antique furniture, ceramics, glassware, period bicycles, old suitcases, and racks of vintage clothes. They also have a wide selection of old books, comics, and magazines. You're sure to find something that will fit in your suitcase in the glass cases filled with silver photo frames and antique hand mirrors.

    Location: Via Marconi 29, Galleria Marconi, 1/c, 40122 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Monday–Friday from 10 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 7 pm (closed on weekends)

    Phone: +39 05 124 7483

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    8

    Mercato delle Erbe

    An energetic mix of food vendors, restaurants, and bars

    Mercato delle Erbe is the biggest food market in central Bologna. It's housed in an imposing porticoed building from the early 20th century, with entrances on Via Belvedere and Via San Gervasio. You can do your grocery shopping at its fruit, vegetable, meat, and cheese stalls or grab dinner at the onsite food court.

    Stock up on fresh pasta, stuffed dumplings, fresh bread, gourmet cheese and all kinds of olives. There are also several traditional wine merchants where you can pick up local wines and have a chat with the genial vendors. The central food court gets packed at dinnertime, so come before 8 pm if you want to get a table.

    Location: Via Ugo Bassi, 25, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 7 am to midnight (closed on Sundays)

    Phone: +39 33 5597 1753

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    9

    Mercato Artigianale

    Check out the work of Bologna's local artisans

    Mercato Artigianale is also known as San Giuseppe Colours, after the street where it takes place. The market is a chance for local artisans to show off not just their merchandise but also their skills. Wander the stalls and you'll see vendors weaving on looms, blowing glass, working metal, and demonstrating their expert techniques.

    Among the stalls you can find cosy blankets, silk scarves, handmade jewellery, leather bags and stationery, to name just a few. If you're looking for charming homeware, you're sure to find it among the stalls of bowls, vases and candle holders. Many pieces are unique, with particular attention paid to quality materials and careful craftsmanship.

    Location: Via S. Giuseppe, 40121 Bologna BO, Italy

    Open: Hours vary by season

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    10

    Il Quadrilatero

    Enjoy a drink in Bologna's oldest pub

    Il Quadrilatero is a maze of narrow alleys and medieval buildings in the oldest part of Bologna. Enter through the imposing arched entrance off Piazza Maggiore, Bologna's central square. The area's cobbled streets are home to many butchers, bakers, grocers, delicatessens, and other gourmet food shops, along with a few upmarket fashion brands.

    Look out for the excellent local cheeses and cured meats, traditional silversmiths, and historic pharmacies. Many of the shops have been in the same family for generations and still sell the same traditional products. End the day with a glass of regional wine at Osteria del Sole, a 15th-century pub on Vicolo Ranocchi.

    Location: Quadrilatero, 40124 Bologna BO, Italy

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    Victoria Hughes | Contributing Writer

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