Norfolk Needs a Mercato Centrale

When we were in Florence, Italy in September, we happened upon the Mercato Centrale, or Central Market. Between Via dell’Ariento and Via San Antonio is a building about the size of Norfolk’s Waterside Festival Marketplace (I’m not great at spatial awareness, so don’t hold me to that), filled with row upon row of booths selling an amazing variety of fresh and preserved fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, herbs, spices, wines, oils and vinegars, flowers and prepared foods I think I’ve ever seen. I wished I could buy a week’s worth of groceries and start cooking, but we were staying in a hotel with no kitchen in the room (it had a great breakfast buffet and I stuffed myself on prosciutto, but that’s another story…)

The City of Norfolk, Virginia, is looking for a new concept to transform the aging Waterside Festival Marketplace on the Elizabeth River in downtown Norfolk. Dan and I were talking about this recently and he said, “They should turn it into a food market like the Mercato Centrale in Florence.” There’s lots of easy parking, and it’s close to I-264, not to mention the ferry from Portsmouth, to bring shoppers from all parts of Hampton Roads. The Buy Fresh, Buy Local movement is taking hold here with more and more consumers interested in purchasing fresh, locally grown and raised groceries, and the cruise ships that dock nearby bring tourists interested in taking home Virginia-grown products.

What do the rest of you Hampton Roads residents think? What do we need to do to help make this happen?

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