Along the Fosso Reale where you find one of the waterways that runs through the city of Livorno - giving it the charm of a 'little Venice' - you'll see the architectural gem of the late 19th century, the Mercato delle Vettovaglie, otherwise known as the Mercato Centrale or Mercato Coperto.
It was built according to a design by the Italian architect and engineer Angiolo Badaloni, based on the model of Les Halles, the traditional central market of Paris. The Parisian touches are found in the structure of the upper part which is made of iron and glass reminiscent of the Eiffel Tower, so much so that it has been dubbed the Petit Louvre.
The Mercato delle Vettovaglie was inaugurated in 1894; Badaloni not only built one of the buildings that would later become one of the symbolic places of Livorno, but he also built the largest covered market in Italy and one of the largest in Europe.
The architectural work was commissioned by the mayor of the time, with the intent of economic revitalization and improvement of the existing market structure. It became not only a centre devoted to food trade, but also that of culture and art. Among the offices on the second floor, it housed the studio of one of the most influential painters and sculptors of the 20th century, Amedeo Modigliani. According to tales, it seems that the artist, while in the throes of despair, had thrown some of his sculptures right in the stretch of the ditch near the market. In recent times, the works were recovered and initially attributed to the master, but they then turned out to be a sensational forgery.
During the Second World War, the damage to the structure of the market was enormous, but the local administration and the citizens themselves restored the building to its original splendour as we can still see it today when walking through the charming streets of Livorno. The Mercato delle Vettovaglie is an unmissable stop during a visit to the city of Labronica for the architectural beauty, the tasty local specialties, and the numerous events organized.