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January 21, 2019

Shopping at Italian Supermarkets

supermarket shopping vegetables in Tuscany

Start your shopping by grabbing a cart from the ‘garage’ in the parking area. Supermarket carts require a 1 Euro coin to release them from the lock. Return the shopping cart and insert the key from the previous cart to get your coin back. Shopping baskets wait for you inside the entrance of the store. Some baskets you can drag along by extending the handle. Stores are usually closed on Sundays, except during summer, when big supermarkets are open 7 days a week. Some small shops are closed also on Monday or Wednesday mornings, as the same staff works half-a-day on Saturdays. Note the opening hours of the grocery store or supermarket closest to your villa.

Weigh Your Fruit and Vegetables

The biggest difference to American stores is that in Italy you must weight and fix the price label on loose Fruit and Vegetables before you join the cue at the check-out counter. Put on the plastic glove and pull a bag from the dispenser. At the fruit and vegetable bins you find that each item has a number (Taso). The scales have this same number and also a picture of the product. You place the bagged item on the scale and make your 1st selection. Are you weighing fruit or vegetables? Press the picture of your choice, and the next screen has a grid of items. Locate you bananas or tomatoes, and punch the corresponding number. A coded price sticker pops out with a bar code, and you fix it on the bag. You might notice that these bags are now biodegradable and flimsy. Remember to put on the plastic gloves when handling loose fruit and vegetables. Italians might frown with disapproval if don’t. You find gloves and bag dispensers, and the scales, all around. If you are in doubt, watch what the Italian shoppers do, and you’ll learn this system quickly.

Delicatessen number system

Deli counters have a number system for service, pick up your ticket from the dispenser roll. Since you need to speak with the deli attendant, might be useful to have pen and paper handy so you can write the amount of stuffed olives you want. Pointing helps, and finally, you can show with your hands and fingers the size of Gorgonzola cheese you want them to cut. Some deli items are priced per 100 grams = etto, so be careful if the price seems very low. Especially steaks, fish and seafood are often marked with this 1/10th of a kilo price. You see this also in restaurants, so beware, that lobster on the menu might look ridiculously cheap, but it’s not.

Check-out and self service

Bring shopping bags with you, or buy a durable large carry bag at the check-out counter, they cost very little. If the bags are behind the counter, ask for una busta = one bag, due buste, grazie = two bags, thanks. The self-service automated check-outs have arrived in Italy, too. They are most convenient if you buy only a few items and are familiar with this system at home. Best part is that you can choose the machine to speak English!

Wine and Liquor Stores

Wine shops populate Tuscan towns prominently, and you can usually taste before you buy. Many wine shops offer some food as well, making these a favorite lunch place for tourists. We don’t have Liquor Stores in Italy. Here you can buy the ingredients for the delightful negroni cocktail (equal parts of gin, Campari and Martini Rosso) at any sizable supermarket. But still, you need to be 18 or over.

Commonly seen Stores

Alimentari = the grocery store
Macelleria = the butcher shop.
Farmacia = the pharmacy and displaying a Green Cross
Forno = the bakery
Pasticceria = the cake shop
Enoteca = the wine bar, where you can taste and buy local wines
Bar = both a coffee shop and a bar, and they sell cigarettes
Osteria = a wine bar with food, a tavern, a public house, an inn
Trattoria = an informal restaurant, a tavern
Ristorante = a restaurant, usually more upscale than a Trattoria
Pizzeria = well, that you already know ….

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