Wave goodbye to the endless Costco-sized peanut butter aisle, and say hello to your new supermarket, probably smaller than your average American house but fully equipped with anything you might be craving: locally produced fruit and vegetables, authentic European chocolate, freshly baked bread, and copious amounts of pasta. However, unless you want to be stared down by a disapproving middle-aged Italian, we’d recommend remembering a few grocery shopping tips…here are some Italian supermarket do’s & don’ts to consider on your weekly trip to the shops.
Lost in translation?
If this were a ‘Mission Impossible’ movie, you’d be Tom Cruising your way through the supermarket in no time with this tip: pre-prepare your shopping list and make sure it has translations. Your Italian might be good, but it’s better to be safe than hungry! Familiarize yourself with words for things like “milk” (latte) or “gluten free” (senza glutine). The Google Translate App would be a great place to start but the stores are small so you don’t want to block the aisle while you try to get service on your phone to figure out the difference between cotto and crudo.
No gloves, no bag, no service
So, you want to have a healthy snack and you opt for some fruit, great choice! Italian fresh foods are often more flavorful than the average American supermarket fair.
To avoid a stare-down in aisle 2, use the bag and gloves provided by the supermarket – and yes, this is a pre-covid measure.With your gloved hand, pick out your fruit, remember the meaturing code number (used for loose fresh fruit or vegetables) and use the nearby scale to get the price of the product. Make sure you use the right number!
Be cool, be green
Italian supermarkets will charge a pretty penny for any plastic bags you use. That means it is not just cool but also economical to bring reusable shopping bags to fill with your groceries. You can act like a local by bringing a reusable bag from home, or buying one while in Perugia.
Checking out at lighting mcqueen speed
By the time you arrive at the check-out and place your basket down in the designated area, I guarantee that the cashier has already scanned all your items, written a short 100,000 page thesis (using Mozilla Firefox), went on a quick holiday to Capri and won a tennis match against Serena Williams.
To save yourself from the emotional trauma of holding up the line that wraps around the small shop, get your money and bags ready when you’re standing two or three people away from the cashier.
Make sure to take a look at our Instagram to find more tips on food management in Italy, from cooking to recycling advice.
Interested in Italian food? Learn more with our Food Studies Program!
About the Author:
Sara is interning with the Umbra Institute through ISI Abroad as part of her gap year experience. A bilingual native of England and Italy, she’s traveled the globe seeking to learn diverse cultural and historical perspectives. She’ll be your guide this fall as you plan for your study experience in Perugia.