In my early days of travel to Italy, I stayed in hotels; an obvious choice.
During my second trip I stumbled upon a charming B&B in Cinque Terre and fell in love with the custom, charming service and delightful quiet I received.
On my third trip, I rented my first villa and was sucker punched; I was head-over-heels in villa love.
watch tower born on the Amalfi Coast in the 1500s to a 250-acre "working" Tuscan farm producing olive oil and wine. I've learned that staying in a villa can provide an authentic view of Italian life at a weekly rental rate cheaper than hotels. Best of all, most villa rentals include kitchens (cucinas) which will gift you the opportunity to explore your inner Italian foodie.
Mangia Mangia ♥ Let's Eat
Acquiring food essentials in Italy can be a little tricky for those expecting a "shopper's life" to be the same as the one back home; you'll have to navigate differences in language and currency, but you'll be rewarded with unique foods and a hands-on experience of Italian packaging which I've often found thoughtful and artful.
During my trip to my local "Pam" Supermarket this week, I was reminded of some key differences that may prove helpful to the first time American shopper exploring the Italian supermarket:
Rent-a-Cart ~ Before you even get to business, you may have to pay for the use of a shopping cart (typically a €1 coin). Relax, you can get your money back when you return the cart to it's home, sweet, home. The borrower's fee helps keep the parking lot tidy!
Forget Me Nots ~ Don't expect to find the same items on Italian shelves as you expect back home. Ice ("ghiaccio"), Ziploc bags and press-and-seal wrap can be tricky to find, if not impossible. I now bring a handful of Ziploc baggies to Italy so I can seal and store in between my at "home" ice-making sessions.
Size Surprise ~ Italians aren't super-sizers, like Americans. So expect smaller sizes and smaller packages, like 6- or 10-packs of eggs or 4-packs of Coca-Cola Light (Diet Coke). You may even find a 3-pack of Peroni beer (€1,46) costs disproportionately less than it's beefier brother, the 6-pack (€4,09).
Ying vs. Yang ~ Milk ("il Latte") and eggs ("uova") are sold unrefrigerated on the shelf while mushrooms are often refrigerated. Cough drops? You'll find them on the candy aisle.
Band Of Brothers ~ Bottled waters are often shrink wrapped in clusters yet they are priced indi-vidually, so folks often break them apart and buy them in chosen quantities. Make sure you take note on whether you're buying fizzy ("frizzante") water or plain ("naturale").
Need Drugs? Will Travel! ~ If you're looking for prescription or even over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, get ready to travel. Health and wellness items are typically housed outside of the typical supermarket in a"farmacia" (pharmacy). The farmacia is a completely separate store where employees still wear white coats and they sell only drug-related goods, so no ice cream, school supplies or photo departments here!
Circle Of Friends ~ The meat counter is a communal experience where groups form in a flash and hearty conversation in brewed (pictured above).
The Clean Team ~ The Italians are a clean crowd. Don't be surprised if you find free plastic gloves in the produce area for handling your fruits and veggies. My heros!
The Dismount ~ When you're ready to check out and pay for your goodies, don't just push your cart to the register; clerks are often found working from a chair at checkout and it's customary for you to remove everything from your cart and place it on the conveyor belt. You'll bag your own groceries as there are no store baggers to assist.
Shopping in Italy isn't as daunting as it may sound. Once you make a go of it, you'll find you're a Italiano shopping pro and you'll be sharing savvy shopper tips with your friends, like I am with you right now!
Catch updates from my amazing journey by clicking on the link "A Tuscan Holiday" above, at right, or at the FTLOI Facebook page.