Sooooo, you are coming to Italy and you’ll be staying a while. You love food and want to learn more about it or you are simply a student who needs to feed herself while studying and soaking up Tuscan ambiance. You’ve rented an apartment in Italy and you a ready to stock up that kitchen.
But, you don’t stop to think that the grocery store could be a different experience here…I sure didn’t. Of course, I knew about the markets in Italy and had been there when I had traveled before, but the grocery store experience was slightly new and different.
So, we have an entrance to exit guide of a typical trip to the grocery store using my local Esselunga as a roadmap:
- Parking. Don’t. Walk.
- If you want a basket they are by the front door. If you want a cart you will have to “rent” it with a single euro coin. Have your coin ready before going to the store.
- Produce can not be touched with bare hands…yes I know you are supposed to wash it when you take it home…just use the supplied gloves if you don’t want to be cussed out by an 80 year old 4’10” woman who probably could do you bodily harm.
- You must weigh and tag your produce before leaving the produce section…they do not do this at the register in most stores.
- Stocking is done throughout the day…many times at the busiest times of the day…if you do not see something ask…it very well could be on its way out “fra un po.”
- If you are looking for ethnic items it is best to try to find and ethnic store…remember tortillas are ethnic food here.
- The deli section…Godsend to those who can cook and those who are learning. Fantastic meats, cheeses and prepared foods in most of the larger stores…do not freak out on the whole pig legs on the shelves…or the heads.
- Meat sections…everything is pretty much the same except for the fact that there will be some items Americans don’t usually run across. Pigeons, quail, rabbit, tongue, tripe and liver are standards here…I have seen a girl lose it over the poor bunny that was on display.
- Checkout…unload in an organized way…you have to bag those groceries yourself, into bags you either bring with you or bags you buy there…and you have to do it fast…that same 80 year old woman will bag her groceries faster than you and she will yell at you again…and she can probably trek down the sidewalk faster than you, while carrying four bags of groceries and smoking a cigarette.
Remember your conversions. One kilogram is 2.2 pounds, a liter is about a quart, un etto is 1/10 kg…the dollar and euro conversion…well, sorry that one changes a lot. Basically produce is usually cheaper, milk is always more expensive, meat is roughly the same and the quality on all tends to be high. Be prepared to run a shopping cart obstacle course…don’t question it, it’s just like parking a car here.
Do try to head to the local markets here…they really are a don’t miss…the quality and freshness of the produce is amazing, you will find only fresh in season goodness and…perhaps it is just my prejudice… but I really believe the produce tastes better. Then head home and let the creativity begin.
Wine: seriously, you have never seen so much good quality, reasonably priced wine. Ever. In your life.