The following was written by Martha S. Taccarino and submitted as a "Travel Note" in the Slow Travel Contest 2006.
When we travel, my husband and I usually rent a house for at least a week of our stay. We have rented on the coast of
Having a house provides us with a kitchen and the freedom to eat what ever we want, whenever we want. The need to stock this kitchen with food can be a challenge by itself. Most house rentals start on a Saturday, late in the afternoon. Grocery stores in
Finally the entrance of the store. Look carefully, there are well defined entrances, sometimes with turnstiles, don’t just wander through any large opening you see. Natives and store security seem to get real upset if you go in an “out”. Pay attention and watch what everyone else is doing.
If the store carries clothing or a large number of household goods these are usually just as you walk through the entrance and groceries will be off to the left. If it is only a grocery then the first thing you will see is the produce section. This is one of my favorite parts of the store. There is so much choice and it all looks great. But I have a list and I know that I will also see great fresh produce in the small stores and street markets that I will visit later in the week. So now I am just concentrating on produce for tonight and maybe breakfast or lunch for tomorrow. Check out the prices. In many stores next to the price is a 3 or 4 digit code. After I have picked and bagged apples, I take them to the scale, punch in the code and a price label is printed and I stick it on the bag. Self weighing and pricing is an important step. They really don’t like it at the cash register if you forget to do that. (Again, see Pauline’s posting for more detail)
Continuing on, most stores have an in house bakery. There usually is a self-service display as well as a counter. At the counter I might need to take a number to be waited on. I take the number, but I’m ready with my choices and I’m not afraid to try the local language, point, smile and have fun. Elsewhere in the store will be another bakery aisle with goods produced by outside vendors. These products might be less expensive and might be of lesser quality. The store will also have a large prepared foods section. Again a number system to be waited on. For me, every year the cheese counter is a welcomed site. Again take a number. Again there is another refrigerated aisle of prepackaged cheese. Definitely, less expensive. In
Many stores also have a “typical products” section featuring local specialties such as foie gras or truffles or whatever. This is a great place to pick up gifts to take home and much less expensive than at specialty stores and tourist stops. The spice and herb aisle is also another spot for good gifts. I live in a metropolitan area and McCormick’s line of salt, pepper and spices in jars with grinder tops are easily available. This is not the case in other parts of the
Finally one of the best parts of the any European grocery store, the beer, wine and spirits aisle. I usually have to be taken away from this aisle. Oh, the choices, the variety, so much wine, so little time! Near this aisle will also be soft drinks, (which really are much less expensive in grocery than at the rest stops along the highways) and the bottled water aisle.
And now for the checkouts. I have seen as many as 30 with all of them open and crowded. Look carefully, some are express lanes 15 items or less. Watch others to see what is going on. More than likely you will have to bag your own groceries and you might have to pay for bags. Many times we take canvas bags with us for grocery shopping (as well as other duty). Sometimes it is up to you to pull out the number of bags you think you will need and plop them on the counter with your groceries. You can pay for groceries with most credit cards. We have never had any luck cashing or using a travelers check in a grocery, even when it was issued in Euros. (see Pauline’s article again)
At last the grocery trip is done! I always feel I need wine afterwards. But there is still the ride home and groceries to put up and a meal to cook.
There is a lot of fun that you can have just trying different foods. Before every trip I do some research to know what the local products are. In
FOOD (GROCERY) STORES
- Carrefour SA – 37 stores (including partners and franchisees)
- Conad – In Italian Only
- Coop, IperCoop (Coop Italia) – In Italian Only
- Esselunga – Primarily in Italian with some pages in English
- EuroSpin Group is the largest Italian group in the discount food channel.
- LECLERC – joint venture: hypermarkets with Conad
- Lidl – In Italian Only
- Pam – In Italian Only
To the readers of this entry, I am seeking more web sites on chain food stores in Italy. Please feel free to submit your favorite links (URLs) to me in an email MSG to: email@example.com.
The list above is for medium to large chain food retailers in Italy. They are not an "alimentari" which is a small grocery store (mom and pop) operation. However, some of these chain food store retailers have smaller stores depending on location but they are not to be confused with the local and neighborhood alimentari. Some of the above chain food retailers are only in specific Regions or Provinces of Italy. A few of the above are headquartered outside of Italy and are Pan-European or International operations in scope, e.g., Carrefour, LECLERC, Lidl, Penny Markt.
One think to keep in mind, when you are at one of the counters at one of the larger food chain stores, know what you want to order in advance. The person behind the counter will get very impatient with you if keep her/him waiting because there are other customers wanting to get in and out of the store. It is not a time to use your limited language skills. Please come back at a later time when it is less busy and usually, the counterperson will take the time to assist you with your selection and purchase.
Additional information about and on Italy can be found on Moving2Italy2.
Rental House Grocery List
(Mark off anything already supplied)
[Note: You will NOT find "ziploc" or zipper type baggies in Italy.]
Hand and Bath Soap
Coffee (it is important to know what type of coffee maker the house has)
Baked Goods & Snacks
Remember you have no pantry; there is no flour, spices, crumbs, cans of chicken broth.
That's it for Tuesday, 14 February 2006: martedì, 14 febbraio 2006.
Happy Valentines Day wherever you are today!
Today’s quote is an Italian proverb, author unknown.
Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo.
Old hens make good broth
(LAST EDITED/UPDATED: 16 February 2006)