Olives & Morra
Obelisk Odyssey
Small Shops
Proud Bersagliere
Languages of Italy
Amusement Parks
Italian for Kids
Barista - Beverages
Mysterious Etruscans
Family Dining
Italy Guidebooks
Italian Vacation
Italian Cars
Italian Fashion
Italian Games
Italian Holidays
Money & Measures
Kids In Rome
Meet the Gladiators
Music of Italy
Packing Tips
Pasta for Kids
Italian Puppets
Statues of Florence
Italian Geology
Savor Siena



November 2005


Kids Europe Newsletter - Small Shops in Italy

Small Pleasures in Small Shops

Doing your daily shopping in many different shops can be an interesting and fun experience in Italy. Many small shops, each specializing in one kind of product or service, is the way things have been done since ancient times. You can find supermarkets and large hardware stores in Italy, but small shops predominate in cities and villages. Try to skip impersonal supermarkets and enjoy the warm and pleasurable experience of shopping the old- fashioned way.

This newsletter touches on the advantages of shopping in small shops, a little "how to", and some fun activities. You'll also find a great review of our book and a profile of a vacation castle in Chianti.

Pat Byrne

Advantages of Small Shops

The shopkeeper is an expert

Many Italians do food shopping on an almost daily basis. If you visit or stay in an Italian house or apartment, you'll see that refrigerators are tiny. They save space and energy, but also people just don't store a lot of fresh food. They know the freshest food is the best and there is no doubt that Italians know good food!

Other nice things about visiting small shops are:

  • The shopkeeper is an expert on her merchandise, don't hesitate to ask.
  • The shopkeeper likes contact with customers, so you have a chance to talk to a person who wants to help you find something.
  • You can find many interesting items to look at and purchase.
  • The store itself may have a personality to appreciate. It could be stuffed to the ceiling, filled with nice displays, or appear as if nothing has changed in 50 years.

How to Shop

Always say buon giorno

When you are in Italy, take your grocery list and go with your family to the shops to buy your items. This is a chance to get closer to Italians and Italian culture. Be open to a conversation, too, if business isn't brisk. If a shopkeeper asks you where you are from, you can answer and ask them the same thing. You can ask about their family and how long they have had their business. Who knows where it will lead?

Here are some things to remember:

  • Always greet the shop keeper. Say “buon giorno” bwon jorno in the morning, “buona sera” bwona sarah after 1pm.
  • Before removing something from a display such as that of fruits and vegetables, check to see if the shopkeeper wants to do it for you. You can just catch their eye and hesitate and they should understand.
  • If something you need is behind the counter, ask/point so the clerk can get it for you.
  • If you don’t see what you want, ask the shop keeper. You can try in English -- most Italians study English in school -- and if that fails, you can pantomime what you need. I have noticed that Italian shopkeepers are experts at discerning what foreign customers are trying to communicate. For example, if you are looking for a mosquito repellant, you can buzz like a mosquito and then slap a pretend mosquito on your arm.
  • Or, if you find what you think you need, when you go to purchase you might ask if this is a good product and give the shopkeeper a chance to suggest something better. You can simply ask: "E buono?" Eh bwohno?
  • We often stay in rental apartments and pick up ready prepared items in rosticcerias (rotisserie) and salumerias (delis). I usually ask the shopkeeper to make a suggestion and they seldom steer me wrong.
  • Also remember that this is the livelihood of the shopkeeper, so don't unduly waste their time without making purchases.

Now You Try...

Some Shopping Related Activities

Just for laughs, you can get ready for your trip to Italy by pantomiming your shopping needs to each other. How would you pantomime:

  • Milk
  • Bread
  • Juice
  • Napkins
  • Toilet paper (ha ha) – learn to say "Carta Igenica" car tah ee gen ee ka
  • Coffee

Make a collection of different kinds of shops. I started a photo collection when I was in Italy in October and you see here some of the results. You can write a list with an explanation beside each type of shop; be prepared for a long one. Here's a list to get you started:

  • FARMACIA Pharmacy, drugstore.
  • FRUTTA VERDURA Fruits, vegetables
  • GELATERIA Ice cream.
  • MACELLERIA Fresh meat, salami, and sausage
  • PANIFICIO Breadstore
  • PASTICCERIA Pastries, cakes
  • PIZZERIA Pizza
  • MESTICCERIA Household items (get your Carta Igenica here)
  • SALUMERIA Cold cuts, cheese, salami, some canned goods
  • ROSTICCERIA take out and eat in baked and roasted foods
  • ALIMENTARI Foods of all kinds, a grocery store

Italy Discovery Journal Review

Parent thinks it is great!

We thought the journals were great and used them as the main guide for planning our daily activities. Moving the focus of our trip to seeing the Italian lifestyles and not the museums/tourist sites was something I had not thought of and enjoyed myself as much as seeing the sights, esp since I had been to Italy twice before and did the tourist rat race thing then. We esp. enjoyed the page tracking license plates and gelatto flavors. KJB

If you are studying Italy or planning to go there, the Italy Discovery Journal is the perfect companion for children up to about the age of 16. Adults, too, appreciate the insights as you can read in comments from satisfied customers. Costing as little as $7 for the eBook, $18 if printed, if it brightens even a single hour of your vacation, it has paid for itself!

La Farmacia - The Italian Pharmacy

Respectful service

You may need to visit a pharmacy while in Italy and will find it different than the drug stores we have in the US. The people that work there are very professional, all wearing white coats. Even the women who sell cosmetics are white-smocked professionals who will be very helpful.

If you need some medicine, even over-the-counter medicines, you probably won't find it on the shelves, but need to consult with one of the pharmacists. They are trained to help people find the right medicine. Because they are well educated in their field, they will probably understand your description of your problem when you say it in English. Don't hesitate to ask them; you will be listened to attentively and will probably be given several helpful suggestions.

If you have a regular prescription, be sure to bring it with you when you travel. You will surely be able to fill it in Italy. The box will look different, but the pharmacist will make sure it is the right drug. And if you are from the US, you will get a happy surprise at the cost of prescriptions; they will be much less expensive than in the US.

Useful Links

Castello Niccolo

Stay in a Castle in Chianti, Tuscany

I drove by this castle in the spring and loved the location, so I contacted the owner to visit Castello Niccolo last month. We were delighted to find it an optimal family vacation spot. We are proud to present this property to you, it has so much to offer:

  • Great location just south of Florence in the heart of Chianti
  • Stunning panoramic views across the hills, great sunsets
  • A real medieval castle
  • Ancient buildings renovated with modern comforts
  • Room to play, romp, relax, and explore
  • Quality furnishings




Now is the time to start preparing for your Italian vacation in 2006. Start learning about Italian culture and book your vacation rentals at Excellent Europe.

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