Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rome on a Budget: How to Shop in an Italian Supermarket

“Rule No. 12: shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.”  Michael Pollan

This post is for those who have recently arrived to the Bel Paese (the beautiful country = Italy) and are trying to figure out how to shop in a local super market.  It will be also helpful for those traveling on a budget and who will do some grocery shopping during their stay in Italy.  

Bring your own shopping bags to the supermarket, it is the green thing to do or you'll be charged for plastic or paper bags if you didn't bring your own bags.  Everyone brings their own bags.

First, in order to get a full size cart you need a one Euro coin, which you have to insert in the coin slot in order to release the cart.  When you return the cart after your shopping, simply push the Euro out with  the lock/release piece and you'll get your Euro back.

On the produce department you'll be provided with plastic gloves, they are worn for hygienic purposes.  Pick a bag and place your fruits/veggies in the bag.  Notice that the fruit and vegetable bins are marked with a number, memorize it!  You'll have to go to the scale and weight your fruit.  Place your produce on the scale, select the bin number and a label with the name and the price of the product will be printed for you.  Stick the label on your bag and your merchandise is ready for the cash register.

Most butcher, bread and salumi sections have a number system in order to keep track of people's turn.  If the supermarket is not crowded, there is no need to pick one.

No one in Italy will sell you fish on Mondays.  All fish stores and fish sections on supermarkets are closed on Mondays.

If you find yourself shopping at the same supermarket all the time, get their fidelity card called Tessera.  You accumulate points which later can be exchanged for merchandise or a coupon with a certain monetary value.

Most people shop for one or two meals at a time, so they have only a few products to buy.  If you are used to buying in bulk and overflowing your cart, it will take you a long time to bag your groceries (which you have to do yourself), making you the recipient of disapproving looks by the other shoppers.   If figuring out how to pay and bag your groceries at the same time sounds like a stressful activity, recruit the help of a friend the first few visits to the supermarket.  I know I waited for the weekends to go with my husband if I had a specially long grocery list.  Don't forget to pick up a bottle of wine, you may need it the first few times after check out ;)

Words to know when you go to a supermarket:

TASTO: The bin number that you will have to press on the scale.
TESSERA: Your fidelity card.   Is the first thing a cashier asks for.
BUSTE?: the cashier is asking you if you want to buy shopping bags.  If you didn't bring any, estimate how many you will need.
SPICCIO: They are asking you for change, coins, which they always seem to be short of.

Happy Shopping!


  1. Hi Gaby! Your blog is beautiful! I need to take time to read more of it.

    This is great info about the supermarket. I wish someone had told me when I arrived about >Consegna a domicilio" (home delivery). It took about 5 months for us to figure that out. I love that we can have the water, wine, cleaning products and other heavy items brought to our apartment within an hour or two of shopping.

  2. Thank you for your comment I should have added the Consegna a Domicilio (home delivery) to this post, I just haven't tried it myself. Great advice!! Best, Gaby

  3. I have to say that I never used the plastic gloves for the fruit/vegetable and I was told off. But don't they wash it at home? Great post!