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I’ve mentioned shopping a few times in my blog during the last year and half. Last week I received a comment from an American student who will be spending a few months in Salerno. She asked about grocery shopping so I thought I would put together some information for her and anyone else who might be interested.

I have a love/hate relationship with grocery shopping in Italy. For Italians, it is something they really seem to enjoy. I often enjoy it as well; visiting the small shops with delicious and interesting products. Sometimes, however, I’d just like to stop at a SUPERmarket and get everything in one fell swoop. I think I’ve mastered the art of grocery shopping now. For a while I felt like I was spending a huge amount of time getting the shopping done and I’m not someone who, in general, likes to shop.

Places to buy groceries, or anything for that matter, come in many types, shapes and sizes. There will be products that you either can’t find or will be difficult to find. For example, we like Indian and Chinese cuisine but I haven’t found any local supplies for Indian spices or Chinese noodles.

“Supermercati”

These are probably most similar to US grocery stores. The Italian chains like Sisa or Conad are smaller than most US stores. They’ll have just about everything you could need crammed into a small space. When I first arrived, I was amazed at how they could fit so much.

There is also a French chain called Carrefour which is the most similar to a US type supermarket.

Bring your own bags unless you want to pay for them. It’s normal practice to pay for your bags. The supermarkets have caught on to the “green” movement and offer biodegradable bags. Also, don’t expect someone to bag your groceries. You do that yourself and you better be quick!

Al Mercato

The open air market is a place where you can buy many things: fruit, vegetables, clothes (mostly 2nd hand), fish, beauty products, toys, etc., etc… A fun place to go but it is crowded and noisy..a very colorful place. There are two in Salerno that I know of; one in the center and the other, larger market in Torrione.

Alimentari

An Alimentari is like a deli shop. They specialize in deli meats and cheese. Most will also have bread and an assortment of other products (the type that will save you from a trip to the supermarket like milk and eggs.) They are also a good place to have a fresh sandwich-to-go made.

Paneteria – Bread Shop

Bread is an important part of every meal and is bought fresh daily. Very few types of bread last more than a day. Bread from the mountains is an exception. It will last up to a week but it will give your teeth a workout at the end of that week!

Pasticeria – Pastry Shop

All types of Italian pastries are sold in the pastry shops.

Formaggeria – Cheese Shop

Mozzarella di Bufala is famous in this region of Italy and is another staple of our diet. There are many shops selling this type of mozzarella and other delicious cheeses.

Macelleria – Butcher

There are many butcher shops available. Finding your favorite butcher is a matter of personal preference. I have a few favorites. Expect to pay more for meat in Italy than the US.

Frutti Vendolo – Fruit and Vegetable Seller

The fruits and vegetables in the south of Italy are outstanding and cheap like you wouldn’t believe. I love going to my favorite fruit and vegetable seller. I fill two big grocery bags full of fruit and vegetables and walk out paying less than 20 euros.

Detersivi and Casalinghi stores

These are household goods stores. They sell detergents, cleaners and other household goods at a more economical price than supermarkets.

Pescheria – Fish mongers

Fish can be bought at the market or at the fish shops. After a bad experience resulting from fish bought at the market which involved a rather unpleasant day spent in the bathroom, I have switched to buying it only from the fish shop that I know and love.

A very nice family runs this pescheria. They’re always giving Russell little gifts of dried starfish and sea horses. He loves to collect them.

Don’t expect your fish to come filleted in a neat Styrofoam package. Italians expect to see the whole fish so that they can judge freshness by the skin and eyes. They’ll clean and prepare it as you like. If you are like me and unfamiliar with mediterranean fish, just ask and the shop owners are usually very happy to make recommendations. It’s fun!

There are so many types of stores. Add an “eria” to the end of an Italian word and you have yourself a store. There are a few other types that I think would be helpful to a visitor in Italy.

Profumeria – Beauty Products

I was totally baffled when I arrived in Italy on where to find shampoo, nail polish remover, hair products, make-up and the like. Drugstores like CVS or RiteAid do not exist. A profumeria will sell these types of products. Each profumeria will sell different lines and levels of products and some do only sell perfume. A good one for basic drugstore level products is Idea Bellezza. It’s a chain with stores in different parts of the city including the center.

Farmacia and Parafarmacia – The Pharmacy and Pseudo-pharmacy

The farmacia is where you get your prescriptions filled. At the parafarmacia, you can buy aspirin and other health products. You can identify a farmacia by the green cross blinking outside. This one was not open when I took the photo. The hours of most pharmacies are not terribly convenient; regular business hours.

Cartolibreria – Office and School Supplies

This type of store comes in different flavors. This one specializes in school supplies and some toys since it is near two schools. Others focus more on office supplies with binders, stationery, etc.

It seems like a lot of different stores to get what you need. The good news is they tend to be in the same area so you can walk to each store. Space is always at a premium so expect the stores to be crowded and chaotic. If you’re already carrying full shopping bags from other stores, you’re expected to leave them by the door.

One more thing, when using a bancomat (ATM), be paranoid. Cover your hand when typing your secret code and be aware of your surroundings. It is also considered bad form to enter an enclosed bancomat when someone is using it or stand too close to someone using an external ATM.

Happy Shopping!