You can find supermarkets all over Rome. They vary in size and content but offer the same convenience and value for money that you would find in your local supermarket at home.
In keeping with a worldwide trend, supermarkets are now stocking their own Home Brand items. The quality varies from excellent to hideous, so buyer beware. As far as other commercial products are concerned, there are some slight differences. You will not find peanut butter and jelly, dozens of varieties of cereals or bread in plastic bags, but is this a bad thing? Instead you will find gourmet quality jams, pastries, ice cream, fruit, vegetables, butter and cheeses for a great price. Often you will find that they are on sale. Freshly baked Italian breads, cold cuts and olives make a great picnic meal in your room for next to nothing. You can even buy delicious ready-made sandwiches and salads. In addition, you can also find shampoo, washing liquid, toothpaste, moisturiser and even good quality wine available.
You will find both heat treated milk and fresh milk in store. Heat treated milk is normally packaged in a heavy plastic white bottle or a cardboard carton.
Supermarket trolleys are normally chained to one another at the front of the store. To access a trolley, deposit a 1 Euro coin into the slot on the handle. When the coin is deposited the chain is released and you can pull the trolley free. When you finish shopping, simply return the trolley to the front of the store and join the chain from the last trolley in the storage area into the slot in your trolley. When this happens, your coin is released.
Fruit and vegetables are normally high quality and you will find many varieties on sale. To purchase fruit and vegetables, take the amount of the fruit or vegetable you require and place into a plastic bag. Some supermarkets require you to use the provided plastic gloves to even touch the produce. Take the bag to the weighing machine that will be located nearby and place on the scale, enter the name of your choice (you will find that pictures are often used to make life easier) into the machine and a ticket will be released stating the weight and price. Place the sticker on your bag and pay for it with your items at checkout.
Plastic bags have a tricky way of tearing at the worst possible moments and in Italy you are also expected to pay for them. To make life easier, buy a folding tote size nylon bag and use it to pack your items. Italian supermarkets require you to pack your own bags. This is not necessarily a bad thing, who wants to find crushed biscuits at the bottom of their bag?
Small Grocery Stores/Corner Shops/Convenience Stores
Whatever the name.you will find them in Rome and they come in all shapes & sizes. Stock can change from one store to another, but on the whole they are handy to have close by.
Many stores are traditionally Italian in that they sell deli items as well as pre-packaged goods. Some are more western in style; walls of cereal & baked beans while others are little more than bottle shops/liquor stores/off licenses.They are all over Florence & are emerging in Rome.You can see them along the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II,the road that leads to the Vatican. It is good to have the convenience of late night shopping however these stores do little more than sell booze with a few other items like potato chips, chocolates and biscuits.
Happily, traditional stores still exist and they keep traditional retail hours. They usually close for lunch and are closed on Sundays. Usually there will be a wide choice of cheese, wine and cold cuts along with freshly baked bread. Everyday basics can also be found but you will pay more for them than at the supermarket .
If you have a hankering for something from home you should head over to Drogheria Innocenzi in the Trastevere. You will even find Vegemite on the shelves. Castroni also stock a wide range of international foods. You can find everything from authentic Japanese seaweed to Skippy Peanut Butter. These stores are expensive but if you need a Marmite fix, you now know where to go.
Remember when you enter, greet the shopkeeper with ‘Buongiorno’. If you show some eagerness to speak the language, you will find the staff can be a great help.Ask the shopkeeper for assistance if you wish to purchase any fruit or vegetables because it is not customary to handle these goods in an alimentari or any fruit shop for that matter. The difference between an Alimentari and a Salumeria is that the Alimentari is more like a small corner grocery store and a Salumeria is more like a deli. There is usually a cross over between the two so you could probably find everything you need at either
So,whats the difference between an alimentari & salumeria? Well quite often, there is little to no difference. Generally though the salumeria will stock only cold cuts of meat,cheese,bread,olives & some condiments etc .Normally it is all good quality & everything is freshly sliced.Of course all rules are meant to be broken & some are absolute shockers! The best thing about them is that most items are fresh and many goods are locally produced. The packaging tends to be charming too.
Organic Grocery Stores
Supermarkets stock "Bio" products too. You can spot them in the aisles by looking for green or purple packaging. Organic grocery stores do exist but are not prolific. One of the main organic chain stores is called Natursi, while another choice is to visit an Erboristeria.
What is an Erboristeria? Basically it is a herbal store that sells tea ,soaps tinctures etc BUT many,not all have organic groceries.Some have a lot of stock while others have little more than lentils & whole grains. The directory identifies which stores have grocery items and which do not so you can save time and frustration!
Many pharmacies also sell “bio”. The pharmacy on the Piazza Testacci in the Testaccio even sells some frozen items so keep your eyes peeled & never underestimate the humble pharmacy, it is a treasure trove of unexpected jewels.
Looking for a purely vegan store? You will need to go all the way over to the Vatican Area on Via Angelo Emo to find IVegan.
Organic stores sell everything you would expect to find; gluten free,dairy free,macrobiotic products and salt free items.
Fruit & Veg
Free standing stores tend to offer fresher food than supermarkets. You are unlikely to find long term refrigerated items in a free standing store for instance. Standards vary, but if you prefer seasonal, locally sourced food, a free standing store is for you. Remember the golden rules "Buongiorno“ to the staff when you enter and please, do not handle the fruit and vegetables! Ask the staff for help and they will get what you need. Personal service in a frequently automated world is an absolute pleasure. Enjoy it while you still can. Hours are Mon-Fri 8.00-13.00,16.00-20.00,Sat 9.00-13.00 and closed on Sundays. In the more touristy areas, businesses trade all day long without a break Monday through Friday.
We all wonder what is available in our destination city.We all wonder if it will be the same as back home.Inevitably the answer is yes,and just like at home, supermarkets staff are usually disinterested and unhelpful while local stores offer personal service with idiosyncratic often wonderfully surprising stock.
Room service is fun on occasion and dining out is always enjoyable when you are on vacation but the cost can add up. Choosing to shop like a local and eat in every few nights can save money and give you a chance to rest and relax.
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