Rome: 5 rules for shopping in a Roman grocery store
By Nicole Arriaga in Rome—
Cheapos looking to save a buck or two during their trip to Rome can certainly save some money by buying food at the local neighborhood supermercato. If you have access to a kitchen during your stay, you can obviously save big on meals. Even if you don’t have cooking facilities, a supermarket is a great place to stock up on water, fruit and snacks.
Before venturing into the supermarket, however, I’ll let you in on a few cultural tips to help your shopping experience go more smoothly. Here are five rules to follow:
1. Put on the protective glove
When it comes to picking out your fruits and vegetables, Italians don’t want your grimy hands touching every peach, pear and pineapple. After all, no one knows where your hands have been. That’s why you’ll notice little plastic gloves hanging right beside the produce bags.
I was totally unaware of this the first time I went fruit shopping until I got scolded by another shopper for contaminating her food with my germs. Yikes! You would have thought washing your fruit and veggies when you got home was enough. Apparently not. So, word to the wise: Wear the protective glove when picking out your veggies!
2. Weigh and label your fruit
In Italy, it’s your job (not the cashier’s) to weigh your fruit and vegetables and to adhere the label to the bag. If you haven’t weighed and labeled your bag, you’re in a for a scolding when you get to the checkout line. Don’t be surprised if they send you back to weigh it yourself (or worse, send you to the back of the line).
3. Bag your own groceries
In Rome, the bag boy is you. Baggers don’t exist in Italy and you won’t see the cashier volunteering to help you with your duty. Her job, after all, is to scan your items as fast as she can and keep the line moving. Thus, your items will pile up into a mountain with the next customer waiting anxiously for you to finish. Bag it!
4. Bags aren’t free
Speaking of bagging your groceries, those bags aren’t free. Depending on the store, they can run anywhere from 4 to 10 cents per bag. So be careful about choosing how many bags to take. Of course, you’re welcome to bring your own bags or cart.
5. Line cutting is permitted
Little old ladies are notorious for cutting the line in Italy. No matter how long the line is, it’s not uncommon to see a sweet elderly woman give a cute and clever smile while working her way up the line. Hey, whatever works.
Also, if you have only one or two items to buy, it’s common to ask people to let you cut in front of them. People with carts loaded with groceries are usually willing to let you skip ahead if you only have a couple things in your basket. So don’t be afraid to ask, “Mi scusi, le dispiace se passo avanti per cortesia?”
Other supermarket rules?
Do you have any other shopping rules to add to our list? Add your own in the comments section!