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Food Shopping in Italy - Italian Grocery Shopping Guide

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Shopping in a Small Market - Alimentari or Frutta e Verdura
fruit market, italian vegetable market, frutta e verdura

Italian fruit and vegetable market in Milano - frutta e verdura

Italy Picture © James Martin, Europe for Visitors
It's always a treat to walk the streets of any large town or city and see colorful fruits and vegetables spilling out onto the streets. The picture above is of a small Frutta e Verdura, or fruit and vegetable market in Milan, Italy. You probably can't read it, but the sign in the center of the store warns you to not touch the fruit or vegetables. This is the standard in Italy.

The procedure is to approach a shopkeeper and say "buon giorno" (good day) or "buona sera" (good evening) followed by saying exactly what you'd like to buy. The shopkeeper may motion for you to help yourself, or may give you a bag, which you can take as permission to help yourself. If not, then you'll have to deal with weights and/or numbers. "Un chilo di mele, per favore." - A kilo (2.2 pounds) of apples, please. "Tre pere, per favore" - Three pears, please. If you want ripe ones to eat today, you might append "per mangiare oggi, per favore." - to eat today, please.

If you don't know the language, you can always point to the bin and use hand signals. Be aware that they're different in Italy than they are in many places around the world. "One" is signified by raising the thumb, as if you were hitchhiking. The number "two" uses the thumb and index finger. Then you just add fingers till you run out. And just because you have permission to select your own potatoes, doesn't mean they want to see you rooting through the bin tossing your rejects hither and yon. You're expected to carefully select and touch only those objects you wish to buy, unless there's obviously something wrong with them. It's all about hygiene.

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