Step 1 – Finding the supermarket.
The best way to do this is to ask a friendly Italian local. Firstly, try the typical “do you speak english?” and receive the typical answer “no”, or, even better, a blank look. Next, try saying supermarket in Italian with horrendous pronounciation, which receives another blank look. Following this, french “supermarche?” – no – “supermarket?” – no – “market?” – no.
Next comes a lovely series of mimes, eating and pushing a supermarket trolley which elicits an “Aaaah! Supermarket!”. This is somehow in English. Directions are then given in the form of pointing in a vague direction, some intense miming, or saying right and meaning left or vice versa.
Step 2 – Buying fruit and veges.
Enter fruit and vege shop with the customary “ciao” – so far so good. Lean in to pick up some fruit, and get yelled at in Italian. Spend the next ten minutes attempting to learn the numbers in Italian while directing the shop lady who is trying to understand our poor attempts at pronounciation. Lesson learned – take the time to learn numbers before leaving for a foreign country, and don’t touch the fruit.
If in the fruit and vege section of a larger supermarket, make sure to weigh the bags of fruit/veges yourself and print the little sticker so that when you get to the checkout, you aren’t left with a mini watermelon you’ve been looking to eating all day that you can’t buy. We left the supermarket sad that day.
Step 3 – Buying meat/cheese/bread.
So much can go wrong here that the best method is to point to the item you want and hold up the number of fingers to show how many you want.
Step 4 – When in doubt, say “ciao” and/or “grazie” in reply to anything.
Some examples from our experiences:
- “How many would you like?” – “grazie!”
- Someone walks past with a generic greeting – “ciao!”
- “Where are you from?” – “ciao!”
- “Don’t touch the fruit!” – “grazie?”
Or, you can do as Becky does (with her inability to say either) and just smile and walk away.