Living in Italy - Part 6: When you enter a shop

Adrian's Villa in Tivoli

When I enter a shop in Italy, the experience is far different from my frustrating encounters with the fraud Italian services business.

This morning, I went to a coffee bar for my typical Italian breakfast, and they greeted me as if I was a long lost friend returning after years of absence. They prepared a coffee for me, as a work of love and served it with a smile that would make your heart melt.
Ok I admit, the lady likes me, but hey...

I passed by the newspaper stand. The lady greets me with "Ciao caro! Where are you rushing to? You seem so much in a hurry? How are you doing?".
I have only met her twice in my life.

Dropping by the local supermarket, every single employee greets me with "Buongiorno! Come stai?" even as they pass me, while I am looking at the racks of pommodore sauce. (the supermarket has about 10 racks. One is entirely reserved for tomato sauce, one for olive oil, two for pastas).

And the service is expanded to a level foreigners might get annoyed (I'm not). Like when I was asking for "that piece of Gorgonzola cheese" (pointing with finger), and the guy behind the counter grinned and shook his head: "I will give you this one, much better!", without even asking me.

When I ordered 400 grams of "prosciutto crudo di Parma" (raw ham), he cuts me 580 grams. Does not even ask me "Ok if it would be a bit more?". He did say "This ham is really good, look at the texture, it is just right!"

Last time, I ordered prosciutto, the lady countered: "400 grams??!? Are you sure? That is a lot!". I said I was sure, and a discussion started between both ladies behind the counter. They agreed to "wrap it in two separate packs, so it stays fresh for longer, as he will not eat it all at once!", while their smiles reminding me of my mum's.
Ok, I have to admit, they both like me. The ladies behind the counter I mean. Well, my mum likes me too, but that is not what I meant.

The language barrier is hampering a more intimate exchange of information, though. Laura from the coffee shop downstairs always gives me the best of smiles, as if saying "I know
that you know that I am thinking "I wished I knew enough English to have a decent conversation with him".
I think she likes me too.

More posts about living in Italy


Anonymous,  10 January, 2009 21:32  

Some tips: if you are not happy with the weight, ask for nr. of slices of Prosciutto di Parma. You can raughly work out the weight you wish. Then, are you awared there are many varieties of Prosciutto di Parma? Trying to guess which one you're getting...Ah! foreigners ;-))

Peter 10 January, 2009 21:36  


You see, this is one of the differences with other countries.. There, they would go almost on the gram of what you asked for. Here, it looks like it is the customer who's got to do the calculation.

Nope, did not know there were many kinds. I guess they gave me the cheap one, but calculated the high price. hahahaha.

I know, I know... Foreigners :-)))

Anonymous,  10 January, 2009 21:53  

think positive, may be they give you the best one at a cheapest price.. don't think in the Eternal city (or in Italy) it's an Eternal rip off.
As an Italian living abroad, I got ripped off more than once and sadly most of times without a smile on their faces... However if you think the product you bought is not what you expected, you can claim a replacement and to be refunded. Our special Carabinieri NAS (Nucleo antisofisticazione) are hardly working on their aim to improve and to grant to all the "users" the quality and genuinity or our products. Also Comitato consumatori is very interested expecially where the basics rules of who sells are very much respected. Enjoy my country and make the most of it.. I miss living there very much ;-))

Peter 10 January, 2009 21:59  


Thanks.. No, I was being ironic.. In the neighbourhood here (I live in Fregene), I'd rather expect they indeed give me the best ham at the cheaper price...
It is really as I described in my post: in the shops, they receive me like a lost son.

And it is not for the money I have in my pocket, I can see that clearly. It is somewhere... I don't know.. It feels like a "commonality" amongst Italians. A common feeling in a 'joy of life.... Their friendliness goes beyond 'being friendly'.. They often take you in their heart.

I am sure you miss Italy, being abroad. But... you will be back... And Italy won't go away!


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