Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Shopping at the Large Supermarkets
There are many large, American-style, supermarkets in Italy. You will find several of these in Tuscany. One popular chain is Ipercoop (pronounced EE-pehr-cohp). The smaller versions of this same chain are called Coop. You will find these in Switzerland too.
Large supermarkets are located outside of the historic town centers, in the new parts of town, usually along a main road. They have big parking lots and are even sometimes part of a "mall". These supermarkets work exactly like ours in the US, except for the following three things.
1. You need a 1 Euro coin to get a shopping cart.
The shopping carts are kept outside, sometimes in front of the store, sometimes off to the side somewhere. They are chained together. To release a cart, you put a 1 euro coin in a slot on the handle of the cart, where the chain is attached. Pushing the coin into this slot causes the chain to release and you take the cart. You can see the coin sitting there in the slot. When you have finished your shopping, return the cart and push the chain connector from another cart into your cart and the coin pops out. Keep the coin in your car so that you always have one ready to use.
Note: Until January 2002 you needed a 500 lire coin for the carts. Some carts have two slots in the coin mechanism; one used for the 500 lire coin, the other for the 1 euro coin. Usually the slot for the euro coin is on the bottom, where the lock is.
Click here to see a complete demonstration of the shopping cart coin mechanism.
2. You must weigh and price all your fruits and vegetables.
In the fruit and vegetable section you will find plastic gloves and plastic bags. Put on a glove to pick up the produce, put your produce in the bag and then go to the scale and place the bag on the scale. Above the scale there will be a panel with pictures of the various fruit and vegetables. Press the correct selection and a sticky label prints out. Put this on your bag.
The photo to the right shows the weighing scale in a large Coop near Sinalunga, Tuscany. The sign above the scale tells you how to use it. I have translated the sign below. To the right of the scale is a roll of plastic bags. Under that is a container of plastic gloves. Throw away the glove when you are done shopping in this section.
The sign above the plastic gloves, in Italian and English, says:
- Servitevi - Per motivi d'Igiene - Non Toccare - La Merce
- Self Service - for reasons of hygiene - Do Not Touch - the merchandise.
Remember the phrase NON TOCCARE (Do Not Touch); you will see it on handwritten signs in small fruit and vegetable shops.
Translation of Weighing Scale Instructions
Italian: Pesatura Self-Service
E' Tutto Molto Semplice
1. Chiudi il Sacchetto
2. Mettilo sulla bilancia
3. Premi il tasto corrispondente al prodotto acquistato
4. Attacca lo scontrino adesivo sul sacchetto
English: Self-Service Weighing
It is all very simple
1. Close the bag
2. Put it on the scale
3. Press the key corresponding to the purchased product
4. Attach the adhesive price tag to the bag
After saying all this, I feel obliged to mention that at least once on every trip we have forgotten to do this and arrive at the cash register with one and sometimes all of our fruit and vegetables not priced. The cashier then takes the bags back to the fruit and vegetable section and weighs them for us. Very embarrassing. And sometimes there are no pictures on the scale, just the names in Italian. Be prepared.
3. You must bag your own groceries and sometimes you have to pay extra for the bags.
No one will be waiting to help you bag your groceries. The cashier just slides them down into the bagging area. They have an interesting divider that lets the last person finish bagging theirs while yours are being rung up. Some stores have piles of plastic bags and you take what you need. Other stores charge you a small amount for each bag and the cashier gives them to you while ringing up your order. Some times there is a pile of bags at the checkout and you take what you need and tell the cashier how many, so you can be charged for them.
It is best to have one person to handle the paying and another to do the bagging. You can bring bags with you (we always travel with one cloth shopping bag) and you can load some larger items directly into your cart and take that out to your car.
A Few Other Notes
The COOP stores don't always take credit cards, so make sure you have cash. They use their own credit card. The larger stores usually have at ATM nearby.
Here are a few notes about the large supermarkets we have used on our trips.
Southern Tuscany: If you are going to southern Tuscany, near Montepulciano, there is a large supermarket at the Chiusi-Chianciano Terme exit from the A1. Exit the A1 and follow the signs to Montepulciano (west). You will see the supermarket on your left.
Southern Tuscany: There is also one outside of Sinalunga, just south of the Siena-Bettole highway, before you get to Sinalunga.
Chianti Region of Tuscany: If you are going to the Chianti region, there is a large supermarket in Poggibonsi.
Umbria: In northern Umbria, there is a large supermarket on the eastern outskirts of Umbertide.
Remember, you do not absolutely need the large supermarkets. Most villages have very good shops with everything you need.
tuscany.net: Tuscany Net. They have a listing of all the Coop stores (food stores) in Tuscany!
www.slowtrav.com/photos/showgallery.php?cat=554: Demonstration of the shopping cart coin mechanism.
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