Department stores (magazzini) aren’t as widespread or as popular in Italy as in the United States. You’re more likely to find negozi (shops), often owned and run by the same family for generations.
Among the many varieties of Italian negozietti (small shops):
antiquario — antique store (above)
calzoleria — shoe repair
cartoleria — office and stationery
edicola — news stand, kiosk
enoteca — wine shop
farmacia — pharmacy
ferramenta — hardware store
gioiellieria — jewelry store
libreria — bookshop
merceria — knitting, sewing, laces, buttons, small items
negozio di abbigliamento intimo — underwear, pajamas, stockings
negozio di arredamento — furniture
negozio di casalinghi — household items (pans, espresso machines, irons, etc.)
negozio di fiori or fioraio — flower shop
negozio di giocattoli — toy store
officina — automotive repair, body shop
profumeria — beauty products
salumeria — delicatessen (cheeses, olives, cured meat products, etc.)
Lo shopping in these establishments offers extra delights. Merchandise, like the beautiful paper products in the Cartoleria “Imperiale” at 10 Via Metastasio in Rome, may be hand-crafted on the premises. And the artigiani (artisans) who create them are often willing to invite customers into their back-room studios and describe their work.
Opening hours (orario d’apertura) vary, depending on the type of shop and the region.
Almost all shops close for lunch (il pranzo) at 1:00 p.m. and may reopen at 3:30, 4:00, or 4:30 p.m., depending on their location. When they are open, many shops post a sign saying “entrata libera” (free entrance).
When you enter a shop, the sales clerk (comesso) may ask, “Posso aiutarla?” (“May I help you?”) or simply say, “Mi dica” (“Tell me”—what you want.) If you’re just browsing, you can say, “Solo guardando.”
European sizes (misure) are completely different from American ones and do not translate exactly. In the United States, my dress size is a four. In Italy, it’s a gargantuan-sounding 40 or 42. So before I buy a dress (vestito da donna), skirt (gonna), jacket (giacca), or a pair of slacks (pantaloni), I always ask if I can try it on (“Posso provarlo?”).
Sometimes the item is too big (troppo grande), small (piccolo), short (corto), long (lungo), tight (stretto), loose (largo), dark (scuro), light (chiaro)—or just too expensive (troppo caro). I may ask for something cheaper (meno caro) or of better quality (di migliore qualità).
When I find something that suits me (mi sta bene), I ask how much it costs (“quanto costa?”) and if I can use my credit card (carta di credito). “I’ll take it” (“Lo prendo”), I say when I’ve made my decision. And because it’s very important to have a receipt for every purchase in Italy, I ask for one more thing: lo scontrino.
Words and Expressions
fare un buon negozio – to make a good bargain
giovane di negozio – shop assistant
aprire un negozio – open a shop