Big department stores (grandi magazzini) and malls (centri commerciali) 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.
Here is a sampling of typical stores in an Italian city or town and what you'll find inside:
*antiquario — antiques
*calzoleria, negozio di calzature — shoes or shoe repair
*cartoleria — office supplies and stationery
*edicola — news stand, kiosk with newspapers, magazines, comic books, etc.
*enoteca, negozio di vini, vinaio –- wine
*farmacia — pharmacy
*ferramenta –- hardware
*gioielleria –- jewelry
*libreria –- books
*merceria — knitting, sewing, laces, buttons, small items
*negozio di abbigliamento intimo — underwear, pajamas, stockings
*negozio di arredamento — furniture shop
*negozio di casalinghi — household items (pans, espresso machines, irons, etc.)
*negozio di fiori, fioraio — flowers
*negozio di giocattoli -– toys
*pelletteria (or, as above in Rome, pelletterie) –– leather goods
*profumeria — beauty products
*salumeria — deli items (cheeses, olives, cured meats, etc.)
Opening hours (orario d’apertura) vary, depending on the type of shop and the region. Almost all shops close for lunch (per pranzo) at 1:00 p.m. and may post a sign reading “chiuso per pranzo” or “chiusura pomeridiana” (afternoon closing). Shops in different locations reopen at 3:30, 4:00 or 4:30 p.m.
During the summer many cities and small towns in Italy sponsor “shopping sotto le stelle” (shopping under the stars). Stores remain open until midnight or even 2:00 a.m., with live music and entertainment on the crowded streets. You’ll find entire families staying out late and socializing. Feel free to join the fun.
Whatever the hour, if you like to andare per negozi (shop around), you’ll need some basic phrases. When you enter a shop, the sales clerk (commesso) or shop owner (titolare del negozio) 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, “Sto solo guardando” (I’m just looking) or “Do solo uno sguardo, grazie” (I’m just giving a look, thank you).
If you find something you like, ask how much it costs (“Quanto costa?”) and if you can use your credit card (carta di credito). If you decide to take it, say “lo prendo.” And because it’s very important to have a receipt for every purchase in Italy, be sure to get a scontrino.
Words and Expressions
Negozietto — small shop
Aprire un negozio –- open a shop
Guardare le vetrine — another term for window-shopping
Fare acquisti, fare compere, fare spese — general expressions for shopping
Fare la spesa — shopping for food or groceries (only)
Chiuso per ferie — closed for vacation
Chiuso per lutto — closed due to bereavement
Chiuso per malattia — closed due to illness
Chiuso per lavori di manuntenzione -– closed for maintenance work
Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.