Markets are among the best parts about travelling: through them you discover first of all people, and then all the typical products that a culture has to offer, and you have the chance to pick whatever appeals you and try it and go back to it.
Here are some of the basic rules of markets in Italy.
- Don’t touch the merchandise
You don’t get to touch what you’re buying until you’ve paid for it. This may seem strange but in Italian markets, unless you’ve been given permission to serve yourself by the vendor, you’ll tell them what you want and how much of it you want and they’ll get it for you.
- Bring your own bag
The Italians shop with their own bags, whether they’re plastic bags or cloth bags specifically meant for market days. In Italian supermarkets, you’ll most likely pay a few cents for a plastic bag if you don’t already have one, so the locals have gotten used to bringing their own bags.
- Don’t try to barter
Haggling may be considered a sport by some people, but unless you know the vendor you’re not likely to get a discount on your purchases. In fact, you’re likely to insult them by offering less than the posted price. You can try to barter with the people selling clothing if you’d like, but when it comes to the food vendors you’ll be paying the price that’s listed.
- Look for the lines
It’s true the world over, and it’s true in Italy – if there are five vendors selling the same thing and only one of them has a long line, it’s because that’s where the best stuff is.
- Know what you can bring home
Many of the things you find in Italian food markets are perfectly acceptable to bring back with you – but some of it isn’t. You can bring home dried foods, even dried mushrooms, and cured cheeses (like parmigiano) so long as they’re vacuum-packed. You can even bring back roasted coffee, but don’t even think about packing meats of any kind – even if it’s fully cured, and even if it’s vacuum-packed. It’ll get taken away at customs.