You can’t always get what you want from small town supermarkets

Because what you want most of the time, is food.

Two food related things took adjusting to on our arrival in Rovereto*. The first was the choice of food. Like Amsterdam three years before, we struggled to locate and identify sour cream. It took me until Christmastime to find frozen blueberries. Like a sucker, I definitely searched for them in every different supermarket I went to, and that finally paid off with a new supermarket that just opened. Avocados were the other big thing for us and we have had spotty success rates over the past (nearly) three years. Baking soda, strangely, was another ingredient I initially struggled to locate.

The second thing was the opening hours of supermarkets. In New Zealand it was sometimes possible to find a supermarket with a 24 hour opening schedule – although this was actually a little unnecessary, it was nice to know you could buy candy at all hours of the night (and I sometimes did).

Before we discovered the Sunday supermarkets, and the Monday morning supermarket, and the midday supermarket (all common times for shops to be closed), it definitely felt like grocery shopping happened according to some very old fashioned market hours. That if you hadn’t completed your shopping by early evening on a Saturday, it was a long, hungry wait until early Monday afternoon when they reopened. Eating out for every meal the other option.

Gradually, both the supermarkets started to change, and we discovered those with extended opening hours. Because we like to shop on Sundays, we used to cycle further to the outskirts of the city – just because there was a shop open on that preferred day. With more bread options.

And so it was big news when, just before Christmas, two new supermarkets opened. Rovereto being a small town, this made local news.

And, get this, our new local is open every day. Until 9 pm, except Sundays when it is open until 8.30. This is almost bittersweet as it is so close to our end, but we can now grocery shop almost anytime we like.

The other supermarket is too far outside of the city to be a regular, though we did walk by it on new years day. Being a holiday it was closed, but we could still see how enormous it is. Luckily for this nervous cyclist, it’s that much closer to the cycle path than the other giant supermarket further down the same road, where I once bought a pillow and then cycled very carefully home with it stuffed in my bike basket. Memories!

Matt has said that he will miss this, this not being able to buy anything and everything, at any and every time.

These small Italian supermarkets, selling their small range of Italian products, inspired a kind of comaraderie among the other foreigners here. We swapped tips on where to buy things. Fresh coriander arrives at one particular spice shop once a week (which we occasionally buy, even if it is stored in the meat counter). Another store by the river sells tahini paste, etc, etc. Beer, specifically craft beer, has been the big one for Matt. The lack of variety has inspired a beer tasting night, with beer ordered online consumed and compared. The demand for this type of event is less in a bigger city where every bar sells craft beer.

 

 

How many times can I type supermarket in one post? Just watch me: supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket
supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket supermarket

etc.

 

*The abundance of pizza and gelato was not a problem.

Mercatini di natale

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All of my Christmases came early this season: with my visiting mum and sister I visited six Christmas markets in November in the space of a week. With so much Christmas spirit it felt strange to then wait another four weeks for Christmas day.

Also, how nice it was to have my mum and sister stay! They came for my 30th birthday (and for Europe, I guess) and we did lots of little trips together. That photo above is them, with their daily vin brulè.

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On one memorable occasion, we visited TWO Christmas markets in one day. Because I was the tour operator and I was that keen.

The wooden decorations are from a little shop within the Merano markets – they sold such cute stuff but I couldn’t bring myself to spend close to 20 euro for a Christmas decoration, and I left empty handed. Those gingerbread weren’t from a market at all, but a bakery in Merano. So festive! They looked better than they tasted.

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Merano, our first stop, is rather adorable. It’s an ex-Austrian spa town so, like other towns in Alto Adige/Sudtirol, the main language is German. I never know if I should speak Italian or attempt my very, very poor German, or if should give it all up and speak English.

*My German is about ten words strong, most of them food related and most of them I can even pronounce properly.

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After Merano we went to Bolzano. As much as I love visiting the markets, I never actually buy anything, except food. And for this Merano and Bolzano didn’t rate so highly for things I wanted to eat. But, they are quite pretty, no?

Ever since our first Christmas here, I have had a mini, mostly internal, dialogue that I should buy things – I can imagine a day in 15 or 150 years time, when a mortgage and school fees have sapped my income and I can’t afford to leave the country, and at that point I might like to have decorations for my tree from Italian Christmas markets. But, I still can’t be bothered buying them, and practically my only Italian-bought Christmas decoration came from Upim (a small department store, similar to Farmers), so I shall have to steal them from my mother instead. You won’t mind, will you mum?

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Those last photos are all of Bolzano – so pretty! See also, no snow. It has been a very dry winter so far, I’ve heard the ski slopes look a little dismal with only a thin track of artificial snow for the skiers to follow. Things might be looking up now, Saturday brought actual, real snow to Rovereto’s mountains and on the ground in the city, so things can only improve.

 

De mas en mas – second year

de mas en mas rovereto trentinoDe Mas en Mas, one of our favourite local events, actually took place way back in May. But I can still post it here now, right? The combined pressure of uploading photos and writing words had been a little much for me. So lazy. But I’m onto it now.

de mas en mas roveretoIf you take the best elements of Trentino: the mountains, the grapes and the views, add a walking trail, food and a plentitute of cheap wine, then you have de mas en mas. I love it.

krapfen de mas en mas roveretode mas en mas roveretode mas en mas roveretoLike any good degustation, this one starts with breakfast. Because we’re so far north, this means the local doughnut is the German krapfen. And because it’s still Europe, we can eat sweets for breakfast. Mangia Matt, mangia!

de mas en mas roveretode mas en mas roveretode mas en mas roveretoAlso very Italian: all those accordions. Once the second guy found out about the English speakers in his audience, he played every English song he knew for us. We sung along badly, loudly, and rather off key.

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de mas en mas roveretoViews of Rovereto from a little further up.

de mas en mas roveretode mas en mas roveretode mas en mas roveretoA little of the Trentino countryside. We still don’t get out in it as much as we should. De mas en mas marks the beginning of the warmer weather, much like the upcoming Magna Longa (very similar event, but with a different location and no krapfen) marks the end of summer.

Post-Easter

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I received a lovely postcard from a lovely friend in Wellington, with an enquiry as to the types of sweet treats we have been indulging in. And then I realised that, actually, we ate two kilos of colomba cake in just five days, and maybe that isn’t the best idea. Not that it wasn’t delicious..

**the colomba is a cake eaten at Easter and shaped like a dove. Really very similar to the Christmas panettone, and not so convincingly shaped like a dove. Which end is meant to be the head?

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An Easter trip to Bassano del Grappa

Bassano del grappa
Bassano del grappa

Easter Sunday saw us snugly ensconced in an Italian dining room for Easter lunch, awaiting the meat being cooked on the kitchen’s open fireplace. A (surely) justly deserved treat, considering we had spent the Saturday cycling from Pergine through Valsugana to Bassano del Grappa, crossing the border into the Veneto and spending something like six and a half hours sitting on bikes in the process.


Bassano del grappa

Bassano is a beautiful little city, tucked up just below the mountains of the valley we had just cycled through. It resembles the cities of Verona or Venice far more than any of those in Trentino, which I was a little surprised to find. I think I had previously assigned any visual differences to the size of the bigger cities in the Veneto. I will have to realign my opinion to include all those obvious things like age, architects and nationality (Trentino having spent some time as part of Austria).

The cycle path through Valsugana is lovely: flat, wide and mostly separate from the road. We almost made it to Bassano last September, but had to give up due to the late hour and the early closure of the trains. This time around we pushed ourselves a little harder, and chose to overnight in Bassano to have more time to explore. Mostly we ate – I’m not sure when that became a big focus of our trips but there you have it. We had been given a small list of places to check out: a distilleria (Bassano is the home of grappa, hence the name), a pizzeria and a pasticceria. It’s rude not to try recommendations, right?

Bassano del grappa

We have a tandem set up with another couple living in Rovereto, who we mostly speak in English with so it isn’t the most successful tandem relationship. The husband, who is from Bassano, invited us to join their family lunch when he heard we would be there the same weekend. It was Matt’s first proper Italian family dining experience – sitting in a dining room full of family is a little different to eating in a restaurant, no matter what conversations you may have with your waiter.

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The parents spent most of the day in the kitchen, coming out as each course was ready to quickly eat something, before returning to continue cooking the next course. We fulfilled our role as guests perfectly: we sat and we ate, and sometimes we also drank. And we ate very well. Four courses, including lamb and guinea fowl cooked over an open flame, and tasty little grated vegetable fritters served with homemade prosecco. Not a bad way to spend a holiday Sunday.