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


Top of the morning to you – politeness in London


Midway through October I took myself off to London for a whole week.. It felt a little indulgent but it was awesome to spend a decent amount of time there. I am impressed with how many trips I have managed to fit in the last little while (including a weekend in Florence not too long ago). But to be fair, I booked London many a month ago when the fairs where cheap and I didn’t yet know I would be spending most of my August elsewhere and I have a new job starting in a couple of weeks, which means (practically) all of my travel is over for a while.

It was both a novelty and a treat to be surrounded by English speakers and to understand everything that was going on around me. Even if with understanding (and eavesdropping) comes disinterest, because most other peoples’ conversations aren’t really that interesting anyway..

The English are often described as being a rather polite nation, but it wasn’t until this trip that I saw how some things, that I had previously taken for granted (and now miss a little), might be seen as being rather polite.. I know I shouldn’t compare Rovereto to London (or any other big city), or project anything I’ve learned about Italians here across the rest of the country, but I do anyway. My list, or things I found different:

Cars stop for you at pedestrian crossings. It was actually quite beautiful, considering this is London and such a busy city, but cars (including taxis and buses) would always stop, even at the shortest notice if I popped up from somewhere and arrived at the curb edge. If the occasional car did speed through, it was accompanied by an apologetic and bashful wave from the driver to acknowledge that really, they should have stopped, but had hurry or whatever.

Fellow public transport users sit at the window seat, leaving the one next to them open and accessible to someone else. Oh how polite. Though maybe it’s not so much that Italians aren’t polite, just that they don’t want to sit next to anyone else. Either way, when you board a bus in Italy you will find the aisle lined with people and many a window seat empty and blocked.

This one I quite like, as I find the Italian way a little strange, in shops/at supermarkets/in restaurants, your cash change is handed to you, instead of being plonked down on the counter. Not such a biggy, and i’m sure people like to avoid hand contact with strangers, but it felt a little more personal. That’s not to say that any of the shop attendants were polite, I think half of the ones I was served by didn’t even say a word to me..

The one thing I couldn’t get over is how much food there is in London. I loved the variety, and ate at all types of restaurants and bought all kinds of supermarket snacks, but it was crazy to be constantly surrounded by so much food. Even the big pharmacy chains sell sandwiches, chips and snacks, and there are food chains, convenience stores and mini supermarkets full of ready meals everywhere. No wonder the UK is estimated as wasting close to a third of food produced as it is so easy to buy so much of it.