Pasta, pasta, and more pasta! This isn’t a joke. Shopping for groceries in Italy is an experience like no other. Imagine the look on my face seeing entire aisles in the grocery stores dedicated to nothing but spaghetti, bucatini, and linguine. But that's not all. Canned marinara sauces also dominant the market. Italian-bred sauces that satisfy the demanding palate of Italians are always found adjacent to the pastas. Cooking as many different pastas as I can has become my go-to while studying abroad in Milan. Let me just say that dinner has never been better.
If you’re anything like me and you’re living in a space where a meal plan isn’t offered, grocery shopping will become a necessity during your time abroad. Below are a few things I wish I knew before going grocery shopping in Milan.
1. Bring your own bag
I can’t stress this point enough. You need to bring your own reusable bag when going grocery shopping. It can be literally anything, as long as it’s big enough to carry your groceries to and from your residence. Sustainability is a common practice in Milan, and bringing your own bag with you is a cultural norm in Italy. Pretty much everyone does it and you save money in the process. Stores charge for plastic bags so my advice would be to avoid the hassle altogether.
2. Cashiers are not responsible for bagging your groceries
Something interesting I learned my first week in Milan had to be employees not bagging your groceries for you. Normally in the states they take care of bagging everything for you, whereas in here they simply scan and move on. It feels like self checkout but with a person. This leaves you bagging your own items while paying. Going back to my first point, this is where bringing your own bag really comes in handy. Stores can get busy, and having your own bag means you can throw everything in there without worrying about the bag tearing.
3. Waters bottles can be pulled out individually
One of the biggest culture shocks I had in Milan was watching a young lady open up a sealed six pack of water, take one, and walk away. Generally in Europe, if you want something to drink and don’t want the 4 or 6 pack; it’s common to open up the packaging and take one out. And this doesn’t just apply to water bottles. Juices, tea, any beverage you can think of sold in pack can be opened and taken individually if desired.
4. Smaller aisles
Generally speaking, grocery stores in Italy are smaller than those in the United States. In order to compensate for this, aisles are much more narrower which can make manuevering around others difficult at times. Conad and Express in are two examples of grocery stores in Milan that follow this mantra.
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Hello! My name is Leonardo Hall, I'm a senior studying International Business and Economics at the University of Puget Sound. I'm studying abroad in Milan to study business and explore Italian culture. I love running, music, and traveling. This spring, I hope to have tons of new and exciting experiences in Italy, and that sharing them with you helps you get the most out of your time abroad!