I knew that things would be different in Florence. I knew the showers would be different, the language, the customs, but for some reason I never really thought grocery shopping would be that different.
To some extent it’s not. You can still find grocery stores, albeit fewer and far between, and get all your necessities there, but if you want to be like a true Italian here’s what you do!
There are a couple main grocery stores around Florence: Conads and Despar. These are the two big ones that come to mind, but you can find a couple smaller ones as well. They’re great for the general stuff: cereal, bread, snacks, drinks, etc. as well as household stuff you need. Check around to see which one has the best prices.
If you go outside of the city center, about a 30-40 minute walk from the Duomo, there is a bigger grocery store, Esselunga. While it does have more of a selection, I didn’t think it was that wonderful. The selection at Conads is just as good, and considering Conads is around the corner from my apartment, I’m sticking with the closer option!
For your fresh fruits and vegetables, you have a couple of options. You can of course buy them from the grocery store, but since you’re in Florence, I would suggest going to the markets! The San Ambrogio market, which is open Monday-Saturday, 8:ooam-2:00pm, has delicious fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as other little knick knacks and cheap clothes. The produce is delicious, and you can buy your goods alongside Italians. I’ve found the lady at the end of the produce section on the right has the best and sweetest oranges! For the rest of the produce, I kind of just play by the day.
The San Lorenzo indoor market, or central market, is better for dried fruits and spices, although it does have a fresh produce section as well! There are loads of dried fruit stands, and they make great snacks for trips! The central market is open Monday-Saturday, 7:00am-2:00pm and also has a lot of meat and cheese shops to buy all your goodies.
For snacks, household goods, notebooks, and any other thing imaginable check out the 99 cent stores, although be warned; you will probably attempt to buy the entire store because for 99 cents everything seems like a necessity.
While all of these shops and markets are wonderful, my favorite shop I’ve found is the little liquor type store underneath my apartment. The owner knows my roommates and I by name, and I can always expect a smile when I come into the shop or see him around town. While his products may be a little bit more expensive, the personal interaction is completely worth it. I know other students who have developed such great relationships with other store owners, that if they forget their money, it’s not a problem at all.
Grocery shopping is definitely different here, but it’s definitely awesome as well!