One of the great delights of staying in an Italian villa is the opportunities you have to shop for fresh produce. Virtually all towns in Italy have an outdoor market, usually once a week (ask around to find out which day). But regardless of whether you’re at a market, a small grocery, or a supermarket, there is just one rule to remember when shopping for food in Italy: DO NOT TOUCH THE PRODUCE. We’re quite used to handling our apples and oranges in the US, but in Italy it is considered very rude!

market2In an outdoor market, you should indicate which fruits or vegetables you need, and the seller will pick out the best specimens for you. Don’t try to indicate that you don’t, for example, want that slightly green lemon – picking out produce is a point of honor for sellers, and rejecting his/her choice is an insult! Another thing to note about open markets in Italy is that there is no bargaining. In Italy, a price is a price.

In a small grocery, you still can’t touch the produce! Instead, wait until an employee comes to help you. Indicate you choices and the employee will pick the produce and put it in a bag.

If you really need control over your produce selection, try a large supermarket: here you will be provided with plastic gloves so that you can pick your own fruits and vegetables. Weigh each bag and punch a button for that particular item, whereupon a machine will dispense a sticker that you should put on the bag before taking it to the checkout line.

Another great place to pick up some traditional Italian food is a deli. There are no special rules here (although you might have to “take a number” or wait in line). Pick up delicious marinated meats, prepared olives, artichoke salads, roasted peppers, fresh mozzarella, and everything else you might find at a full-service American deli – only better!