Shopping in Rome, Florence, Venice, Italy: Etiquette You Need To Know About European Shops

Shopping in Rome, (well in most of Europe) there are different social norms and customs that patrons are expected to know.  In the United States, people paw the merchandise, carry it around and then usually leave it somewhere it doesn’t belong.

This. Does Not. Happen. In. Italy.

Entering into a shop is like entering into someone’s home.  (While the larger mall like stores are more lax in this custom, for this article, I am addressing the small shops.)  When you enter into someone’s home, you immediately greet them.  This is expected in an Italian shop as well.

Vendors are ready to wait on you.  They want to serve and they are attentive.  When you walk in, say, “buon giorno” and smile.  They will greet you as well and may ask something along the lines of “Che cose’?”  This means loosely, “what would you like?”   It is expected that you do not touch the wares. Italians are very meticulous in their belongings and they frown upon the idea of someone else trying it on and touching it. In fact, if you are choosing to try it on, it is almost an unspoken expectation that you plan to purchase said garment.

Wha?????  How do I know I like it?  How do I know it will fit?  Trust me.  The salesperson will have sized you up correctly the moment you darkened their doorstep.  They will know precisely what size you need.  (An aside here is it may not be the size you want.  Sorry.  Their sizes are different anyway, so it doesn’t matter.)

If you are looking for a particular color, they will be happy to help.  When you walk into a shop, the first thing you may notice is that it is very sparse.  There may be one or two mannequins dressed in an ensemble, but that will be it.  The wall are usually lined with drawers or doors that host the goods.  Italians do not like to be overwhelmed with too much at once.  Much in the way they prefer their meals to be presented in unadorned sequence, they use the same principles for clothing stores.

You may like the scarf or the skirt on the mannequins so you can point to it and say, “Lo mi piace.”  This means “I like it.”  Suddenly, before  your very eyes, there will appear a bevy of this particular skirt or scarf or shirt in an array of colors and patterns and sizes.

If there is a certain color you are looking for, it would be a good idea to learn how to say it in Italian. (Most of the shops are housed with salespeople who can in fact, speak English, but they are so happy and proud of you when you attempt the native language, it’s adorable.)

Once you have decided what you will purchase, you can say something like, “Lo prendo.”  This means, “I’ll take it.”  This is the best part.  The salesperson will whirl you up to the cash register and prepare your new belongings for their journey home.  They use tissue wraps and ribbons and beautiful reusable bags with zippers.  It is a treat in itself to watch them.  The excitement overtakes you as you make your lovely purchase.

Try and maintain your dignity when you leave.  At least go around the corner before you begin squealing in delight.  Once, I purchased a scarf (well I made my husband purchase a scarf for me) on the via Condotti and I was so proud of myself for not tearing the package open and rolling around the streets on my new treasure.  That kind of behavior is an entirely different article.

 

Ode to an Old Purse

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The Author and Her New Sirni Bag

The Author and Her New Sirni Bag

Battered Leather, softened with time and the lip gloss that seeped through.

A faithful old friend that never left my side.

A part of myself that always provided for my needs.

My secret treasures, an enigma to others, and sometimes to myself.

As I set you in the back of my closet, I wonder what you would say if you could talk.

Would you say good bye and wish good luck to me

and have sympathy for my eager new clutch?

Instead, you settle into the shelf,

Fragrant with content memories….and the perfume I spilled on you.

-Cynthia Dite….age 18

What is it with handbags?

 I know for myself, I can’t get enough of them.  I love them.  I could spend all day in a store, playing with the pockets and straps and imagining what items of my own I would put into each little section.  Do you do that?  I know that I have an eccentric affinity for bags, but I’ve spoken with other women and some of the reasons THEY Love The Handbag….here are some answers-

  • “No matter what I weigh, it’s guaranteed to fit.”
  • “I can change my bag easier than my hair color.”
  • “Handbags don’t make your feet hurt like new shoes can do.”
  • “I can change my bag faster than I change my mood.”
  • “I feel secure with all my stuff with me.”

Handbags can last forever.  Why do YOU love your bags?

 

Sirni Pelletteria, Roma, Italia: Part Two of a Zillion on Shopping

The author with her newest treasure.
The Author and Her New Sirni Bag

The Author and Her New Sirni Bag

I’ve talked before about the dizzying choices of goods to purchase when you are in Italy.  In the heart of the historic center of Rome, it is no different.  You will see goods that range from the sublime, to the ridiculously stupid.  I know.  I’ve bought them both.  I don’t know if you have the same sickness I have on vacation, but I have to confess, I feel like I’m on a hunt and I want to Bag Something Fab…so there is no pun intended when I tell you one of the best things to buy in Rome is a handbag.  The leather in all of Italy is like nothing I’ve ever seen.  My dear Great-Uncle Augusto wears the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen.  They are so beautiful and elegant.  I know they are soft.  I stop myself at throwing myself on the floor to rub my face on them, so I’m making an assumption here, but you can tell….

Famiglia Sirni

Famiglia Sirni

I’m pausing here for a moment to reminisce about those shoes……..

OK.  Back to shopping in Rome.  As I’ve said, it  offers as many choices as there are cobblestones.  You could always decide to choose something cheesy (which let’s face it, they’re funny to buy, especially that gross apron of “The David”) or buy your self  “Un Tipico Romano Regalo. ”    Leather. Handbags.

At Via Della Stelletta 33, you will find the most beautiful leather goods in Rome.  I am speaking of, none other than the world famous Sirni Pelletteria.  This beautiful little shop has been family owned and operated for over 50 years.  The current proprietors, Andrea and Rita, are a brother and sister duo who have inherited the gift of creating gorgeous handbags from their father.

The Mural of Andrea and Rita's Father over the work station

The Mural of Andrea and Rita’s Father over the work station

The inside of the shop is as sleek and beautiful as the bags.  Each piece is seated much like a monarch on a throne.  They just know they’re special.  Rita works the front of the store, managing the customers and the vast choices of bags.  She is an artist in every sense of the word, beautiful inside and out.  She welcomes people from all over the world.  Movie stars, celebrities and locals alike, recognize these bags for the treasures that they are.  Andrea is a genius sculptor.  His medium is leather and he painstakingly coaxes these pieces of leather into a spectacular monument.  Like I’ve written about before, when you are shopping in Rome, the store vendors wish to serve you.  Rita magically conjures any color or style bag you can imagine.  They also make custom designs.  People return to them year after year to custom order pieces like nothing else in Europe, or the world, for that matter.

The Work Room at Sirni Pelletteria

The Work Room at Sirni Pelletteria

more Famiglia Sirni

more Famiglia Sirni

 

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