We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

Oregon
Level Contributor
549 posts
14 reviews
Save Topic
Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

Good day to all.

We're about to leave for a 10 day tour of Venice, Florence and Rome, plus days to ourselves on either end. We'll also have some time on our own during the tour itself in each place. Unfortunately, due to our apartment flooding and needing to move house very suddenly, I have not been able to do my usual exhaustive pre-trip research. I'm hoping some kind souls will offer some tips and advice on the following to help us out. We've been to Rome in the past, but it was about 15 years ago. Venice and Florence will be new. We're both fit, in our 40's and well-traveled, so we're aware of basic packing and safety rules and things like cover charges etc.

What are the big cultural "don't do that" or "please do this" to make interacting with folks smoother? Will we have any difficulty with the fact that we speak/read very very little Italian? (Learning a bit was intended, but the time evaporated.) Are there differences specific to each of these cities that we should be aware of?

What are the "rules" for supermarkets/grocery shops? Traditional opening hours? Navigation and use techniques? (As in "don't touch the fruit" type things. We always carry our own bags to pack ourselves.)

How does one find a toilet when out site seeing? Is it acceptable to use cafes or fast food restaurants without being a customer? Or to go into a hotel lobby if you are not staying there? Is there a specific procedure or etiquette for making use of toilets? (Pay as you go in, pay as you go out, attendants etc.)

Is it common in restaurants (for dinner or lunch) to seat yourself or wait for someone to direct you? Any other tips on restaurant etiquette?

Thank you in advance for anyone who takes the time to respond. We would be most appreciative. We've been looking forward to this holiday for some time and it would be incredibly disappointing to have it be less than great because of an unfortunate twist of fate. I've always had such good results with questions I've asked on TA forums due to the generous nature of most users.

Imperia, Italy
Destination Expert
for Italian Riviera
Level Contributor
28,484 posts
Save Reply
1. Re: Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

The conventions for buying fruit in supermarkets vary. "Don't touch the fruit" is usual in larger ones, which supply disposable gloves for you to wear while choosing your fruit - in such places you also often have to weigh the fruit yourself and put the price-sticker onto the supermarket's own bag before going to the check-out. But in small local supermarkets these rules may not always apply, and in street or covered markets touching the fruit is often acceptable.

For toilets, buy yourself a coffee, and then use them free and unattended.

In restaurants other than the most basic, it is usual to wait for someone to seat you.

Edited: 16 October 2010, 17:09
Watertown, MA
Level Contributor
2,608 posts
15 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

Learn a few basic polite expressions, buon giorno etc.

If you google "basic Italian polite phrases" you will get all sorts of help. In the cities where you are traveling a few words of Italian go a long way.

most shop/stores close during the afternoon and hours usually are 8/9 am until 6pm or so.

Most restaurants have their menus posted outside so you can get idea of choices and cost. Typically, menus with bright pictures of food in several languages are of poorer quality.

have a wonderful trip!

Venice, Italy
Destination Expert
for Venice, City of Venice
Level Contributor
7,555 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

In Venice, any supermarket with self service fruit and vegetables will also provide disposable plastic gloves for handling fruit before bagging it. Most have self-service scales with identification numbers near the fruit/vegetables itself, and corresponding numbers on the buttons of the electronic scale to pick the correct type of food. It is not acceptable to taste the fruit (es. grapes) to test it. In outdoor stands or individual fruit/vegetable stands in Venice it is hardly ever allowed to pick out the fruit yourself or to touch the displayed fruit, unless the vendor specifically tells you to (which is usually only for "regular" customers).

The only places where you seat yourself in Venice are fast food or cafeteria style restaurants where there is actually no table service. The only exception that comes to mind is the outdoor seating section of cafés, where you generally can seat yourself. It is usually frowned upon to move tables or chairs (es.: joining up two tables) unless you ask before hand, and in some cases (some cafés on the Grand Canal) it is actually prohibited by zoning permits (or so the waiters insist). Do remember that in most any other restaurant, café or bar, with service, if you sit down, the same exact food or drink costs more than if consumed standing at the counter. This isn't a "two-tier" scheme to "get" tourists, it just is that way.

Many cafés and bars in Venice where you would normally think to pop in to use the facilities for the price of a coffee or drink do *NOT* have public WC facilities, due to the architectural oddities of a many centuries old city built on a foundation of mud and water. Go figure. It seems most anyplace with seating and tables should have serviceable facilities, though the size, accessibility, and quality can vary very greatly. Restaurants tend to always have facilities, often somewhat decent, and museums usually range from relatively decent to very nice ones, depending on the museum, usually worth taking advantage of before leaving and wandering. I have never heard of using a hotel where you are not staying being acceptable in Venice, and even the McDonalds in Italy generally require you to have either a code (printed on every receipt) or proof of purchase.

For Venice, many grocery stores (the larger ones) are open from about 9am-7:30pm, some a little later. Summer hours can be a little later too. Others (smaller usually) tend to close 1pm-4pm. Bakeries also usually close the same 1pm-4pm roughly, some fruit and vegetable stands, butcher shops, fish sellers, other specialty food stores (es.: diary and cheese) either close for lunch or are open only in the morning. The Rialto Markets are open only mornings: Mon-Sat fruit and vegetable, Tues-Sat the fish stands. Most food stores are closed on Sundays, while many Supermarkets are open Sunday, at least in the morning. Clothing and "stuff" shops (like souvenirs, etc.) open a little later (generally 10-10:30am) and also often close for a lunch break, and depending on the size and type of store may stay open Sundays.

In Venice a little Italian goes a long way, though you generally don't really need any except to look like you are willing to try a little.

Edited: 16 October 2010, 21:06
UK
Level Contributor
4,630 posts
6 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

If you have Italian friends/acquaintances, bear in mind that pictures of owls and cypress trees are not welcome on birthday / greetings cards as they are connected with 'death' and graveyards and bring bad luck - except perhaps in Tuscany, thanks to the Etruscans, where there is still some vestige of the cult of Minerva/Athena - whose symbol the owl was...and then it is good luck. Also, do not send or bring chrysanthemums to your hostess as these are also 'flowers for the dead' being cheap and plentiful in November for the feast of All Saints / All Souls when everyone turns up at their family graves with them.

Lilies do not have the connection with death that they have in the UK - as many Italian brides carry them - a symbol of purity.

Houston, TX
Level Contributor
1,401 posts
166 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

Always keep some .50 and 1 euro coins for public toilets. They're often not free, as in the US. The nice thing is that those are generally attended, and therefore cleaner.

Venice, Italy
Destination Expert
for Venice, City of Venice
Level Contributor
7,555 posts
39 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

"keep some .50 and 1 euro coins for public toilets": in Venice better have both, or there's no getting in. Currently most public WCs cost €1.50 ot get in.

7. Re: Supermarkets, toilets and other do's and don't's, please?

-:- Message from TripAdvisor staff -:-

This topic has been closed to new posts due to inactivity. We hope you'll join the conversation by posting to an open topic or starting a new one.

To review the TripAdvisor Forums Posting Guidelines, please follow this link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/pages/forums_posting_guidelines.html

We remove posts that do not follow our posting guidelines, and we reserve the right to remove any post for any reason.

Removed on: 16 April 2011, 05:16