Socail icons

google-plus.png    facebook.png        twitter.png 

Shopping in Italy

Do you like to touch and feel when shopping? Are you tempted to pick up items you have no intention of buying just to take a closer look? Have you been chastised for reaching into a window display as if you've defiled sacred ground? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, congratulations: ot the eye of any Italian shopkeeper,   you have just behaved in a shockingly bad manner.

Italian shopping etiquette does exist: even with over 15 years of retail experience in the United States I was still puzzled as to how to behave in certain everyday situations. I had a vague idea of what was acceptable, but found myself being at times reprimanded . Thinking I might not be the only one perplexed, I decided to get to the bottom of this mystery.

I asked 31 storeowners, managers and salespeople in a variety of retail businesses what they considered to be bad behavior, especially among foreign customers. Included in this survey were moderately-priced as well as Via Condotti-priced boutiques, specializing in a wide range of merchandise. As an extra benefit, the research provided valuable information regarding exchange and return policies.



First of all, first impressions do count: respond to being greeted upon entering the store. This is common courtesy and sets a pleasant tone for your shopping experience. Do not assume the seller speaks your language. As Massimo Dipersio, a giornalaio in Trastevere, made clear, "I am Italian. I was born in Italy. Why should I speak their language?" Even if you don't speak Italian well, making an effort goes a long way.

Eating and drinking while you shop are high on the list of things you should not do for obvious reasons. Trailing close behind is smoking.  Lighting up is generally considered forbidden in a shop (don't forget that in Italy it is legally forbidden to smoke in public indoor locations like restaurants, bars and shops). The exception was where the shopkeeper answered questions between puffs. Chatting on a mobile phone grated on the nerves of several people interviewed, including the sales managers at the newsstand and the tobacco shop, and the produce vendor. If your phone rings, make the conversation brief or, better still, take care of business first, move on and then return the call.




About two-thirds of shop owners said it was not bad form to ask for a discount. As Gerti Derflinger, who has a cartoleria in Trastevere, says, "It isn't rude to ask and I can say no."

Handling the inventory is considered the "touchiest" subject. Not long after moving to Rome, I was reproached at a newsstand for flipping through a magazine. Then, there was the incident on Via Nazionale when my mother was visiting. She innocently picked up a sandal as we entered the store and was loudly berated for touching what was technically part of the window display. Window displays are absolutely not to be touched. Many stores have very little window space and if it is disrupted they cannot put their best face forward. The merchandise in the window is available in the store. Just ask, or smile and point.

How much touching is too much depends on the type of merchandise. At Pier Caranti, a leather goods store in Piazza di Spagna, the owner Federico Calo explained it this way: "Of course it is okay to pick up and feel the leather, but don't unzip and handle roughly." Salespeople will gladly unzip and empty the handbag so you can take a closer look.

Comments were more forceful at high-priced stores with merchandise made from beautiful textiles. For example, exclusive children's apparel and exquisite linen will quickly become shop-worn and unsellable from too much handling. In grocery stores and produce markets, it may be considered offensive to touch fruit and vegetables. Use the plastic gloves provided or allow the vendor to bag your choices.

Every retailer, with the exception of the produce vendors, said they would exchange merchandise if it was presented in perfect condition, accompanied by the receipt, and within a reasonable timeframe, usually one to two weeks. In the case of a manufacturer's defect an exchange would be granted as well. Surprisingly, refunding cash or crediting a charge card is not allowed. Taxes are paid according to what is rung and once the sale is completed on the cash register it cannot be undone. At the designer boutiques near Via Condotti, it is mostly visitors from the United States who are upset by this. The return policies in the States are very liberal and most stores will credit your charge card if you change your mind, as long as the item has not been worn or damaged. It probably never crosses these customers' minds that this may not be the practice in Italy.

Overall, when asked to give an example of the worst behavior they had witnessed, most merchants were hard-pressed to relay an incident. One memorable illustration concerned an upscale candy store where a customer actually spat out a confection onto the floor. The people interviewed were quick to point out that it is rare for shoppers to behave dreadfully. And more than a few noted that bad manners are not restricted merely to foreigners.

By Martha Miller


Edited by Francesca Bezzone

Schedule for: 
Thursday, March 6, 2014 - 23:30
What do you think ?
Tourist spending boosts New Year sales
Tuesday, January 06TH, 2015 by admin
  (By Sandra Cordon). (ANSA) - Rome, January 2 2015   While Italian businesses said free-spending tourists will help to boost traditional January retail sales events, consumer groups warned that families are too tapped out after years of recessions to shop. The semi-annual sales started in two southern regions, Basilicata and Campania, on Friday and elsewhere in Italy begin Saturday, earlier than has been tradition. Businesses hoped that discounted merchandise would move quickly during the January sales. "Sales are a great opportunity for everyone, Italians and f...
10 Tips for Shopping in Italy
Friday, January 13TH, 2017 by Glauco
If you are traveling to Italy and plan to do some shopping or are simply stopping at the café, you might find the following useful:   1. Price Tags Must Be Displayed In Italy all items should be tagged and price tags should be visible to consumers, this is to prevent anyone being taken advantage of by a shopkeeper looking to up the price unexpectedly. If you notice a missing tag just bring it to the attention of the store manager, but if you sense something shady is going on you have the option of notifying the police.   Shopping in Italy: price tags should always...
  Chestnuts in Porta Portese. Ph. Giorgio M. on flickr (   Flea markets, thrift shops, farmers’ markets—they have them in every city. You may have already discovered the rush of finding a diamond in the rough, of bargaining for a hidden gem, yet if you haven’t visited the Porta Portese market in Rome, you haven’t seen it all. Rome’s open air market is open from 7am until 2pm on Sundays and is a place where you can buy countless items at great prices. The bustling market is filled to the brim with purses, bags, old TVs, furniture, books, fruits, ve...
Shopping in Trentino
Tuesday, August 18TH, 2015 by ancos
  Trentino-Alto Adige is a region located in northern Italy. It consists of two provinces, Bolzano and Trento. It had once been part of Hungary-Austria and, before that, of the Austrian Empire, in the olden times. It had remained a part of the empire from 1389 until 1919 when it was annexed to Italy. Along with the state of Tyrol in Austria, the region represents the South Tyrol-Euroregion Tyrol.   Trento (Shamballah/flickr)   Trentino-Alto Adige borders with Austria to the north, with Switzerland to the north-we...
Shopping in Apulia
Tuesday, February 10TH, 2015 by ancos
Apulia on the Italian Map   Apulia or, as it is known locally, the region of Puglia, is located on the southeastern border of the country along the Adriatic Sea. It is also bordered along the coast by the Gulf of Taranto and Strait of Otranto on the south. The region is spread over an area of 19,345 sq km. The economy of the region is based greatly on agricultural products and services and only a few industries. Probably the main products of Apulia are the olive oil and the dried tomatoes. Apulia had been rather ignored by tourists till recent times and it is only in the...
Friday, June 01TH, 2012 by admin
In this section would like to present a list of activities that can be done while vacationing in Italy Below: surfers on Lake Garda  
Outlet Stores in Italy
Friday, June 01TH, 2012 by AnnaDe Filippo
If you're looking for a bargain during your Italian vacation, outlet stores are a great option.  Figure out what exactly you're looking for, and then ask around. There is bound to be something nearby!   Outlet Stores for Clothes and Accessories In time of crisis people try to save their money or find better ways to spend it. And while we know Italians love fashion and beautiful clothes they now realize that there are other places besides street markets, department stores, shopping malls, and boutiques to go shopping. In the last few years there has been a widespread trend of buying brand...