When you are in Italy you will find many different types of shops, in fact great shopping is one of the many things that Italy is famous for. There are two main types of shops selling clothes in Italy, big stores and small or “medium” shops.
Big stores are usually situated in shopping malls and they are normally chains of foreign brands like H&M, Zara and Berska. Department stores also count among the big stores. Of course, big cities in Italy are also full of designer boutiques and there are also many outlets to be found across the country.
Small and medium shops are also often situated in shopping malls, but you will also find them in the main streets of a town. This distinction is important to understand, because you will be more likely to find authentic Italian products in small or medium shops, many of which are privately or family owned. Also, the approach of the shop assistant (commessa ) would be different in these types of places.
In fact, in smaller shops the shop assistant will likely always help you, whether it is with advice, finding a size or selecting the type of clothing you’re looking for, as these types of stores have a more direct and hands-on sales approach. If you’re worried about communicating with a shop assistant because you don’t speak Italian, here are some tips and a sample conversation:
Commessa/shop assistant: Buongiorno, posso aiutarla? = Good morning, may I help you?
Cliente/Customer: Si. Vorrei comprare un bel vestito. = Yes, please. I would like to buy a dress.
Commessa: Ha un’idea in particolare? = Do you have something particular in mind?
Cliente: Beh. lunghezza media e lo vorrei di un colore vivo. = Well, I would like a medium length dress in a bright color.
Commessa: Va bene…le mostro alcuni modelli. Che taglia? = Ok! I’ll show you some styles. Which size?
Cliente: Emme (M) = Medium.
Commessa: Va bene. = Ok!
Cliente: Ecco! Le ho preso tre vestiti. Uno è verde con delle pailettes sul collo, uno bianco e giallo e un altro rosso. Può provarli nei camerini che sono là. = Here you are! I’ve brought you three dresses. One is green with some sequins around the neck, one is yellow and white, and another is red. You can try them in the changing room over there.
Cliente: (dopo aver misurato tutti e tre i vestiti) Il verde non mi piace molto, il rosso è troppo forte…il bianco e giallo è il mio preferito. Cosa ne dice? = (after trying the three dresses) I don’t like the green a lot, the red is too strong…the yellow and white is my favorite. What do you think?
Commessa: Non ho visto gli altri due…ma questo è perfetto e mi piacciono molto i colori = I didn’t see the other two….but this one is perfect and I like the colors very much.
Cliente: Va bene. Prendo questo. = Ok. I’ll take this one.
Commessa: Le serve anche una borsa? Ne abbiamo una bianca con alcuni dettagli in giallo che è stata creata appositamente per questo vestito = Do you also need a bag? We have a white bag with some yellow details that was made specifically for this dress.
Cliente: No, grazie. Non uso molto le borse = No, thank you. I don’t use bags that much!
Commessa: Va bene! = Ok!
Cliente: (alla cassa) quanto le devo? = (at the cash register) How much do I owe you?
Commessa: Sono 120 € = It is 120 €
Cliente: Ecco a lei. = Here you are.
Commessa: Grazie. Buona giornata! = Thank you. Have a nice day!
Cliente: Arrivederci! = Bye!
Commessa: Arrivederci! = Bye!
This is only a sample conversation and a basic idea of how to converse with a shop associate in Italian. Never address the salesgirl as “commessa,” as it is considered rude, rather if you want to ask something say, “Scusi” (“Excuse me”).
In little shops they will always pay you more attention as there is not the standardized concept of shopping typical of the international and huge stores, which are often based on a “self-service” policy.
As far as sizes are concerned, Italian shops have a different setup for sizes, however, if you talk in terms of extra-small, small, medium, large and extra-large you will be perfectly understood and generally shop assistants immediately realize, thanks to their experience, what your size is.
- negozio = shop
- commessa = shop assistant
- cliente = customer
- pantaloni = trousers
- camicia = shirt
- maglietta = t-shirt
- vestito = dress
- vestiti = clothes
- scarpe = shoes
- borsa = bag
- taglia = size
- cappotto = coat
- pagare in contanti = pay cash
- carta di credito = credit card
- bancomat = debit card
- a pois = polka dotted
- a strisce = striped