Local Flavor

Today was a revelation. I went to the supermarket. The real supermarket. Outside the walls. Where the locals go…

When I first got to Lucca, my landlady Paola had marked some spots on the map for me. One was the local supermarket, which she labeled “very cheap” but it was outside the walls and looked to be a good distance away. But now that I am more familiar with the layout of things, I took another look and it didn’t seem far off at all.

As much as I like the neighborhood shops, some things are a bit pricey. And the selection is very limited. For instance, I’ve been buying Prosecco at the butcher shop. The older couple there are very nice and the Prosecco was only 6.50 euro per bottle. (Compared to $13 at home.) Well, one day I went in and they didn’t have any. And when the new shipment came in, the price went up to 8.50 euro. I wasn’t sure if their cost went up or they were just glad to have an outlet for it – me! But it is cheaper elsewhere, so that was that.

I’ve also been a bit disappointed with the cheese selection. Once I got some fontina and it was great, but that market hasn’t had it again. All the markets seem to carry is pecorino, which ranges from mildly strong to wildly strong and I just don’t enjoy it much. What I’ve got now is a hankering for some cheddar – or colby – or colby jack. Maybe melted on some cauliflower…

ImageSo I thought I’d take my noontime walk over to the big supermarket and check it out. I got out my map and took off with an empty bag to bring things back in. And of course I got turned around. It looked so simple, too! Oh well, it was just a few blocks and I actually ended up on the back side of the market, so I just crossed the street and went around front.

How nice to walk into a real supermarket again! I never thought I would say that! I usually hate going to the store at home. Too big. Too much. Too many unnecessary choices…

ImageWell, what a fickle creature I am! I was overwhelmed with wonder at this big market. The produce section was buzzing. People were crowding to get fresh things – which they then put on the scale and pushed the button with the corresponding picture on it and a sticky price tag pops out. I got a couple fresh artichokes to steam later and a few pieces of fruit.

From there I had to plan how much I could carry back. But I found a great sale on Prosecco – bottles that are normally 7.90 euro were 50% off. Just 3.95 each. I put two in my bag. I walked around and was amazed at the prices. I’ve been paying tourist rates, that’s for sure. And the wine! There were lots and lots of “table” wines for 3 or 4 euro per bottle!

ImageAlas there was no cheddar cheese. I thought maybe in their deli or “exotic” department they might have some imports. But there wasn’t a shred of yellow cheese in the place. All white. White, white, white. And no sour cream, either. Two of my staples that I miss. Oh well, I’ll keep Taco Bell in business for a while when I get back!

When I had what I thought I could carry I checked out. I had to get a couple plastic store bags since I couldn’t get everything in my tote. But I noticed that everyone does bring their own bags – and they bag it all themselves. They bag while the cashier is ringing it up. The cashier is seated and waits for the person to finish bagging to pay.

So I headed back with my bags but it wasn’t long before I could have kicked myself for not taking my trolley with me. This is exactly why I got the darn thing and now I’m walking a mile back with two bags of groceries. Brother.

ImageBut I did go back the correct way and there is actually a nice path that cuts back to the old walled city. It was quite gorgeous and I even set everything down to take a photo. (Please DO click on these photos to enlarge them. The embankment is the old city walls.)

ImageLooking the other way you can see one of Lucca’s famous towers. So I guess it IS nice to take a look from outside the walls!

When I got back to the apartment I unpacked my goodies and got out the receipt to gloat over my savings. Except….

I was charged full price for the Prosecco! Daggone it! And I probably didn’t get a discount on the other items I thought I was getting either!

Well, I had to work for a while but it was bothering me, so I figured I’d just take my evening walk right back to that big old store. I made sure I had my receipt and this time I took my wheels. Might as well make it easy to get things back home.

ImageIt was a beautiful walk back over. And it didn’t take long since I actually knew where I was going. But when I got there I went and checked the Prosecco display to make sure I understood the price. Sure enough, it was 50% sconti (discount).

I took my receipt to the customer service desk and showed them the charge. One lady spoke SOME english and puzzled over it. Finally she said, “oh, you have to have a store card to get that price!”

She and her colleague looked at each other satisfied and she pushed my receipt back at me.

“Store card?” I repeated. “Si,” she said.

“So where do I get one?” I asked. (Hey, I’m gonna be here another month – I’m practically a resident!)

She looked puzzled again but pointed me to another desk. I walked over to it and it had a closed sign on it. BUT a girl came up – who tried to ignore me – and I told her I needed a card. She looked blank.

However, there was a card brochure right on the counter, so I held it up and said “I need this card.” She pulled out an application, I put down my name and address and she handed me a card. Viola!

I took the card back over to customer service and they looked at me in surprise. “I can’t give you money,” said the lady. “But you can get credit when you buy again.”

“I’m buying again right now,” I said. “So how do I get the credit?”

She didn’t seem happy but she said to tell the cashier to “call Giada” when I checked out.

Okey dokey, then.

So I shopped. And boy was it fun. Such a different variety of things to try – and not expensive. I just wish I knew what they all were! But I will have a lot of entertainment going to the supermarket now for a while. Here’s some of what I got…


Have you ever seen a package of just 4 eggs?


Quail eggs – I didn’t get these…


This small bag of flour was 32 cents


Milk was hard to pick out. They have lots of kinds – most not refrigerated.


Some cocao for milk at bedtime – 50 cents


A 2-pack of sorbet right off the store shelf. You put it in the freezer.


It’s yummy frozen. 1.22 euro for two. I got the mandarin orange as well.

So once Giada came over and took off my discount from the Prosecco earlier in the day, my grand total was 6.12 euro. Then I went to a quiet spot in the store and stacked my bags on my trolley and headed home. It was quite painless and a very nice walk. Now I won’t be able to pay the in-town prices for my wine, so I guess the big supermarket will become a regular stop. But it is definitely cheap entertainment! And local flavor…

Note: all content copyright of Starr Daubenmire. Starr is an artist and freelance writer based in Southwest Ohio. Starr can be found at Google+ at+Starr Daubenmire

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. MaryBeth
    Nov 09, 2012 @ 19:02:21

    Oh goodness. I would have loved to stroll those aisles with you! We would have been like kids!!!!!

    I am happy to hear you are still venturing…so proud of you.

    I gave your blog address to my friend Marty in Florida. I hope after she recovers from her election depression that she reads all of it.

    I’ve not missed a post!

    Dreaming of Lucca,


    • thesketchylife
      Nov 10, 2012 @ 02:54:38

      You would have LOVED that grocery! And who knows what we would have been cooking up after that. Plus you probably would have wanted to hike over there once a day just for entertainment! Too bad we didn’t go looking for it while you were here… (and you are the only one who knows about the old couple in the butcher shop and about me and cauliflower….)


      • Paula!
        Nov 10, 2012 @ 19:36:07

        What about you and cauliflower? Looks like a nice walk. I would not mind going to the grocery if I had a walk like that! I would need a wagon though! Keep exploring! How much fun!!!!

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