Grocery shopping in Siena

One of the biggest changes in this 5-week trip in one place, versus previous week-long trips spanning multiple places, is that I have to actually buy groceries and make food. (I certainly can’t afford to eat every meal at restaurants for more than a month.)

I knew this coming in, and in fact made a trip to the grocery store as one of my first excursions in town. And yet, despite having gone several times, I still find myself amazed every visit.

First of all, it’s a pretty small space, but they’ve wrapped it around the elevator shaft, and thus created a circle that starts and ends at the entrance/exit. As you enter, you’re immediately bombarded by the rush of people entering or exiting from the same spot, and you have to maneuver around the cash registers in order to start your shopping.

Oh, and shopping carts here are handheld, but on wheels, with an extended handle to drag them along. I’m here for it.

There is, perhaps not surprisingly, a very large assortment of pasta. In fact, I’d wager that probably anywhere from 1/4 to 1/3 of the store is pasta-related… dried pasta, fresh pasta, frozen pasta, pasta sauce… The stereotype of Italians eating lots of pasta is firmly grounded in reality.

Even the Italians have realized that some people are lazy and want easy frozen meals. I’ve made some frozen gnocchi and ravioli but I can’t bring myself to get a frozen pizza here. (There’s a pizzeria that’s only about a two-minute walk from my apartment, and their fresh pizza isn’t much more expensive than this, so why would I?!)

There’s also a fair amount of cheese here… It’s not France, of course, but they’re not screwing around where formaggio is concerned.

At some point, presumably, you’re going to want some protein in your diet… If nothing else, you’ll want some meat to put into your pasta, no?

I’ve been reluctant to try it, because I hold Italian gelato in high regard, but there’s a decent selection of frozen desserts here… One day I may give in and get some.

Perhaps most shocking (in a good way) was the fairly large selection of wine to choose from, in a tiny grocery store. (This is probably 10% of the store altogether.) Even cheap grocery store wine here is delicious, and priced very reasonably. (Think “Trader Joe’s” in the U.S.) It makes it seem almost silly to not have a glass of wine with dinner!

Without a doubt, though, the most shocking thing to me about grocery stores here… they sell DiSaranno amaretto for the equivalent of about fifteen American dollars. For the big bottle.

If you thought I was excited about moving to Italy before

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