Shopping Italian Way

Vera Smirnova 0 Comments

     I like to travel. In fact, sometimes it comes to my mind that while traveling, I feel somewhat more alive than when I am at home. (Not that I do not like my home, I do!) Maybe it is an unpredictability that drives me into it. Or, maybe my distant ancestors were nomads and some weird gene hit me, who knows...     To me, there is a certain magic in planning the trip, reading about the place I am going to visit, packing suitcases... As to latest activity, it is really a pure magic: after you put your warm outfit, beach outfit, rain outfit, walking shoes for city walks, evening dress and high-heels for opera, and bunch of other very necessary things in the carryon suitcase, and manage to close the lid  and zip it, you would have definitely feel like a magician, who just fold some tall blonde girl into a shoebox.  

Few years ago, when I was getting ready for my first trip to Italy, excitement was pouring out of me like a steam from the boiling kettle. It was going to be my first solo trip in many years. Before that, my magician skills had included packing tons of spare socks, diapers and pants, hiding Lego boxes in my purse for them to magically appear in airplane right in time before the next fight and finding ten different answers on one simple question: "Are we there yet?".    But this time I was to take a solo vacations and it also meant that I would be able to go shopping all by myself! Ladies, you will understand me.    

On a New Year's Eve I bought two things: airplane ticket and Italian textbook.   I swallowed as much of Italian language as I could fit in three months and one head, and it turned out very handy. An hour after my plane has landed in Genoa I was already using it. In a small hotel where I booked a room, receptionist's English was about as good as my newly gained Italian. But together, we did well. Body language and gestures are a great communication tool!     I fell in love with Genoa easily and effortlessly, and I especially enjoyed exploring small coastal towns just south of it: Rapallo, Nervi, Sestri Levante... These were a good places to practice my Italian, too.

Here is the story about quite typical scene in the small clothing shop in Italy's region Liguria.  Now, imagine yourself spending a lazy afternoon in the small Italian city, walking along the cosy cobblestone's street lined with shops. It's 2:30 pm - the magic hour, when the vast majority of local people returns to work after sacred for every self-respecting Ligurian two-hours lunch break. By the way, I like that custom. I do not see how people may enjoy having their lunch in a hurry and I have never understood "on-the-go meals". I honestly tried once to walk with a paper cup of coffee in  my hand, but this is another story...  

So, back in Italy. You stroll along the street and pause at the shop's window to take a look at the dresses. The sales lady hospitably opens the door for you and invites you in. She so happily and brightly exclaims: "Buongiorno,  signora!" that it's impossible to resist, especially since you wanted to try this dress on anyway.  To the credit of those shopkeepers with whom I had to deal, they were never too intrusive. You could walk around the store as you like, taking your time to look at clothes on hangers without being interrupted. I love it!      

Finally, you want to try something on. The saleslady carries your stuff into the small fitting room and this is when the Action begins.    Both the saleslady and the other customers are waiting for you to leave the fitting room in a new outfit and appear to everyone present.    As soon as you show up, a stormy and very lively discussion of your outfit begins. The saleslady nods approvingly, or frowns anxiously and runs after another piece of garment. Other ladies also actively participate in the discussion of color, size and style.  Then someone comes to the thought that it will be even better with that hat. You try a hat.  The board of jury eventually makes its decision, you agree or disagree with it, there is noise and din; you have already forgotten what you had on you when came to the shop and what you were going to buy in the first place. Meanwhile another customer or the saleslady's friend comes into the shop and also actively joins the discussion. In no time there are two camps: one vote for that pink skirt and another would swear for that pair of green linen pants...     At the same time local ladies advise you on what color and style you should try on your hair and what kind of shoes is now in fashion. Everyone has abandoned their own shopping and discuss your new look. You feel like a Quinn, surrounded by the court... Or like a slave for sale on the slave market. It depends on how optimistic and self-content you are.  

In the end, you decide that you will buy that blouse. Buyers return to the browsing of their garments, and the saleswoman carries your item to the checkout counter.   On the way to the counter, you mention that your husband will surely like this blouse. The saleslady begins to tell you about her ex-husband, unfolding the story of her marriage and divorce... At some point you realize that you now are in tune with the main qualities of Italian men in general and the Ligurians in particular; that the Milanese men are different from the Genoese; and you  also got some info on the best  vacation destinations...    Then the saleslady looks at the blouse in her hands in perplexity, and you notice a wallet in your hands... Now both of you slowly remember what you are doing here. The saleslady apologizes and takes your credit card.  In the checkout process, you still have time to talk about credit, cash, prices and discuss the economic situation in Italy and in the whole European Union.    Finally the shopping bag is in your hands, and you are going to leave the shop, where you already feel at home, and say "arrivederci" to the saleslady with whom you are now the best friends. You hug each other a couple of times in goodbye and head to the door, but in this very moment another woman comes out of the dressing room ...