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Italy - Shopping

Italy has typically been dominated by small local shops and vendors, but this tradition has begun to see some amount of change. While corner shops, fresh fruit and vegetable vendors and local butchers still dominate most neighbourhoods, many families do some shopping at local supermarkets as well. Italians do their food shopping on a daily basis, as they prefer fresh food to packaged and canned varieties. This holds true in both cities and small towns, but if you need to visit a supermarket you will find them on the outskirts of most towns.

Coop and Emi or Emisfero supermarket chains are among the most popular of Italy’s supermarkets and are to be found throughout central Italy. Coop maintains a line of high quality regional products from within the country, including pasta and coffee, while they also have an organic line called ViveVerde. Emi on the other hand has a line called Sapori Umbri. Carrefour is another popular supermarket chain in Italy. Supermarkets obviously have a broader range of merchandise, as compared to local stores, but they generally lack in the best local products that various regions Italy are famed for. Some of the other big supermarket chains in Italy include the likes of PAM, Unes, Gulliver and Essalunga.

Italy’s economy is powered by small and medium sized business enterprises that are engaged in the manufacture of high quality consumer goods. Many of these businesses are family owned and have built their reputations on their quality, which they guard zealously. Most of these businesses are located in specialized clusters producing both high quality consumer goods and technological products that require cutting edge design and engineering capabilities. While such businesses have acquired a large share of the global market, the Italian market itself has a wide range of quality products to satisfy the needs of what is estimated to be around 60 million consumers.

Most business establishments, shops and public centers open by around 8 or 9 am. Most organizations are open to business from Monday to Saturday and are closed on Sundays, depending on the nature of business conducted. Most shops for example are closed on Sundays, but supermarkets, restaurants and certain other businesses may remain open even on Sundays. When planning to visit a specific shopping destination or historical or religious centre, it is advisable to enquire into their timings first.

The concept of riposo is usually the biggest culture shock to anyone from outside of Italy. With the exception of restaurants, almost all shops, businesses and even museums down their shutters for lunch and a brief snooze! This traditional period of afternoon rest is known as riposo and it could last from around 90 minutes to two hours. Riposo generally begins around noon.

Italian cities like Milan are famed shopping destinations, but there is shopping to be done in most parts of Italy. Almost all of the major shopping destinations within the country follow a pattern of seasonal sales, with winter sales commencing in January and summer sales in July. These end-of-season sales generally begin on the first Saturday of the month, but this can vary among establishments and regions.

While credit cards and debit cards can be used in Italy, their use is restricted and relying solely on cards tends to limit one’s options. Most of the bigger restaurants and hotels accept payments via cards, especially in tourist dominated cities. In smaller establishments and in most other parts of the country however, you will need to make payments in cash.

Local online auction services are available in almost every country, and Italy is no exception. There are regional variants of most of the biggest international shopping and auctioning sites, with Ebay having a regional Italian site ebay.it. Yahoo also has its own site for auctions and there is an Italy specific variant of the site - http://it.auctions.yahoo.com.

Consumer rights can be extremely confusing, and most shoppers in Italy are completely unaware of their rights. New laws have been introduced in recent years to protect shoppers, but there is a lot of confusion among consumers about the interpretation of these laws and what rights are actually guaranteed. Consumer rights in Italy are very similar to those in the rest of the European Union and most goods come with a 2 year warranty. In addition, there has also been a rise of consumer protection groups that help consumers in distress.

Consumer organisations in Italy can fight on behalf of collective interests of consumers as a whole, or on behalf of a number of consumers, depending on how a judge sees fit. Some of the biggest consumer organisations include Associazione Consumatori Utenti-ACU or The Members Consumers Association, which is a non-profit organisation, Associazione Italiana Difesa Consumatori e Ambiente ADICONSUM or Italian Association for Consumers Protection and Environment, which has information centres throughout the country, Consiglio Nazionale Dei Consumatori e Degli Utenti or National Council Consumers and Users (CNCU), which is more focused on awareness and advise, and Associazione per la Difesa e l'Orientamento Consumatori ADOC or National Association for Consumers Defence and Guidance.

Most expats and travellers tend to want certain specific products from their home country, or from the region they formerly resided in. Such imports are not universally or easily available, and you may have to do some searching. City shops are more likely to stock such products, especially specialist stores. Many expats learn to buy locally however, and will adapt their cooking methods to best incorporate local ingredients. At the same time, online shopping is an increasingly popular and viable option. Italy has over 60 million consumers, and many shoppers now rely on the internet for their purchases as well. Italians and expats living within the country often import foodstuff, ingredients, luxury goods, garments and even gifts from overseas , so most retailers and online stores in both the UK and US deliver to Italy, including some of the biggest establishments like Harrods and House of Fraser in the UK and Best Buy and Forever 21 from the US.

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