The Christmas decorations and lights have been dismantled and put away for the year.  The bustling crowds in the street and the festive air have disappeared, but the sales are on!  Now is the time when good shoppers who have been saving their euros throughout the year go into overdrive.

To me, the prices on Via Roma are only now descending from the upper stratosphere, but I’m not fortunate enough to have been born into the Saudi royal family.  For those who are feeling flush, it would be an excellent time to pick up a shirt, a suit, a pair of shoes or a even a fur coat.  Matrons of Torino don’t hesitate to wear them everywhere.

The operative word in the windows of most of the negozi now is saldi, meaning sale.  Sconti is another word you see often, meaning discount.  Unfortunately, your soldi will not go a long way in Italy these days.  The euro has made all the difference.

For North Americans and Australians, shopping in Italy requires a real adjustment, a reservoir of patience and flexibility which is not all that common in either nationality.  Items on Italian shelves are not necessarily found in the same stores they are at home, service is not a priority, and everything is expensive.

It may seem that the sales person has more important things to do than wait on you.  She (0r he) has to look good, for example.  And a text message that is vitally important to his/her social life may require immediate attention to the sales person’s phone.  Think about it.   This may not be obvious to Australians, since attentive service is not in their vocabulary, but Americans who shop in the best stories may be feel bereft.

Nor has the notion of one-stop shopping taken hold in this country.  There are few malls and department stores.  If you have come to depend on 24 hour shopping, forget it. Not only is that unheard of here, most shops will close every afternoon from 1 to 3 or even 3:30 so the natives can have a proper pranzo. Even the supermercato will close on Wednesday afternoon.

You can fill your prescription at the farmacia, buy your cheese at the gastronomia, get your newspaper at the giornalaio, your bread at the panetteria, your best seller at the libreria and your fancobollo at the tabaccheria. Or the post-office if you want to brave the lines.

If you come from the dark ages and still write letters to friends and family, you put a francobollo on an envelope (which you buy at the carteloria.  Mail your letter and keep your fingers crossed.  As a foreigner, of course, you are not required to memorize all these words.  You can usually make do with the universal language:  point and pay.

There is shopping to be done! Only 338 days ’till Chrismas!