One English word has been largely adopted all over Italy: Shopping.
Non si deve fare shopping sulla spiaggia a fine stagione.
One shouldn't shop on the beach at the end of the season.
Caption 31, Francesca - sulla spiaggia - Part 2Play Caption
Italians pronounce it with their kind of O and they give the double P some importance, but it’s recognizable.
They also use the article lo (the) since the S is phonetically “impure” (esse impuro) meaning that it’s followed by another consonant, in this case, H. For more on articles, see Daniela’s lessons.
But let’s be clear. Lo shopping is not grocery shopping. To do the grocery shopping is fare la spesa (literally, to do the spending).
Whatever you do — lo shopping to buy some new shoes, or fare la spesa to buy groceries for a dinner you are planning, it’s handy to have some words to communicate with the shopkeepers.
More and more Italians are able to communicate with tourist-shoppers in English. But to be on the safe side, let’s look at some essential vocabulary.
Prices are often indicated, but if not, you need to ask:
Quanto costa il giubbino? -Trentacinque.
How much does the jacket cost? -Thirty-five.
Caption 19, Serena - in un negozio di abbigliamento - Part 2Play Caption
You won’t get arrested if you leave a store without a receipt, but it’s advisable to have it. In some places, the salesperson might try to get out of giving you a receipt, but it is your right to obtain it. Since tourists don’t necessarily know that, it’s easy to overlook it. If you need to return an item or exchange it, you will need the receipt. Sometimes you have to ask for it.
Mi dà lo scontrino per favore (can you give me a receipt, please)?
When it's offered, it's a good sign.
Grazie. -Aspetta che ti devo fare lo scontrino.
Thanks. -Wait, because I have to give you your receipt.
Caption 36, Serena - un pacchetto regaloPlay Caption
Most shops accept electronic payment, but at the outdoor markets, cash is more common.
Pago in contanti.
I'll pay in cash.
Caption 40, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con AnnaPlay Caption
If you do pay in cash, you might not have any change, especially if you got some nice crisp banconote (bills) from the Bancomat (ATM machine).
Mi dispiace, non ho spiccioli.
I'm sorry, I don't have any change.
Caption 21, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con AnnaPlay Caption
So spiccioli (with the accent on the first syllable) means "small change," but when we're talking about someone giving you change, it's a different story. Il resto does mean "the rest" but here, it means "[the rest of] what I owe you."
Ah, vabbé, non si preoccupi, ora Le do il resto. Prego.
Oh, OK, don't worry about it, now I'll give you your change. Here you are.
Caption 22, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con AnnaPlay Caption
Italians use the English word “cash” to mean “cash,” but sometimes they say "the cash" to mean la cassa, which is the cashier or check-out counter.
Dove si paga (where does one pay)?
Alla cassa (at the cash register/check-out counter).
Have you had any negative experiences in buying things on vacation in Italy? Do you have questions about shopping vocabulary or customs?
Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a previous lesson, we joined Anna and Marika at the famous Trattoria al Tevere Biondo in Rome, where they were having lunch... Later on, after their meal, they start chatting with the owner Giuseppina, who has plenty of stories to tell. She uses an expression that’s kind of fun:
Ma chi me lo fa fà [fare], io m'alzo due ore prima la mattina e la faccio espressa. Ho fatto sempre stò [questo] lavoro. -Così si cura la qualità.
But who makes me do it? I get up two hours earlier in the morning and I do it to order. I've always done it this way. -That way you make sure of the quality.
Captions 24-26, Anna e Marika - Trattoria Al Biondo TeverePlay Caption
“Who makes me do it?” is the literal translation, but the gist is, “why should I go to all that trouble?” And with her Roman speech, she shortens the infinitive fare (to make, to do) to fà. As a matter of fact, as she tells her stories Giuseppina chops off the end of just about every verb in the infinitive. This way of speaking is popular all over Italy, so get some practice with Giuseppina!
Giuseppina may chop off her verbs, but the characters in Commissario Manara chop off the end of the adverb bene (well), turning it into bè. To agree to something, va bene (literally, "he/she/it goes well") is the expression to use. But when the conversation gets going, and it's a back and forth of "OK, but..." or "All right, all right!" or "OK, let's do this," like between Luca Manara and his team, va bene often becomes vabbè. This simple expression, depending on what tone of voice is used, can say a lot. A Yabla search with vabbè will bring up many examples in Manara videos, and plenty of other videos as well.
In one episode, two detectives on Manara’s team think they’ve made a discovery, but of course the Commissario has already figured things out, and they’re disappointed.
Vabbè, però così non c'è gusto... scusa. -Vabbè, te l'avevo detto io, 'o [lo] sapevo.
OK, but that way there's no satisfaction... sorry. -OK, I told you so, I knew it.
Captions 14-15, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP3 - Rapsodia in BluPlay Caption
Vabbè is an expression that gets used about as often as “OK.” Sometimes, though, we really do need to know if things are all right. In this case we use the full form, va bene? (is it all right?):
Eh, guardi, pago con la carta. Va bene? -OK.
Uh, look, I'll pay by credit card. Alright? -OK.
Captions 38-39, Marika spiega - L'euro in Italia, con AnnaPlay Caption
In her reply, the salesperson uses the international, “OK” but she could just as easily have said, va bene (that’s fine).
It’s important to understand abbreviated words when you hear them, but in most situations, when speaking, use the full form—you can’t go wrong.