Shopping, especially Food Shopping
Shopping for food in Tuscany is a half time job. The other half is spent cooking, and for the older women both are run in parallel with the most important job of all, â€śfare la nonnaâ€ť (being the granny).
Shopping is a major social activity and cannot be hurried. You can go the Coop which is a sort of small supermarket for the dull essentials, but mostly we shop like the natives do, which involves a few pleasant hours and a lot of banter. Having said this, if you are in serious need of the equivalent of a Tesco shop for 20, then there is a large Coop in San Casciano which will fit the bill. It is well sign posted from the main road and the quality is fine. What follows is for less mundane needs.
The most convenient place to shop locally is in the piazza in Greve. Monday to Saturday the shops are open from 8am till 8pm, closing for lunch between 1 pm and 4 or 5 pm. Until recently almost everything in Greve was closed on a Sunday but now a few food shops, the pharmacy and most of the tourist shops and bars are open. It still is more fun to go to Panzano for the Sunday morning market where you can buy a roast chicken, excellent cheese, fruit and veg and a variety of other things. You can also buy a newspaper and visit the showman butcher Dario Cecchiniâ€™s store where you can sample various meat based products (see Butchers below). And then you can have a drink at Arianna and Mimmoâ€™s bar( Enoteca Baldi), before meandering home for lunch.
On weekdays if you get to Greve before 10am parking in the piazza is free, and that is what the locals do. Thereafter you have to buy a ticket from the machine and the traffic wardens, the vigili, are very quick to give you a ticket, (a multa), so beware. There is an alternative car park behind the Co-op which is free, but this gets very full on Saturdays which are market days, so if you go the Greve on a Saturday morning it is best to get there early.
Here is a brief guide to the shops we use regularly.
Bakery – the Forno del Chianti in the piazza is very good, but often very crowded and you will have to take a ticket and wait. Try the thin olive oil bread “schiacciata” which means squashed â€“ it comes thin or very thin “fine” and sometimes whole meal “integrale”. Ordinary Tuscan bread is rather tasteless and dull but ideal for toasting and making into bruschetta. The alternative bakery is at the traffic lights opposite Bar Anna and I rather prefer their schiacciata which is also sold in the Pizzicheria.
Deli – the Pizzicheria of Silvano and Franca is very good and there is no rival in Greve. The ham â€“ either Parma, called “dolce”, or Tuscan called “casalinga” and a bit stronger, is excellent and so is everything else they sell in our experience, but it’s not cheap. They also now sell our favourite schiacciata from the bakers at the traffic lights .
Butchers – we in the UK have grown used to the EU regulations â€“ no meat on the bone, no giblets with the chicken etc. These rules have not penetrated to the heart of Tuscany. They will need to chop the head off the chicken and gut it for you. There are several butchers in the piazza and if youÂ want to see a bit of native eccentricity you can try Gabriellaâ€™s which is almost next door to the Pizzicheria.
The meat is very good and used exclusively by the restaurant at Lamole. Gabriella is the boss and she will shout cheerfully at you in broad Tuscan. The experience has been modulated by theÂ presence of her son who talks in a normal voice and speaks English. We have recently discovered that her home cured ham is the best around and that she has started making her own salami in various flavours such as fennel or bay. They are very good and she has a folder to show what is available and which seasoning it has in various languages. We were also able to ask for lamb and they arranged for it to be delivered 2 days later. Killed to our order, and though we are not vegetarian I found that strangely disconcerting. It was very good!
On the opposite side of the square there is Falorni with a stuffed wild boar out side. Generally regarded as the tourist butcher it does have very good breaded veal and stuffed guinea foul ( faraona).
And of course there is the celebrity butcher in Panzano Dario Cecchini – more of that later.
Fish – there is a mobile fishmonger who comes to Greve 3 times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It has recently moved to a new location next to the large metal statue of the Gallo Nero. Instead of turning right at the traffic light into the square turn left and you will find it and also the new large free partly underground car park. The fish is fresh and well worth buying.Â Nigel is slightly
against this as we are not near the coast, but it attracts a lot of local business and when I have bought there the quality was excellent.There is also a fish stall in the Saturday market but we have not used it ourselves.
Greengrocers – the local one is on the left in via Roma ( leave the square going North)Â . They have a large market garden and much of the produce is home gown and fresh if not totally pristine to look at. In Tuscany they do not bother with out of season fruit from the other side of the world, but in the summer there is plenty of good local fruit and veg.
Ice cream – the Cafe Lepanto in the piazza sells very good home made ice cream. If you simply sit outside and drink coffee ( the best in the world) you may never discover this. You can either buy a cone or tub to eat immediately, or a box of 1/2 to 1 kg with a variety of flavours in it to take home. Another gelateria is almost next to the Coop and word is that this is even better. Don’t buy Ben and Jerry’s, there is simply no comparison.
General stores – for things like milk, beer and tins of tomatoes it’s easiest to go to the Coop. We’d encourage you not to bother with bottled water. The tap water at Ripertoli is from our own well and has the highest certificate for quality from the inspectors! The Coop also does staple household things like kitchen roll and dustbin liners. Donâ€™t buy the meat or the cheese or bread there. There is an underground car park which you can use free if you shop there â€“ they give you a token at the checkout.
Market days – Saturday morning in the piazza in Greve is well worth a visit if only to look. But there are a lot of food stalls and of particular interest is the roast chicken and porchetta stall.
The chickens are delicious â€“ the skin is very salty making it even more delicious, but you have to suspend thoughts of blood pressure for a day! As for the boned stuffed whole roast pig, this is a treat not to be missed. Huge slices of this porchetta make a great lunch or you can have a bread roll to eat on spot if you are hungry.
Other useful shops in the piazza in Greve:
Newspapers – the shop very close to the bakers does foreign newspapers a day or so out of date.
Hardware – if by any chance you break a glass (you would not be the first) the store close to the newsagent supplies the ones we buy, though in general we prefer to replace them ourselves to be sure they are all matching. However if you have a real catastrophe and need to replace lots then this is the place to go. We call it ‘the bald ladies’ shop’ and if you go in you will understand why!
Olive wood shop – at the top of the square on the right is a delightful shop where you can buy all sorts of useful little spoons and bowls. And there is a beautiful shop selling hand made linen with smocking which is out of the last century except in price.
Dry Cleaning and laundry – almost opposite the green grocers in Via Roma is the dry cleaners / laundry shop. It’s very efficient and run by a lovely lady called Grazia.
Food shopping further afield
There are lots of specialist butchers and delis around but we never bother to go to them, with the exception of the butcher Tozzetti with great meat and ham, and the Â Mercatale Bakery (Il Panaio).This forno-cum-deli is exceptionally good and we would go there especially for the bread particularly the cinque ceriale (5 cereals). The cheese is also excellent and there is a greater variety of truly local cheese than in the Pizzicheria inGreve. Try the Buccia di Rospo (toad’s skin). The shop is on the right in the one way street as you leave the centre of Mercatale on your way back to Ripertoli.
Leather shop in Panzano
Carlo Fagiani is a friend and leather expert trained by Gucci, who had a small shop in Panzano where you can buy leather goods and have shoes and jackets made to measure within a few days. Due to some irregularity with the tax man the shop is now officially owned and run by his girl friend. There is a greater range of designs now, but the basic theme is the same. It is certainly worth a visit and if you do buy something you will find it of high quality but certainly not cheap.
Clothes Shopping – Florence and the outlets
Florence is the main base of a number of the famous Italian designer shops and rightly has a reputation as a fashionable place to buy clothes. The ranges that these international designers display in their headquarters’ shops are different from those seen abroad and worth a visit, thoughÂ Florence is hot in midsummer. Many are based along Via Tornabuoni including Armani, Versace, Gucci, Roberto Cavalli (a local resident) and Prada. Nigel enjoys buying clothes in Ermenegildo Zegna and Ferragamo .
For the more adventurous there are the retail outlets which some of our clients have loved, coming home with startling bargains. I had a very enjoyable and rather expensive half day there when the olive harvest failed totally in 2014 . The internet address is www.themall.it
A specific Dolce and Gabbana factory outlet is at
via S Maddalena 49
Both are open 10am – 7pm Monday to Saturday and 3pm – 7pm on Sunday
Deborah.Â January 2016