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 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. These days some of the shops and the cafes are open on Sunday but it is more fun to go Panzano where there are some food shops open and the travelling market will sell you a chicken and cheese on Sunday morning. You can do some shopping and have a drink at Arianna and Mimmoâ€™s bar, so all is not lost.
If you get to Greve before 11 am parking in the piazza is free, and that is what the locals do. Thereafter the square is closed to traffic till a brief re-opening between 4-5pm. There is an alternative car park behind the Co-op where you have to buy a pay and display ticket, but this gets very full-on Saturdays which are market days, and if you go the Greve on a Saturday morning it is best to get there early. Finally to the East of the piazza there is a 2-story car park which you have to pay for but at least in the summer the underground part is cool.
Here is a brief guide to the shops we use regularly:
Bakery â€“ There are two bakers in Greve -the Forno del Chianti on the North side of 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 â€śschiacciataâ€ť which means squashed â€“ it comes thin or very thin â€śfineâ€ť and sometimes wholemeal â€śintegraleâ€ť. Ordinary Tuscan bread is unsalted and rather tasteless and dull but ideal for toasting and making into bruschetta.Â The alternative bakery is at the traffic lights opposite Bar Sant â€™Anna and they have some interesting nutty schiacciata and other different breads. Their bread is now sold in the cafĂ© halfway along the left side of main square as you face the church, La Pasticceria. There are all sorts of interesting cakes and the cantuccini are homemade and very good.
Butchers â€“There are several butchers in the piazza and we use Gabriellaâ€™s (actually called Ceccatelli ) which is on the left near the church. The meat is very good â€“ try the boned rolled seasoned loin of pork- and although the eccentric Gabriella is no more, her son Paolo will look after you and he speaks English. Their ham is excellent and they make their own salami in various flavours which is also 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).
Fish â€“ there is a mobile fishmonger who comes to the piazza 3 times a week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and the fish is fresh and well worth buying. 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.
Greengrocers â€“ there is a good greengrocer on the left of via Roma. They have a big vegetable garden and a lot of the produce comes straight from that â€“ not looking pristine but tasting very good. 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 Italian fruit and veg so this should not be a problem.
Ice cream â€“ the Cafe Lepanto in the piazza sells very good home-made ice cream. If you simply sit outside and drink coffee you may never discover this. You can either buy a cone or tub to eat immediately, or a box of Â˝-1kg 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. Donâ€™t buy Ben and Jerryâ€™s, there is simply no comparison.
General stores â€“ for things like milk, beer and tins of tomatoes itâ€™s easiest to go to the Coop. In 2020 it was completely overhauled and now has really quite a good deli counter, good bread and ham etc. We buy quite a lot of things there now our favourite deli has shut. Weâ€™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 and we have a soda stream so you can have it fizzy too! The Coop also does staple household things like kitchen roll and dustbin liners. There is an underground car park which you can use free if you shop there â€“ they stamp your ticket at the checkout.
Wine Store: There is only one wine shop in the square, La Bottega del Chianti, and it is very good in terms of the selection of local red wine and some from adjacent areas â€“ it is on the right as you face cafĂ© Lepanto.Â Fundamentally the reds are great but not cheap and the whites are disappointing.
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 the spot if you are hungry.
Other useful shops in and around the piazza in Greve:
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.
Electrical and kitchen goods â€“ Pierini – at the end of via Roma – we hope you will not need buy anything with the possible exception of replacement soda stream cylinders. We try to leave a supply but sometimes they run out and this shop will supply replacements if needed.
Pharmacy and stuff for babies – at the traffic lights where you turn right into the piazza there is a pharmacy which also has a decent supply of babies’Â needs . The baby department in in the basement and you have to ask to get access to the lift that takes you down.
Food shopping further afield
With the closure of our favourite deli in Greve we now shop more often in Panzano where there is a great butcher on the right on the way up to the square – Macelleria Checcucci , ( not the famous tourist one owned by Dario). There is also a very good green grocers as you walk up toward the square on the left. Both are open on market days (Sunday). Â An even better chicken stall is there as is the very best cheese stall run by our friend Giacomo.
We are also very fond of the Mercatale Bakery (Il Panaio).Â 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 great variety of truly local cheese . â€“ mostly sheep cheeses â€“ pecorino . Try the Buccio di Rospo (toadâ€™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. www.ilpanaio.it . He is open on Sunday mornings but closed Mondays .
There is also a very good butcher with excellent ham and salami in Mercatale: www.macelleriatozzetti.it
San Casciano , a nice suburban little town slightly further away has a lot of good shops in addition to the large co-op. The coop is open most Sunday mornings which is unusual around here and it stocks all sorts of useful things and also a very good selection of Chianti at reasonable (at least by Tuscan standards) prices.
There is a pedestrian shopping area in the centre of San Casciano with a good green grocers and just off the main street in via Roma (all towns have a via Roma) there is a good deli with lovely ham and salami â€“ Forno di Cetica. Although it is titled â€śfornoâ€ť it is the ham that really stands out.
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. June 2023.