The Daily Grocery Shopping in Florence

Do you want to come along with me for the daily grocery shopping in Florence?

You’re probably thinking of the open-air markets, and we have those, but for the most part we do our regular shopping in our neighborhood. We have lots of small shops and a big grocery store.

Let’s be glad about the good weather because if it was cold and raining we would have to bundle up the kids in their coats and hats, and it’s hard to carry home the groceries when you have to manage two little kids on the sidewalk and a stroller and an umbrella as well. Carry the groceries home? Oh yes, we don’t have a car.

There are plenty of shops within just a few blocks of home: a cheese shop, a wine and chocolate shop, a butcher, a bakery, a pharmacy, a florist, and more shops for fruits and vegetables.

If you look through the window you’ll see the butcher hard at work.

We have to go do our shopping in the morning or the evening. Everything is closed during the afternoon and on Sundays. I like that.

If we go in the evening maybe we’ll see our neighbors. We can say “Buona sera.” and “Come sta?” Everyone here is so friendly and helpful. I savor that feeling of community and neighborhood here. One time when we passed a shop owner on the street, he stopped and talked to us, and he even gave Doug a side hug.

Alas, we can’t afford to buy everything at the small shops (especially with the exchange rate being $1.4 for 1 Euro), so now we’ll take the bus on a five-minute ride to the great big shiny grand grocery store called Coop. The Coop has everything.

You can use the metal shopping carts if you deposit a Euro coin. You’ll get your Euro back when you return the shopping cart instead of leaving it in the parking garage. Most people use the shopping baskets on wheels instead of the big carts. All over the store you hear the clickety clickety of the wheels on the tile as people pull the red baskets behind them.

Do you want to get some fruits and vegetables? They are very fresh. Don’t forget to put on the plastic gloves first.

Don’t step in front of the lady who rides around on the zamboni to keep the floors nice and clean.

And the gluten-free section? Oh yes, friends, it is as good as you’ve heard. Some people return from Italy with bottles of wine, I’ll be coming back with boxes of gluten-free cake mix, crackers, and wafer cookies.

When it’s time to buy your groceries, the check-out counter is lower than you expect because the cashiers get to sit. Isn’t that nice? You need to bag your own groceries, and you should probably be quick about it.

They have bags if you need them, but I prefer my stronger reusable bags. We wouldn’t want our bags to bust and the groceries to spill all over the bus!

I like using these Baggu bags. Each bag can hold a lot and the handles are a nice length. I remember when I bought them, thinking that they were kind of expensive and hoping they would be worth it. They have been nice to have. They fold up small and each bag weighs only two ounces, so it’s convenient to keep one in my purse all the time.

Tomorrow we get to go grocery shopping again! I bet I know what you’ll be thinking: “Didn’t we just go to the store yesterday? And every day before that?” Yes, yes, we did. But I’m sure there’s something we forgot, and it will just take a minute to run out to the store and get it.

About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. Paying for a grocery cart! So that’s where Aldi grocery stores got it from!
    Kelly Cone´s last post…Selfish Sadness

  2. Oh I love the snapshot of life!!! We never discovered a large store in Italy only all the lovely little shops and we didn’t buy a whole lot, I think they saw touristi coming and the prices escalated dramatically!!! And we always chuckled at the little shops with a self-service sign… where there is a counter between you and any item and you ask a person standing at the counter for what you are after… the customer touches nothing!!! Totally loved your baggu bags – wonderful!!!

  3. I miss Coop!! I am so jealous of u guys!! I wish I lived in Geneva Switzerland where I have friends and family and my mom. And I wouldn’t need the car. I dream of car free living. U guys r truly living the dream!

  4. Was very nice to read this am I am preparing to go on my major monthly grocery shopping trip. Hubby gets paid once a month, so we do a major trip. I am curious if you shopped more often (daily) when you lived in the US or is this just a Florence thing? I guess if it is just a quick walk to the market that would be fine.
    We always go back weekly to get milk and more produce anyway. Love the idea of the small town feel and being friendly with neighbors. I guess it helps that most everyone lives and shops in that specific area, so you really are neighbors. As opposed to when we go to our local supermarket after driving 8 miles to get there. The other shoppers are from all over the place!
    I always loved living in the country, but now the thought of living in town, in a small town seems appealing…
    Love the pics!
    Do you find that you spend more/buy more since you shop so often?
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Setting boundaries when working at home

    • In the US we shopped weekly with a car to bring the groceries home and a regular big fridge to keep everything fresh during the week. We’d also stop by Whole Foods an extra time or two during the week. Here in Florence we pay more money for food, but it’s hard to know if it’s because of the exchange rate, the more frequent shopping, or the fact that we were starting from scratch with a bare pantry.

      • Lily (from Italy) says:

        I don’t know about US prices, but Coop is quite expensive, compared to other supermarkets. And of course small shops are more expensive than any super.

      • Lily (from Italy) says:

        I still find funny than I do in Italy what you do in the US :-P

  5. love.

  6. It’s prettier and more romantic than HEB, even if it just a big grocery – it must be the Italian light or something. You do a great job of bringing us all along….
    the cottage child´s last post…Monday Madness

  7. I’m glad you have a Coop nearby (we have them here in Zurich, too – the Swiss pronounce it “cope”) – yours seems very big to me!

    Yes, having a small frig makes daily trips to the market a reality. Plus the food here in Switzerland (and I’m guessing it’s the same for you) has less preservatives so fresh food doesn’t last more than a few days. And when you’re carrying things home, you tend to not buy too much!

    I remember the market over by San Croce that had wonderful fruit and vegetables. Likely you have something similar near your neighborhood.

    Thanks for the photos – they are lovely.

  8. That was something I loved about Belgium…all of the specialty shops. The cheese shop especially…so beautiful! And full fo goodness! I also liked the supermarket bread section…with the bread slicer! Very cool…
    Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig´s last post…Taking care of businessmaking changes and a GIVEAWAY!

  9. I’ve never been overseas and I LOVE this glimpse at your life in Florence! Here in the US we live way out in the boonies and while we love the beauty of this space it sure doesn’t allow for daily shopping.

    What a great experience for you! Thanks for letting us live vicariously through you. :)
    Jen´s last post…Spring break- Pipe Life style

  10. Thanks for this daily life post! We’ll be living in Florence this summer for 3+ weeks while my husband teaches there. The students (who are coming from UT Pan Am) will be living in their own apartments and cooking for themselves – many for the first time. For some of them, who are used to daily take out and HEB, this is going to be an eye opening experience. Having “lived” short term in Europe & UK before, we’ve tried to explain that the refrigerator is small, food shopping is every other day and usually in your neighborhood, and that eating out regularly is not an option for those on a budget. Your post is incredibly timely and reinforces precisely what we’ve been sharing with them. Thank you!

    BTW, I’ll be teaching a ‘survival cooking class’ for the students later this month with an emphasis on fresh, local and budget conscience. Any suggestions, especially based on what’s readily available in local Florence shops (recognizing that the seasonal produce will change by June) I would welcome your input. :)

    You have a fabulous blog!

    • Anything that can be prepared quickly. The students here have so much going on that they don’t spend much time cooking.

      • Only plan on using seasonal veg & fruit. You might be able to find something at the tail end of the season, but fruit and veg are local and so the growing season finite.
        Tepary´s last post…Recovery

  11. Lovely to read about your delight in your new environment, and your observations about the differences :).
    alexa´s last post…Pondering in the Spring

  12. Laurie V says:

    Oy, I hear ya on the exchange rate. I just took out Euro today (my husband gets paid in US$)… it has been going further in our favor since we arrive in Germany. Hopefully it’ll be back on it’s way up soon!

  13. i love your commentary on the shopping. i think often that it would be nice to have a grocery store here within walking distance. definitely a way to work up an appetite and work off the calories. :)

    i also love that the cashier can sit! i bet they don’t have as many back problems!
    Charis´s last post…simple womans daybook 33111

  14. I’ve studied abroad several times (Norway,Spain) and one of my favorite things to do is go to the grocery stores. I love seeing how other people do things. The funniest one was in Norway. A lot of familiar foods have different names – Sugar Smacks somehow morphed into “Horny Corns” in Norway. And I almost got my hand slapped in Spain for trying to pick up an apple. I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz with those apple trees!

  15. I can’t wait. I think we’re going to be there after you’ve left unfortunately. We arrive toward the end of April, but take off immediately for elsewhere and then return on May 5th for 10 days. Thanks for a taster/reminder of what is in store. The big store we went to was Esselunga. I didn’t find the coop. Where is it? Oh, and it looks like we’ll be staying in Oltrarno again, but closer to San Frediano. Enjoy these last few weeks. I can’t wait to hear what you get up to next.
    Tepary´s last post…Recovery

  16. I love hearing about daily life in Florence…I get to live vicariously through you. :) Thanks for sharing!
    Krissa´s last post…Cooking Together…Mexican Black Bean Burgers

  17. Thanks for the glimpse!

  18. calliope(Greece) says:

    I love how certain things are exactly the same anywhere in Europe. I buy fresh produce every 2-3 days and milk, bread every day, without a car. Small shops are more expensive and this is a fact but a) their produce is 100 times better than the big supermarkets b) I really like to help locals and small vendors as often as i can. it helps the local society in many ways.
    Our local butcher got to see me 2x a week for the whole year of my pregnancy, every week commented on my huuuuge belly. When the baby was born, he insisted on giving me meat only when he himself slaughtered his own animals. He gave me food from his family meat! because he felt responsible for the new baby in the neighborhood…these kind of bonds make me feel safer and happier.

  19. Lily (from Italy) says:

    I love it, their store brand is great and their organic/fair trade products aren’t too expensive. My local Coop, moreover, is a nicer, more relaxing store than the others, the lower ceiling helps. :)
    Bread anyway has gotten too expensive – bread machine all the way.

  20. Suzanne says:

    This brings back memories of living in Mexico. We had big grocery stores but the smaller neighborhood spots were much more convenient than lugging bags and bags of food on the bus. I remember the time we (my group of exchange students from the US) wanted to make Thanksgiving dinner. I lugged more that 10 pounds of potatoes on the metro, not to mention all the other items that make that meal traditional.

    Enjoy the spontaneity of daily shopping.

  21. Those pictures and description before you got to the big grocery store….glorious! So quaint. But I can see the convenience and cost benefits of the larger store. I hate having to run back to the store all the time, but if it were only a minute away, I would probably go every day, too. Just plan each meal day by day.
    Jenny W (The Housewife Project)´s last post…A Chocolate Sprinkled Life With Links to Recipes and Giveaways

  22. I was so surprised when I recently moved to Chicago, that my little neighborhood grocery store has the same European style of grocery carts . . . only we deposit a quarter.

    Glenda Childers´s last post…It is PARTY TIME 2011 Ultimate Blog Party

  23. I just love following your life in Florence. Have you considered moving there for good? It sounds like the perfect place to live and so much more serene than the USA. The pictures are gorgeous too! Feel free to post many more!!


  24. When I lived overseas, I actually found the idea of carrying your groceries home w/o a car a good one – it made you buy less, and work off whatever you were buying (I would walk 20-40 minutes sometimes with 3 heavy bags).

  25. We have an Aldi here, too, and love their prices! When carts are kept out of the lot, there is no way for them to roll and hit other vehicles, often causing damage. I love your way of life! I think an added benefit to daily shopping is that the kids get outside for a mini adventure every day… good for them in many ways!

  26. A delightful tour – thank you! I love your tongue-in-cheek humour.

  27. I so enjoyed reading this glimpse into your life. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

  28. Your blog is so delightful. It brings back wonderful memories of our life in Italy. We lived there for 2 years. The experience transported us back to a simple life. We lived in a village where there was no fast food, no laundromat, no movie theater. Their bars were family friendly. We usually bought gelato (ice cream) @ the local bar & met friends for a leisurely stroll around the piazza. We hope to someday return for visit with friends.

  29. Love seeing a look at your day. What a fun and exciting experience your you and the kiddos.
    Rana´s last post…Girls Weekend!

  30. oops I meant “For you and your kiddos”
    Rana´s last post…Girls Weekend!

  31. Seems like there are definitely plusses and minuses to shopping every day. Freshness? Check! Convenience? Uncheck, lol.
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Birthing Class and 24 Weeks Along

    • I know, I had to let go of my desire for efficiency and just go with it even though it takes more time.

  32. Yep, the Coop is a British invention. Bill’s daughter and son-in-law work at their main office in Manchester. It is short for ‘cooperative’ as it started out as a way of providing cheaper food for its members. It’s great that you love the shopping, given that you’ll be doing it most days! We put a pound coin in our shopping trolley and get it back – else the kids nick them and they end up in the river, or you see sad, mad homeless people pushing all their worldly goods about. This is the sort of shopping we do when we are on holiday in Europe…a little here and there most days, but in the resorts the selection tends to be quite limited, as there aren’t the large supermarkets around. You are fortunate to have the Coop near by.
    Shelley´s last post…Spring Navy

  33. Rachel, this is delightful… really makes me want to go to Florence. Oh wait, I AM going to Florence! :) This summer I’ll be working in Turkey and have (almost) decided to stop in Italy on my way home. I think I’ll be emailing you soon for some insider tips on that beautiful city of yours!
    Christine´s last post…Words from my Week

  34. After seeing thousands, if not millions, of plastic bags in the Sahara Desert in Morocco, I’ve become a devotee of taking my own bag. Generally, when I travel, I always buy a local, reusable, sturdy market bag to use while shopping and for a souvenier.
    Sandra´s last post…Tidbit Tuesday – Fun

  35. Apparently gluten intolerance is very common in Italy, something like 30% of children? Glad you having a ball.

  36. When I was little my family lived in Germany and my mom would shop at Aldi. Now we have them here and I love them – always have to have a quarter handy to get the cart! It’s interesting how low to the ground their carts are at Coops. And the Zamboni? I think that is so fun! Look kids, go watch the Zamboni lady ride around the grocery store, it’s just like a hockey game!
    Julie @ Just Julie´s last post…Crafty Party

  37. Thanks for a beautiful glimpse into your life…made me homesick for New Zealand, where I have lived twice for 18 months total. Fresher veggies and bread are just a few things I miss…along with real fish and chips and DB beer!!

  38. Beautiful scenery, so idyllic!
    Tracy´s last post…Thin Lizzy – Still in love with you

  39. Very like how I shop for groceries here in Taipei, right down to the bus ride, the reusable bags, lugging everything home, the little shops, and the pay carts (at the few shops that actually HAVE carts, that is). I really don’t mind shopping almost every day–our food is so much fresher that way, and there are shops everywhere, making it pretty convenient to run in and grab something on my way to or from language class or picking up the boys from school.
    Morgan´s last post…Olympic Day at Bethany

  40. I enjoyed this post on your day grocery shopping. I moved to Germany 5 months ago from Michigan and have been learning to shop small local shops and markets and the local ways and traditions. I really love your blog and its comforting to see someone else who is living their daily life in another Country.
    What a wonderful Blog!!
    Thank You.
    Marianne´s last post…Marketing This Weekend

  41. I shop everyday too and go to an open air market 2x-3x a week. I suppose this is because I have a small pantry and non-US size fridge. It keeps me from wasting food as there is little chance a good block of cheese hides behind well, anything. :)
    When we were in Florence, I adored the Saturday tradition of going to the market. Although the market was different, but the experience was strangely familiar. The produce is fresh and you get to entertain your children with the sounds, smells and tastes.
    BTW, Japanese people shop for practically every meal. 2-3x a day. I suppose this would be a culture shock even for me.


    PS: Don’t bother with an umbrella! If the rain is not too bad, ware a larger rimmed hat. It is infinitely more stylish than the “poor mother balancing act.”

  42. This is what the travel shows on tv don’t do very well. These little glimpses of your everyday life in Florence is what is so very interesting. I’m glad you’re posting and showing more pictures of how you’re living now — compared to what you’ve experienced in the USA.

    ciao! :)

  43. Thanks for the insight, it’s interesting to see how shopping works in Italy. I absolutely love the little special shops for everything. It does take a lot of time to get everything you need, but they have some magic that supermarkets simply don’t.

  44. We’ve found ourselves shopping sometimes twice a day or more since Fresh and Easy put a store in 1/2 mile from our house! I’m glad to hear we aren’t the only ones in the world. It’s true we waste a lot less. I tried bulk shopping for a long time, but some things the kids would clean us out on, and other things we would forget about an let spoil. We still do bulk purchases on some things, like grains and Sucanat and coconut oil and sale items. This is working out much better for us.

    • We just had a family discussion about buying in bulk. Sometimes it’s good & sometimes there’s a lot of wasted food. We scaled back on the bulk buying, waste less & saving a lot of $$. There’s definitely a big plus to shopping daily or several times a week.

  45. Hmmmm…I don’t know if I would like that too much–at least not at first. I would be afraid that I would buy too much if I was at the store every day. Plus the time factor! I’m trying to limit myself to just one or two trips a week as it is! But I guess the lifestyle just forces you to slow down. And that seems like something I’d like to get used to. I have slowed way down this year, and I loe the idea of planning meals by the day instead of by the week! Have a wonderful time. I hesitate to ask, but any ideas on what’s next for you and your family?
    Catherine´s last post…Who needs Lent

    • Doug has a new job lined up in Texas that he is looking forward to working on, so we’re waiting to know more details about that.

      • I know you posted it somewhere but how long are you planning to live in Florence? Hope his new job will wait a little bit because there is SO MUCH TO SEE in Italy & the surrounding countries!

        We lived in Europe for 2 years & were fortunate to take a 30 day tour of Europe before we left. Back in the 80s it was pretty safe to drive with a 2 year old & live like gypsies. We took out a map, circled all the places we dreamed of, plotted our route, decided on the number of days we would stay at each destination & DROVE! It was one of the most memorable times of our life.

        My bucket list for Europe? In 2 years, celebrate my birthday in Europe with a few friends & family for a month. October is a nice time of the year in Italy. Rent a villa in Tuscany for a week, rent an RV to drive around the countryside, visit our favorite places & create MORE memories!

        Thank you for your blog…brings back wonderful memories!

        • We come with the approach that this won’t be our last trip to Italy because we know we won’t be able to see it all.

          • Thank you for the reply. Just discovered your blog & am thoroughly enjoying your topics!

  46. I just read through your awesome “No Spend Month”-posts. After living and shopping in Italy, would you say it is possible to live with 250 Euro in Europe? We live in Germany, buy mostly local (milk is 1,30 a litre, 10 eggs 3,70, bread 5.-) and spend 400 Euro for two. Without gas, unfortunately…
    And, out of mere curiosity: did you bring your small notebook? I liked the idea of having all your important stuff in one place and can imagine its quite useful for you right now.
    Have wonderful days in Florence! Martina

  47. Thank you for this! I am studying abroad in Florence in the fall, and as I will have an apartment and am on a tight budget, I plan on doing a fair amount of grocery shopping. Do you have any other tips you think might be useful for me?

  48. I’m just catching up on your time in Florence. I’d love for you to do a post on how you coped with food intolerances whilst away. When I think of Europe in general I think or gluten and dairy based foods and being on restricted diets ourselves, makes me nervous about travelling.