There are many supermarkets in Italy of all different sizes. Large supermarkets are usually located outside historic centres, in the new parts of town, usually along a main road. They usually have big parking areas and are sometimes part of a mall.
In smaller stores you will find a hand basket-cart hybrid at the entrance. However, in large supermarkets, they use shopping trolleys, which are kept outside chained together. To release it you must insert a 1euro coin in a slot, which will be given back to you when you return the trolley.
It is important to know that in Italy you weight and price your fruits and vegetables. Disposable plastic gloves must be used for hygienic purposes when selecting your products. Once you have selected the products and put them inside a bag you need to weight them. Find the electronic produce scale and press the key code that corresponds to the product selected. An adhesive price tag will print out of the scale, which you must stick to the corresponding bag.
You will find that dairy products such as milk or eggs are not always kept in the refrigerator. Much of the milk has a shelf life of 6 to 9 months, as it is processed under ultra-high temperatures and doesn’t require refrigeration prior to opening.
Many Italians prefer to get their cheese and cured meat at the ‘salumier’ counter, where you will find a great variety of fresh products from all around the country. Supermarkets also offer butcher services within the shop where all fresh products are offered. Some supermarkets also have a ‘pescheria’, where you will find different kind of fish depending on the season. Most of it will be displayed just as it came right out of the sea. You can ask the fishmonger to clean it or to fillet it for you. In all this three sections you need to ask for the right quantity of product you need by weight. You usually ask for ‘etti’ being one etto, 100g.
Italian supermarkets will also offered a huge variety of pasta: all sorts of shape, type, size and brands as well as sauce bottles.
Finally, when you are going to checkout you should know that bags are often charged and that there are no baggers. People usually take their own reusable bags every time they go grocery shopping.
Italian supermarkets open most days from morning to evening or 8pm. Many are open on Sundays even if only until noon, or at least one Sunday a month so if you find it closed it is likely that the next supermarket in town is opened.
The major supermarket chains in Italy are Coop, Conad, CRAI, Esselunga, Pam, Standa, Carrefour and Auchan. They are easy to find as they are all over the country.