Ed and I have been here in Sardinia for almost 2 months. It has been a worthwhile experience, and we are so very happy to be here. We are still learning. It takes time.
We probably will get a car sometime in the future, but for now we do okay walking and taking buses. Everything is fairly close on our island.
The bus stops were hard to figure out at first, because there is no map. The schedules for the different buses have the names of the stops with times, but the names of the stops aren’t posted at the stop itself and the drivers don’t announce the name of the stop when you get there. So you have no idea if the stop where you are is where you want to get off.
Also complicating things is the fact that you can’t count the the number of stops until you get to the one you want, because they bypass any stops if they see that no one is waiting to get on, and no one pushed the stop button to get off. So you have to go around a few times before you recognize all the places where the bus would stop, if they should happen to have a reason to.
The Shopping Experience
When you go to the grocery store in Italy, be prepared for some things to be different. They have such a thing as a pisolino. It is like a siesta, where most stores close for a couple of hours in the afternoon. In fact, most businesses in general seem to close in the afternoon for pisolino, so you should probably not expect to see a real estate agent or attorney, or go to a bar, etc., in the early afternoon either. One of the smaller grocery stores closes between 1 and 5 daily! I don’t see how they do much business, but it was nearby and they had a few really good bargains, so it was worth me going back after 5 pm.
In the major supermarkets, you have to weigh your own fruits and vegetables and put the price sticker on them. I really ticked off a cashier the first time by not getting a price on my onion, and she had to go over and do it herself. It was easier than to stand there and try to explain to me what to do. She was totally annoyed with me. Now I know better.
This video shows how you get the number of the item and put the number into the scale when you weigh the item. Then the scale spits out a printed price sticker for you. Super easy!
Another time the same cashier overcharged me by 7 euros when she rang me up. It might have been deliberate, but if so, I don’t think she will do it again. Her manager wasn’t too pleased and made her refund the money when we went back later with the receipt. I always try to go to another cashier, but this particular one is usually the only one open, and she doesn’t seem to take a day off. One time she wasn’t cashiering. But before I could check out, the lines started getting long and then I heard a page overhead for Veronica to come to the front. Guess who “Veronica” was? Figures, it was her!
Note: Anyone who has known me all my life, will know that I had my name legally changed to Vicky, but my birth name was Veronica, and I always hated that name!!
I have worked as a cashier before, but I have never seen a cash drawer where the bills are standing up on their sides instead of laying down flat. This is the way it is done in Italy. It occurs to me why this won’t work in the U.S. These bills are color coded and they come in different sizes, and U.S. dollars are not.
I have had to be sneaky to get a picture of this. I don’t know how they would feel if I stood there and took pictures of their cash drawer, and I don’t know Italian well enough to explain myself. They close the drawer pretty fast, so I had to try many times (and go to several different stores) just to try to get a picture where you can see. Somehow, I think I managed to not look too suspicious.
Another odd thing, secondo me (in my opinion), is you can buy just 1 egg at a time if you want, though I don’t know why you would want to. In fact, you could buy 3 or 5 or any odd amount. They are more expensive that way (.33 each as opposed to 1.18 for 6.) But you can. Also, they don’t refrigerate eggs at the store, like they do in the U.S. They have them right out on the regular shelf isles.
They charge you .10 for plastic shopping bags. Many of us thrifty people who care about the environment bring our own cloth bags whenever we can. By that, I mean always. Also, if you buy vegetables, like the carrots I just bought, they charge an additional 2 centesimi for that bag that I weighed them in.
Another thing that seems a little wacky is that you pay bills at the post office–light bill, water bill, taxes, etc.–but you buy stamps at the tabacchi or tobacco shop. You can also buy the cheaper tickets for the autobus (if you wait to pay the bus driver you are charged more), pay bills, buy lottery tickets, newspapers and cigarettes. It seems you can do anything at the tabacchi, including at some of them have a beer.
Of course, if you don’t mind waiting in long lines, you can also pay for postage at the post office, where I mailed out 2 postcards to the U.S. and it cost me 4 euros. For comparison purposes, I bought postage for another postcard at the tobacco shop and it cost more — 2.50 euros for one card, and I had to put it in the mailbox at the post office myself. But there weren’t any long lines.
Also, as many people already know, buggies or shopping carts have chain locks on them. You get a cart by putting in a coin, and you get the coin back when you return the cart. If you just want to leave the cart in the parking lot, someone else will probably return it for you and keep the money, so the retailer never has to pay anyone to roundup the buggies. This is a great concept, and having worked in retail, I can’t understand why stores in the U.S. have never adopted this.
This video shows me putting in a coin (it can be 50 centesimi or 1 euro) and then getting it back by replacing the cart.
Coming here, we noticed the same thing in airports now, where you put in a coin to get a cart for your luggage. In London, you could use a euro or a pound, and when you returned it you got the coin back.
One thing that surprises me is you can’t find truffles (a fungus in the mushroom family) or truffle oil around here. That is surprising because Italy is known for truffles, and truffle hunting is a really big thing. So I thought we would find them on Sardinia. Last year in October we went to the chocolate festival in Perugia. It is a huge annual festival in Umbria that lasts all week long and draws people from all over Europe. That was where I fell in love with truffles. We bought more jars of truffles than we ate chocolate. But here on Sardinia people don’t seem to even know what truffles are. The only thing I have found so far is a bottle of olive oil with tartufi (the Italian word for truffles) aroma added. Not even the flavor, just the aroma! Really, do you just want to smell truffles?! I will really have to stock up on them the next time we go to Umbria or Tuscany because they are truly that good.
Here are some other things you just can’t find:
Ramen noodles, zip-lock baggies, Comet or Ajax or any scouring powder, canned soups and instant oatmeal. I would do about anything for a few bricks of ramen noodles!
The supermarket down the street from our apartment puts out a flyer. I saw some good deals so I went there. It was after 8 pm and they close at 8:30. I paid and walked back home. Then I looked at my receipt and saw that on the fabric softener, which was supposed to be on sale, they had charged me full price. So I set it aside and took it back the next morning with my receipt. They showed me in their flyer where it said that you had to have their loyalty card in order to get the sale price. OK, so I didn’t know.
But they wouldn’t take the fabric softener back because my receipt showed that I had bought it the day before. Can you believe it?! I bought it the night before and just before closing, but the next morning I could not return it with my receipt–maybe 14 hours later!! In the U.S. you can return things weeks later with a valid receipt. A lesson learned. Check your receipt before you leave the store!
Consegna. This means delivery. Stores will even deliver to your house. We bought a small table and chair set for our balcony. They delivered it to our apartment that very afternoon for just 10 euros. Can you imagine riding in a crowded bus with that? I have seen some people getting all kinds of groceries at one store and they were having them delivered. This is a great service.
My favorite places to shop are the local vegetable stands. They have an amazing assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables at the best prices around. The people are friendly and it seems to me that they take a certain pride not only in the quality of their veggies, but also in their arrangement of them. I appreciate the way they make the colors pop out at you, almost as if they are vegetable and fruit artisans. Bet you never thought of it quite that way. But if you have ever worked in a garden center, you know that the healthy, robust look of the plants and the arrangement of colors and sizes are very important tools for merchandising. They don’t just throw plants out on tables willy nilly. Anyway, I give the local vegetable stands an A+ and that is where I want to shop.
Like the rest of Italy, there is no reason to tip. It isn’t expected. Unlike the rest of Italy, Sardinia is exempt from collecting sales tax. So you only pay whatever the total is. Sometimes they play a little loose with the centesimi, rounding up or down whenever they see fit. By that I mean that if it comes out to 8,38 for example, they may drop the the 3 centesimi and charge you 8,35. But sometimes they will round up to 8,40 too. I have had it both ways.
I hope you have enjoyed reading (and even maybe learned a little bit) about Sardinian life. I am sorry if I got too wordy.
By the way, Ed is also blogging about some other aspects of living here, if you are interested.