Plastic and metal bins of spinach, artichokes and fresh veggies at the Rialto Market in Venice, Italy.
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10 Rules For Shopping At Markets In Italy – Getting The Best Prices As A Tourist In Italy

Last updated on February 23rd, 2024

Believe it or not, shopping at a market in Italy isn’t like shopping at a supermarket or shopping back home. 

If you are hoping to do a little market shopping in Italy then there are a few rules and guidelines to keep in mind to ensure you have a great experience.

After market shopping in Italy for over 12 years now I have come to learn the ins and outs of navigating any kind of market. I know exactly how to find the best goods, what to buy and how to get what I want, no matter where I am, even if it’s a market I have never been to before.

In this article I will share with you how I came to learn all of these helpful tips and tricks for shopping at markets in Italy including my top 10 rules to follow, helpful tips, and useful vocabulary.

So if you are ready to find a good bargain and have a truly authentic Italian experience in Italy then grab your bags, some cash and keep this market guide handy the next time you hit the market in Italy! 

My Top 10 Rules For Shopping At Street Markets In Italy

  1. Say Hello And Goodbye

Even if you don’t actually purchase something from a vendor or stand, it’s common courtesy in Italy to smile and greet the vendor with a buongiorno if you are looking at what they are selling. When you have finished browsing, be sure to say grazie, arrivederci. 

  1. Don’t Touch The Produce
Summer fruit on display at an outdoor market in Florence, Italy.

One of the biggest rules at a market in Italy is to not touch the produce or other food items that are being sold. Although you may mean well and perhaps are just trying to determine whether or not the fruit is ripe, it’s not okay to touch the fruit and vegetables. Get the vendors attention and ask for something by saying Vorrei… (I would like…)

  1. Don’t Serve Yourself

Even if you see brown paper bags stacked up seemingly to welcome you to choose your fruit, this is not the case. Make contact with the vendor and ask for what you would like (see helpful vocabulary below). 

This is the case with any kind of food item that is displayed in the open air including baskets of candy or chocolates.

  1. Wait Your Turn

After you have decided that you need help being served, you will need to wait your turn. Italians aren’t great about forming lines so just do your best to try and figure out who arrived just before you or ask:

Chi è l’ultimo?
“Who is the last person (in line)?”

It’s increasingly more common for vendors to have numbers so look for people with a small piece of paper with a number on it. If you see this, look around for the “number block” and get in line by taking a number. 

  1. Carry Cash

Although some vendors at markets in Italy will have small credit card machines, many don’t appreciate you using a card for a couple euros worth of produce. It’s always a good idea to keep a small amount of cash on you, especially coins. 

Vendors sometimes don’t have enough cash to change big bills such as a €50.00 bill so keep your denominations to €20, €10, €5, and euro coins. 

  1. Bring Your Own Bags

If you plan on doing a lot of grocery shopping or picking up several items, including larger items, consider bringing a couple of large reusable bags with you. 

Vendors will give you your items in a small brown bag or plastic bag but I can assure you that several small brown paper bags without handles are not convenient to carry as you shop. 

  1. Buy What’s Local
Top view of several different bright grenns on a shelf at an outdoor market from angled top view.

Some of the best advice I ever got when shopping at markets in Italy was to look at the colors you see to determine what is local and in season. Do you see a lot of red tomatoes at every stand? Chances are it’s tomato season. Maybe it’s winter and you notice piles of wild bitter greens and kale. The best produce is going to be sourced locally and in season so ask if you have any doubt. 

For other items, learn more about the region you are in. Are they famous for cheese? Is pottery a local craft? What about olive wood? 

  1. Always Bargain

If there is one place to bargain it’s at the market in Italy! For items such as fruit and vegetables there may not be margins for price breaks but for items such as olive oil, clothing, souvenirs or household items, vendors are often willing to cut you a deal, especially if you buy more than one. 

For example, if you see linen shirts you like, ask if they will give you a discount if you buy more than two. For honey, ask if they will knock a couple euros off if you buy three different jars. Interested in fabric? Consider asking for four yards for the price of three. Get the idea?

  1. Only Take One Sample
side view of several white containers with different olives, peppers, cleaned artichokes ready to be purchased with tags indicating item and price with silver serving spoons sticking out of each square tub.

Many vendors at markets in Italy are happy to share samples of their food products, especially if they are particularly proud of them. It’s a way for them to get you chatting and hopefully buy something. If you really don’t plan on buying anything, however, and are just interested in trying the local cheese, don’t take them up on their offer to sample various cheeses. Just take one and say grazie. 

  1. Don’t And Drink While Browsing

If you have decided to pick up a sandwich or some street food, eat it standing on a bench or outside the food truck, not in other vendors’ stands while chowing down. It’s not good manners and you might accidentally get crumbs on what they are selling. 

Tips For Shopping At Markets In Italy

vendor from side view at market outdoors with various people in front of counter with various food products stacked high such as meat, cheese and porchetta.
  • Always do a walk through of the entire market in Italy before purchasing. Many times there are multiple vendors selling similar things and it’s a pity to buy something and then find the next best thing five stands down. If you walk through first you are sure to find exactly what you want at the right price.
  • If you are hoping for a specific type of produce (underripe or ready to eat apples, for example), you need to be specific or they might give you what is on the top of the pile. Don’t be afraid to indicate exactly which piece of fruit you want. 
  • Although you really shouldn’t touch food items, feel free to touch clothing, household goods and other items at markets in Italy.
  • Get to markets early for the best selection.
  • Because the best markets in Italy are catering to locals, take a look around at surrounding shops, bars and restaurants as well, which are usually pretty good. 
  • If you would like to try on clothing, ask if the stand has a small changing area.
  • If you don’t see your size or the right color, just ask. Many vendors have stock in their trucks. 
  • If you really like a vendor and plan on being in Italy for more time, ask what other markets they attend as well in the hopes of catching them again before you leave. 
  • To find a good restaurant next to the street market in Italy, ask one of the vendors. They certainly have a good idea as many of them are locals themselves and know the area well. 
  • Street markets in Italy are pretty safe but don’t invite trouble by wearing a backpack or carrying a purse without a zip. 

Tips For Bargaining At Markets In Italy

Leather belts of all colors lined up on a table at an outdoor market in Italy from side angle.
  • Always try! There is no harm and the worst that they will say is no.
  • Generally speaking, a vendor will not give you a deal if you pay with a card. 
  • There are several ways to bargain so try different tactics. (Buy two for one, a simple discount, a last item discount, a discount for displayed items, etc.)
  • Call their bluff. Walk away if they say won’t come down on their price. If they really weren’t bluffing and simply cannot lower the price, you can come back at the end and make your purchase if you haven’t found it for less at another stand. 
  • Vendors like it when you buy several items. Try haggling for a freebie when you buy several of a single item such as three for the price of two. 
  • Simply ask to knock a couple euros off the price of a single item. Generally speaking, the higher the price, the more likely a vendor will give you a discount. A vendor is never going to lower the price of an item that only costs €3.00. Think items like leather or shoes.

More On Markets: For my tips and guidelines on shopping at street markets in Italy read How to Shop at Markets in Italy.

If you love a bargain, food or marketing in general, you may be interested in
Top Markets in Tuscany
Food Markets in Italy
Markets in Florence
Food Markets in Florence

Helpful Vocabulary For Shopping At Markets In Italy

ItalianPronunciationEnglish Translation
Vorrei…vohr-reh…I would like…
Posso assaggiare?pohs-soh ahs-sahj-jah-rehMay I try (it)?
Posso provare…poh-soh pro-vah-reh…May I try…
Cosa c’è di stagione?coh-zah cheh dee stah-joh-neh?What is in season?
Cosa mi consiglia?coh-zah mee cohn-seel-yah?What would you recommend?
Ha…ahh…Do you have…
Buongiorno/Buonaserabwohn-johr-noh/bwohn-ah-seh-rahGood morning/afternoon
Arrivaderciahr-ree-vah-dehr-cheeGood bye
Per favorepehr-fah-voh-rehPlease
Graziegrah-zeeEHThank you
Dov’è…doh-vehWhere is…
Mi scusimee scoo-zeeExcuse me
Quanto costa?kwahn-toh coh-stahHow much does it cost?
Mezzomehz-zohHalf
Interoin-teh-rohWhole
Posso avere una busta?pohs-soh ah-veh-reh oon-ah boo-stahMay I have a bag?
Bustaboo-stahBag
Posso pagare con…poh-soh pah-gah-reh cohn…May I pay with…
Una carta di creditocahr-ta dee creh-dee-tohA credit card
Contanticohn-tahn-teeCash
Ho bisogno di aiutooh bee-sohn-you dee ay-oo-tohI need help
Ci sarebbe uno sconto?chee sahr-ehb-beh oon-oh skohn-tohIs there a discount?
Se compro due, c’è uno sconto?seh kohm-proh doo-eh cheh oon-oh skohn-tohIf I buy two, is there a discount?
Chi è l’ultimo?kee eh lool-tee-mohWho is the last (person in line)?
Un chilooon kee-lohOne kilo
Mezzo chilomehz-zoh kee-lohHalf a kilo
No, grazienoh, graht-zee-ehNo thank you
Costa troppokoh-stah trohp-pohIt costs too much

Numbers In Italian

NumberItalian Pronunciation
0zerotzeh-roh
1unooo-noh
2duedoo-eh
3tretreh
4quattrokwaht-troh
5cinquecheen-kweh
6seisay
7setteseht-teh
8ottooht-toh
9novenoh-veh
10diecidee-eh-chee

Listen to me pronounce the numbers 0 – 10: