TIGRE – grocery store chains here are a little different than the U.S. (very similar to Costa Rica, Linda). I’ve seen three different chains here in Ascoli. Mine closes in the afternoon at about 2:00, reopens about 5 and closes again about 8 PM. They are much smaller with a meat department with a real butcher (there’s very little in the way of packaged fresh meats), a person behind the cheese, sausage, fresh bread counter, and a fresh vegetable/fruit person. There is only one isle of personal care items and one of paper products and cleaning supplies. You do not touch the fresh vegetables/fruits with your bare hands. There are plastic gloves provided or you can ask the vegetable/fruit person to help you. You take your produce to that person and they weigh it, bag it (if you did not) and put the price on it.
The first time we went into our store around the corner I did remember not to touch the produce with my hands, but forgot that we were supposed to have it weighed before reaching the check-out. So got to use the term “stupido Americani” when the clerk had to go to the back of the store to weigh my bananas while three people waited behind us. I knew he was thinking it, so I figured a little self-deprecating humor was in order-and he did smile. Meanwhile, Larry shopped the liquor department and we looked like we were expecting some long ago grape shortage to hit that week. You also bring your own bags or pay for them, so that day we bought three bags and loaded them up (which you do yourself). Old habits die hard – no car to throw it all in – but luckily we only had to schlep the heavy bags a block.
We have been in several times since then and he looks at us, pleasantly, like he thinks we missed our plane home.
OASI – however, in contrast, yesterday we took to bus to the huge Wal-Mart type store outside of town, Oasi. The temperature was in the high 90’s and too hot and too crowded (lots of people here for the Quintana this weekend) to stay in town. They have everything from garden items, clothes, sundries, office supplies, and a grocery. That store, in addition to the butcher, cheese & bread departments, had lots of prepackaged and prepared items much like at home but somehow they looked fresher. They also had cavalli (horse meat) – bummer.
Oasi is the base store for the only shopping mall in the area named, surprisingly, Oasi. It is about 1/3 the size of Parkway Plaza with underground parking and flat escalators so that you can bring your cart up and down with you. There is a restaurant that is partially self-serve and all fresh made, a post office, two cafes, a beauty salon and two gelato shops. Plus – the first U.S. chains I’ve seen here – Timberland, Guess & GameStop. There is a pretty big electronics store (where we purchased our TV and small electronic appliances) and many small clothing, shoe and sports stores. I don’t know what they did to tee off the local transportation folks, but the closest the bus goes is about three blocks from the mall and it runs every 50 minutes, usually. At home there would be a bus driving up to the front every half hour.
IKEA – the other place we are going to frequently to get what we need for our apartment is IKEA (pronounced EKEA here). They are north near Ancona, about a two hour train ride from here, but the train station is in their parking lot. Honestly the platform is as close as parking your car. Now that’s an in with transportation that Oasi could envy. The first time we went we rented a car. Our landlord, the lovely Caterina, has become our 3rd Italian Angel. Her parent’s restaurant has a discount with Avis, so she offered to call for us as the man did not speak any English. Then she insisted on driving us to Avis to pick up the car (it is out near Oasi) and translate for us. When we got there a different man was on duty and he had no cars. All the cars were in San Benedetto, arggggggh. Caterina insisted it was her error and she drove us the 45 minutes to San Benedetto, refused to let us pay for gas or parking when we got there, and stayed with us until we got the car.
Finally on our way, we took the coast road from San Benedetto and made a pleasant sight-seeing drive of it. I know the layout of the IKEA in San Diego very well as I have purchased and assembled several bedroom sets for my nieces and nephews over the years. Funny thing, EKEA in Italy is laid out exactly like IKEA in San Diego so I knew just where everything was and all my shortcuts through departments worked the same – freaky! The restaurant is the same except they have a fresh pasta bar and a cafe for expresso, pastries and paninnis. We had a successful day ordering our couches and then loaded up the car with a new rug, dishes, glassware, pots, pans, etc. and took the autostrada back to Ascoli with no problems. Dear Mario, our neighbor and restaurant guru, helped us unload the car and take the items into the apartment.