Admittedly, grocery shopping is not the absolute best part of being in Rome. However, it is pretty darn close. Whether “grocery shopping” means shopping at the local market, local food store, or local hole in the wall that sells random American goods, it doesn’t matter. Point me in the direction of a place that sells packaged goods and I am like a kid on Christmas. Before you start to think I have gone crazy, go to a grocery store when you are stressed out and tell me it does not make you feel better. But, don’t just do the regular, speedy shopping with a list. Go and get something you have never had, ask the butcher for a random kind of meat, and browse the isles you never go down. If it doesn’t make you feel better, well, then I might be crazy.
However, if I am feeling homesick or overwhelmed with schoolwork, I head to a grocery store. It has become a very economical and successful stress reliever. Every single morning I go to the local market. Mercato Trionfale has become my daily routine–I genuinely base my entire morning around it. I love walking around the vendors and seeing random fruits and vegetables. I love going back to the same vendor every morning to get a plum, or prugna, and I live for embarrassing myself as I attempt to speak and understand Italian. As of today, my favorite purchase has been figs, or fichi. I put them in everything, from salad to omelets to sandwiches.
Going to the market or grocery store has not only become a serious stress reliever, but it has enhanced my abroad experience significantly. I put myself out there, stepping way out of my comfort zone, and try to communicate in an unfamiliar language. I learn when certain fruits are in season and when others are not (unfortunately for me figs are in season for about one month, September). I interact with people from all walks of life and I get to experience a completely different culture. Although I should feel uncomfortable and nervous because I am in a place filled with people who predominantly, if not only, speak Italian, I am not. I like struggling to say what I mean or getting too much or too little because even I could not understand my own demands, and I love being in a place where everyone is treated the same. Markets and grocery stores are not places where I feel I am being stared at or taken advantage of because I am a foreigner. In actuality, they are the places I feel most Italian.
If I have yet to convince you of how amazing the market and grocery shopping is, let me put this concept into perspective with a short story. A friend and I went to the market for an assignment for our Italian class. We were supposed to say certain phrases, ask for certain vegetables, things like that. So, instead of taking our time and making sure we were confident with our vocabulary, we asked vendors for ridiculous items and sped through the entire interaction. When I say sped, I mean sped. We videotaped ourselves and both videos together were less than thirty seconds. We ended up with one zucchini (yes, one), and a huge, abnormally shaped turnip. Although our interaction was not quite what the assignment had called for, it was fun and had us laughing. Our teacher stills brings up the “famous zucchino.”
So, when you’re feeling anxious or stressed or just having a bad day, go to your local grocery store or market and aimlessly walk around. And, if you’re like me, just make a fool of yourself and be happy about it.