The most convenient way to do your regular weekly grocery shopping is to visit one of Italy’s many supermarkets. Buying most of your groceries in one supermarket will not only save you time but it will also save you money.
Italian supermarkets have an excellent range of products on offer including fresh, locally sourced fruits and vegetables as well as fish, meats, canned goods and dry foods. Supermarkets also sell household items, cleaning products and, depending on the size of the store, some even sell cut price clothes, electronics and garden supplies. Due to the competitive nature of the industry, you can often find some amazing bargains in the supermarkets, all under one roof.
Although it’s true to say that many locals and visitors to Italy do a lot of their shopping in open-air markets and small, family-run shops, the selection of supermarkets in Italy is still excellent.
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Of course, many people buy cheaper bulk supplies in the supermarkets and then go to the farmers’ markets and stalls to buy specialist items and locally grown ingredients. That way you can get a good balance of items for your weekly grocery shopping.
The Different Types Of Supermarkets In Italy.
There are three different types of supermarkets in Italy:
Mini markets are the smallest kind of Italian supermarket and you’ll find them scattered throughout the towns and cities of the nation. These are small, compact stores which are only slightly larger than a traditional grocery store. I would compare them with 7-11, Wawa or A+ stores in the United States.
The prices are usually higher in the mini markets than in the larger supermarkets although they are very convenient for buying some milk or pasta for your dinner on your way home from work.
The selection of items in the mini markets is fairly limited but it does include basic food staples, bread, cheese, cured meats and a relatively limited range of fresh fruit and vegetables.
These are the standard, large box stores which you can find all over the world. However, compared to an average American supermarket, they tend to be a little smaller in Italy. These stores are like the standard grocery stores in the United States (like Giants, Albertsons or ACME).
Supermarkets have great prices and a superb selection of products on offer. Most Expats in Italy do their main grocery shopping in their local supermarket due to the convenience and low prices. Most of the larger supermarkets are located in the residential districts outside the center of the cities.
Also known as ‘Ipermercati’, hypermarkets are huge stores that are usually situated outside of the city. These have large car parks and are often surrounded by nearby retail centers with outlet stores and other low cost shops. American equivalent would be Wegmans or Walmart’s.
Hypermarkets have all the standard food stables as well as electronics, school supplies, clothing, household cleaning supplies and much more besides. If you have a car then the out of town hypermarkets are a great option where you can get some superb prices and an enormous selection of items to choose from.
The Best Supermarket Chains In Italy.
The 5 largest chains of supermarkets make up over 70% of the entire Italian market share. This means that they really dominate the industry and are generally the brands that you’ll find nearby.
Conad is the biggest chain in Italy and has a market share of 23.5% with Selex coming in close behind with 22% of the market share. The next 3 largest supermarket chains are Coop, VéGé and Carrefour.
Conad was founded in 1962 and is Italy’s major supermarket chain with more than 3,300 stores throughout the nation. Conad operates in a cooperative business structure and works with entrepreneurs from every region of the country. Conad is able to leverage this huge supply chain to provide low cost, high quality food which is sold throughout its vast network of retail stores.
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Conad has a great selection of food, household supplies, pet food, baby supplies and other staple items which you can buy for very affordable prices. As well as brick and mortar stores you can also shop with Conad online and have your orders delivered directly to your home. Conad has stores everywhere in Italy so you’ll see them in every town and city in the country.
Selex is Italy’s second largest supermarket chain and has mini markets, supermarkets and hypermarkets under its brand. Selex has around 3,200 stores and more than 40,000 employees operating in over 400 municipalities throughout Italy. Selex is a very popular brand with locals and Expats alike and the chain opened another 95 stores in 2022 alone.
Selex also has an online shopping platform where you can order your groceries from the comfort of your home. Selex is a great choice for your regular shopping that offers you all the staples you could need at highly competitive prices. Selex also operates A&O supermarkets, C+C Cash & Carry as well as the pet store, Animali che Passione. Selex has stores in all major towns and cities so it’s a great option for Expats.
The Coop is an Italian consumer cooperative that oversees one of the country’s biggest supermarket chains. It has around 1,440 stores and over 55,000 employees. The chain has a great selection of food, household appliances and other supplies available in their stores with prices that are hard to match.
The brand places a major emphasis on its sustainability and is always improving its production and supply chains to incorporate new techniques to reduce its carbon footprint. An excellent all round supermarket, as a customer you can sign up for their cooperative club membership and enjoy regular discounts on your groceries.
The VéGé Group runs 3,800 stores in Italy and is made up of a series of distribution and retail companies. The organization places a great deal of importance on sourcing the best quality fresh fruits and vegetables in an environmentally friendly way.
In the VéGé Group stores, you’ll also find the whole range of food staples, fresh fruit and vegetables as well as canned and dried goods.
Carrefour is a multinational retail company that is headquartered in Massy, France. The supermarket chain has over 12,000 stores in more than 30 countries including 1,450 stores in Italy. Carrefour offers great products in all its retail stores with excellent prices and a constant selection of special offers, discounts and bargain prices.
Carrefour also offers home delivery services as well as numerous online promotions and offers. For example, pregnant women, new mothers and customers who are over 60 years of age are all eligible for free delivery on any order of over 15 Euros!
Supermarket Opening Times In Italy.
The opening hours of supermarkets vary from place to place. The largest supermarket chains often stay open very late at night and some even open on Sundays. This is particularly true of the hyper-markets.
However, the smaller mini-markets and supermarkets are unlikely to stay open late into the night and are usually closed entirely on Sundays.
In an emergency, you can usually find basic staples in train stations but generally speaking you should always check a supermarket’s opening times before you set off to do your grocery shopping!
It’s something which surprises a lot of Expats but the supermarkets in Italy don’t have the long opening hours that most of us are used to in other parts of the Western world.
Italian Supermarkets Have Been Improving In Recent Years.
Although supermarkets in Italy used to be quite poor, over the last few decades they have really upped their game and now provide a great service to the local community. A quick trip to the supermarket will allow you to get all your week’s groceries although you can still buy more specialist items from the farmers market on the weekend.