shopping in italian

Groceries and Gifts: A Complete Guide to Shopping in Italian

It’s hard to roam an Italian city without being lured into one of the charming shops that line its streets.

From mouthwatering displays at bakeries to clothing stores that showcase high-end Italian fashion, there’s a type of store that fits your every need.

To shop like a true Italian, you need to know the right words and phrases for any shopping situation that you might find yourself in. Whether you’re trying to find the right dress size or need to mail a package, knowing how to communicate effectively with other Italians is essential.

Fortunately, we’re here to help you navigate the world of Italian shopping, one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be making your way from store to store like a true local.

Groceries and Gifts: A Complete Guide to Shopping in Italian

Key Phrases to Use When Shopping in Italian

First, we’ll take a look at some of the most common shopping phrases to have in your Italian language toolkit. Here are the top phrases to master before you prepare for that shopping trip in Italy.

Sto cercando… (I’m looking for…)

Whether you’re hunting for a particular coat in a clothing store or can’t seem to find your favorite brand of gelato (ice cream) at the supermarket, you’ll need to communicate your needs to a salesperson. The best way to convey this is by simply saying Sto cercando… (I’m looking for…) followed by the item you need. For example:

Sto cercando una gonna nera. (I’m looking for a black skirt.)

Ho bisogno di… (I need…)

This phrase communicates the same idea as Sto cercando… However, it helps convey a more urgent need to the person you’re speaking with. Here’s an example:

Ho bisogno di un libro di filosofia. (I need a book about philosophy.)

Mi scusi (Excuse me [formal])

If you want to address a salesperson in a store in Italy, it’s crucial to use the formal register when speaking to them. Always be sure to approach salespeople by saying mi scusi (excuse me) before you make your request:

Mi scusi, può aiutarmi a trovare una cosa? (Excuse me, can you help me find something?)

Quanto costa/costano? (How much does it/do they cost?)

In some cases, you may not be able to see the price of an item before you ring it up at the register. If you ever find yourself in one of these situations, it’s helpful to know how to ask a clerk how much that item costs. For example:

Quanto costano queste scarpe? (How much do these shoes cost?)

Vorrei restituire questo, per favore. (I’d like to return this, please.)

Sometimes, you’re just not satisfied with a recent purchase you made. Whether you bought a new dress that doesn’t flatter your figure or accidentally chose the wrong brand of soap, it’s vital to know the correct phrasing when you have to return a product you’re unhappy with.

No matter what type of item you plan to give back, you can simply say Vorrei restituire questo, per favore.

Che taglia è? (What size is it?)

When you’re shopping for clothes, finding the right size is just as important as choosing a style that matches your tastes. To ask a clerk what size an article of clothing is, just say Che taglia è?

Lo prendo, grazie. (I’ll take this, thank you.)

After much deliberation, you’ve finally settled on a purchase. In this case, you need to let the salesperson know that you’ve made your choice. Lo prendo, grazie is a straightforward way to communicate your needs.

Common Phrases to Know When Shopping in Italian

In addition to making yourself understood when shopping in Italy, it’s crucial to understand what others say to you so that you can respond appropriately. Let’s take a look at some commonly used phrases that you may hear when you hit the shops in Italy.

Posso aiutarla? (May I help you?)

You’ll likely come across this common question when you’re walking around a store in Italy. Notice that this phrase uses the formal register (aiutarla instead of aiutarti). If you don’t need any assistance when asked this question, you can simply respond with No, grazie (No, thank you) or Sto solo guardando (I’m just looking).

Come vorrebbe pagare? (How would you like to pay?)

In most Italian stores, you’ll have the option to pay with contanti (cash) or carta di credito (credit card). You can respond with either of these options if a cashier asks you Come vuole pagare?

Che taglia porta? (What size are you?)

If you let a salesperson know you’re interested in a certain article of clothing, they’ll likely ask you Che taglia porta? (What size are you?). You can respond by saying Porto la… followed by your respective size.

È una taglia di troppo. (It’s a size too big.)

Unfortunately, not every clothing item you try on will be a perfect fit. Whenever this is the case, be sure to let the salesperson know so they can find a more appropriate size for you. You can either say È una taglia di troppo (It’s a size too big) or È una taglia in meno (It’s a size too small).

È/Sono in offerta. (It’s/They’re on sale.)

It’s always good to be on the lookout for sales when shopping in Italy. If there’s a discount available for a certain product, a clerk will let you know by saying È/Sono in offerta.

Basic Vocab for Shopping in Italian

Now that you know a good number of key phrases for shopping in Italian, it’s time to brush up on your vocabulary. Here are some useful vocab words and phrases to keep handy for your next Italian shopping trip.

Fare shopping/Fare spese (to go shopping)

Mi piace fare shopping in centro con i miei amici. (I like to go shopping downtown with my friends.)

Guardare le vetrine (to go window shopping)

Mentre guardavo le vetrine, ho visto un vestito bellissimo. (While I was window shopping, I saw a beautiful dress.)

La carta di credito (the credit card)

Lui preferisce pagare con una carta di credito. (He prefers to pay with a credit card.)

I contanti (the cash)

Porto sempre abbastanza contanti per fare shopping. (I always bring enough cash to go shopping.)

Il portafoglio (the wallet)

Hai perso il tuo portafoglio? (Did you lose your wallet?)

Il carrello della spesa (shopping cart)

Abbiamo riempito il nostro carrello della spesa con il cibo. (We filled our shopping cart with food.)

I camerini (the fitting rooms)

Mi scusi, dove sono i camerini? (Excuse me, where are the fitting rooms?)

La cassa (the cash register)

Si paga alla cassa. (You pay at the cash register.)

Lo scontrino (the receipt)

Ho ricevuto il mio scontrino dopo aver pagato. (I received my receipt after paying.)

Shopping in Italian: A Sample Dialogue

For the vocab specifically mentioned in the previous section, here’s a sample dialogue between two friends who have some errands to run. Keep an eye out for new words and phrases as you follow along.

Vanessa: Ciao, Sofia! Dove vai? (Hi, Sofia! Where are you going?)

Sofia: Ciao! Vado al supermercato a comprare il latte. E tu? (Hi! I’m going to the supermarket to buy milk. What about you?)

Vanessa: Vado in farmacia a comprare un nuovo detergente per il viso. Ho appena letto dell’importanza di prendersi cura della pelle in un nuovo libro che ho comprato. (I’m going to the pharmacy to buy a new facial cleanser. I just read about the importance of taking care of your skin in a new book I bought.)

Sofia: Davvero? Che libro è? (Really? What book is it?)

Vanessa: “La Scienza della Pelle.” L’ho comprato in libreria la settimana scorsa. Te lo posso prestare, se vuoi. (“The Science of Skin.” I bought it at the bookstore last week. I can lend it to you, if you want.)

Sofia: Sarebbe fantastico, grazie! (That would be great, thanks!)

Vanessa: Di niente. Dove hai trovato quegli stivali? Ti stanno benissimo! (My pleasure. Where did you find those boots? They look great on you!)

Sofia: Grazie! Li ho trovati al negozio di scarpe accanto alla posta. (Thanks! I found them at the shoe store next to the post office.)

Vanessa: Che bello! Devo andarci io per provare delle scarpe col tacco nuove. (Cool! I have to go there myself to try on some new heels.)

Sofia: D’accordo! È stato bello vederti, Vanessa, ma devo scappare ora. Dobbiamo andare a pranzo uno di questi giorni. (Sounds good! It was nice to see you, Vanessa, but I have to get going now. We should have lunch sometime.)

Vanessa: Assolutamente. A presto, Sofia! (Definitely. See you soon, Sofia!)

Sofia: Ci vediamo! (See you!)

A Note on Using the Proper Language When Shopping

Once you learn all the basic words and phrases for shopping in Italian, you need to familiarize yourself with the proper language to use with other speakers. Consider these guidelines for communicating with others in Italian about shopping-related topics.

First, it’s important to know the difference between two similar phrases: fare la spesa and fare shopping.

Fare la spesa refers primarily to grocery shopping, while fare shopping encompasses all other types of shopping. Therefore, if you plan to buy a new pair of shoes or pick out Christmas gifts for your loved ones, those two types of purchases would fall under the umbrella of fare shopping. You can also use the phrases fare spese or fare acquisti, which also refer to all types of shopping besides buying groceries.

Another key point to remember is that you must always use the proper register whenever you have an interaction at a store. In most cases, you’ll be speaking to a salesperson or cashier, which means you’ll be expected to use the formal register. As we saw earlier, some examples of this include approaching a clerk by saying mi scusi (excuse me) or mi può aiutare? (can you help me?).

Remembering to use formal language will help you come across as polite and professional, and it’ll also make you more likely to have your needs addressed.


Mastering the proper language for your next shopping trip in Italy takes practice, but it can be done. Be sure to study these key words and phrases before you explore what Italy has to offer. Once you know how to speak like a true Italian, navigating any shopping scenario will come naturally to you.

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