Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Grocery Store Surprises: a Rome SMA

Different kind of cart
Rome grocery stores--the chains that is--are not all that different from American stores. They're smaller yes, but they have a similar mix of departments and items.  Unlike some state-side stores, where legislation prohibits the sale of alcohol, Rome/Italian stores all stock wine--and better quality than that carried by the California stores we know.  Another difference is how metal shopping carts are regulated. In the US, you just grab one and go.  In Italy--at the big stores in Rome, at least--it takes 50 ore more centessimi (Euro cents) to free the cart from the lineup; you get it back when you return the cart.  Most stores also provide smaller, plastic carts with handles and wheels for which no deposit is required (guess which ones we use)..

Underdressed shopper

Despite the similarities, as a tourist one can still be surprised at what one finds inside one of those Rome supermarkets.  On our last visit to the city, we were regular customers at a SMA, tucked in behind the basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano.

The first surprise was a scantily clad cut-out in one of the aisles. It's safe to say you'll see nothing quite this provocative in the US, where prudishness--or one might say decorum--prevails.

Culture at Checkout

The second surprise was of another sort altogether. Across from the checkout lanes was a series of murals, illustrating the store's neighborhood setting, but nostalgically so, in a era before the automobile.

One of the murals (above right) featured a piazza and courtyard on the backside of San Giovanni in Laterano--a place seen by thousands of Romans from their automobiles every day, but one seldom visited and relatively obscure.

Another mural was more of a mystery.  The scene depicted somewhat resembles the intersection of via Druso and viale delle Terme di Caracalla, perhaps a mile from the store.  The curious "booth" at the center looks like one at that intersection, and the ruins in the background may be the baths.  No matter, we loved the dash of "culture" at the checkout counter!   Bill

Terme di Caracalla?  

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