Trip update: Last weekend I finished moving into the new flat in Formia. Well, not new, considering that the building is several hundred years old, but freshly painted. By mid-week, I had replaced the burned out incandescent lamps in the chandeliers with LEDs and the brilliance lifts my spirits every time that I turn them on. I have been shopping for the many little things that folks usually bring with them from house to house, but that are not normally provided by landlords: bedding, linens, towels, etc. Fortunately, much of the little stuff in the kitchen was left by the previous tenant, so I was able to begin fixing my own meals as soon as I went shopping. The only drawback to the place is that the thick walls block all electronic signals: it’s like a bomb shelter. So I have to step out on the sidewalk to see if anyone has called me or to make calls and clear email with my smartphone. I work in the piazza in one of the many cafés with WiFi or at the laundromat.
Yesterday being a sunny day in Formia, I caught the 0644 train to Aversa, so I could do some shopping at the Navy Exchange at the US Naval Support Activity there. I also wanted to test the road back, because this may be my normal mode for going to Aversa, whether for the Navy Exchange or the Naval Hospital next to it. I stocked up on household items that are not normally found in Formia, and rode the coast road back to Formia, about 82 km of flat highway in various states of disrepair. It took about five hours, so a same-day trip is feasible. Of course, I could take the train both ways and use a taxi from the station, but it’s about the bike, isn’t it?
Speaking of shopping, this week we can look at shopping tips and experiences, using Western Europe (specifically, Italy) for examples and ideas. Whether buying gifts to send home or repair parts to keep going, finding what we are looking for can be a challenge in a strange city. It would also be nice to get a good deal once in a while. Where to shop and how depends largely on what you need and your budget.
In small towns and villages, there are almost no options, but it does not take long to find out what is (and is not) there. A quick ride around the built-up part of town will reveal what is on offer. You can usually buy local products and fresh food in town. If you spot a large supermarket, the prices might be better there on food and personal items. Carrefour is a well-known chain throughout Europe. Others include Lidl, MD, Aldi, Sisal, Coop, Sigma, Conad, and Coal. Small towns in tourist areas will also have gift shops.
The larger cities offer far more, of course, and you don’t have to pay top dollar to buy the upscale brands. However, you will pay top dollar in stores in the upscale shopping streets, for example, the Via Condotti or Via del Corso in Rome or the Fashion District in Milano. If you are interested in something in a famous brand store, you might find it cheaper in another part of town.
For example, the Trastevere and Prati neighbourhoods of Rome have shopping streets with many of the same upscale stores that tourists and the glitterati shop in downtown, but with prices adapted for the middle class market in those areas. I would ask the locals (concierge, server, retailer clerk, or new local friend) where they shop and why it is different.
If you saw something in a downtown store that you really like, but the less-expensive store of the same chain does not have it, you might be able to arrange to have the item sent over from the downtown store. If you are shopping for something to send home (a frequent situation for me on a bike), it helps to have an idea what it costs to mail a package home from the post office, so if the store offers shipping, you can take them up on it, or plan to go to the post office. You can search online for postal prices or stop by the post office. The websites usually have English and French versions; sometimes German and Spanish, too.
I don’t pretend to be a shopping expert. What tips or ideas have you picked up for finding what you are looking for? Any particular places that you know offer good deals?
Smooth roads and tailwinds,