May 16, 2011

Short list from America


I have formulated a small list of the things that you absolutely cannot find in Florence. Or, if you do, the cost is so much higher than in the United States, its difficult to warrant spending the money.

#1. Peanut Butter
Cost =  5 Euro (approx. $7.50) for a small container of Skippy Crunchy. Long are the days where you have a 5 shelf, long row of multiple selections, Jiffy, Skippy, creamy, crunchy. Nope, this is what you get here in Florence. I am always on the never-ending search for the best peanut butter for the best price. My girlfriend recently wrote a blog about this as well, you can read here My Fall in Florence. I think it is interesting that Italians do not eat peanut butter, in fact they think its "schifo" (gross).  I was at my office one day, and cut up an apple and put peanut butter on top. This is so common in the South, that I never thought any different. My boss walks in and says "Christiiiine!?! What have you done to the poor apple?"

#2. Oatmeal
Nope nadda. Does not exist. I just had my girlfriend load up on packages from the United States. I made my boyfriend try it this morning, his reaction was "Ugh, how can you eat that?". I add a little sugar on top (another trait of being Southern) and he thought it was too sweet. I can only imagine what he will think when he visits Atlanta and is forced to eat grits with butter & Sweet N'Low.

#3. Cereal
There is a small section of cereals at the grocery store, so its not non-existent. It's just the selection varies each time you go to the grocery, so you never know what you are going to get. This is actually common practice with many types of foods in the small grocery stores here. One day I get a small box of Corn Flakes for 4 Euro, the next I get some Italian brand. Is it bad that one afternoon I found a box of Cheerio's and it literally made my day? My father would be proud. I do get my cereal addiction from him afterall.

#4. Feminine products
I am just going to say this bluntly. They do not work as effectively here, the brands might be the same, but the product is different. I have no idea how, or why this is possible, but its the truth. Everytime I go back to the United States, I come back to Italy with a 4 month supply of "Tampax, American manufactured".

#5. Saline Solution
Great ready for this. It costs 10 euro ($15) in the historic centre for the same exact bottle of saline. All things are more expensive in the centre because of the tourists, but even then, it's outrageous.

#6 Ny Quil / Day Quil
Best product ever made in the history of the world for cough/flu. I have been unsuccessful in finding anything similar here. They do have a vast array of powdered medicines that work almost as good, but they still aren't as great as back home.

#7 Q Tips
I know this might sound funny, but I never realized how much I loved cleaning my ears until I had to use hard cotton swabs. Again, I have been unable to find the brand "Q tips" anywhere, and have resorted to buying the cheap ones at the 99 Cento (99 Cent) store. Ouchers!

#8 Kitty litter
There is no such thing as Arm & Hammer litter here, only the il naturale (natural) kind or the pebbley kind. Both of these are also outrageous in costs, over 10 euro for the good stuff!

#9 Hair bands
I am actually shocked I am mentioning this one, but its true! When you have long hair, its absolutely a necessity to have good, strong hair bands. I have searched & searched this town, and to no avail. The only ones I can find are pastel colored and very thin, so they break after 2 uses. Do Italians not use these? I cannot imagine there is no demand for a product here? My co-worker, who is male with long hair even asked for my mother to bring some of the black ones from America.

#10 Bathing suits
This is one of the the many kinds of apparel that are challenging in Italy. The bathing suit issue is difficult because you cannot find normal bathing suits, at a reasonable price & reasonably covered. Even the old, over-weight women wear bikinis and its perfectly okay. The men wear weeney bikinis and its perfectly okay. Not in my world. I am in my mid 30's and would not be caught dead wearing a thong bikini, with my boyfriend wearing a see through white banana hammock. Bravo to the Italians for not being afraid to show their bodies, even if they aren't perfect.

I will give the Italians tons of credit for the fresh food, simpler lives, romance, and fantastic wines, but I wish the list above could be worked on just a little bit. It would be interesting to formulate a little test to see if the lower cost of the food from the market & cheap wines offsets the costs of these products. I am still a firm believer that if Target would open here it would be a bagillion dollar store, I smell a huge business opportunity here. Ciao!


Murissa Maurice said...

wow I really didn't realize. Good to know when I plan my trip there - I am staying in Venice for a month next year and I assume that it too may have some of the same problems.
One thing I found was that the grocery stores had terrible bread - I suppose you would buy great fresh bread from a bakery. At times the produce was also mouldy so I think most people would buy this from a market. Good to know where to get these fresh products before dinner time arrives.
The Wanderfull Traveler

Italian Postcards said...

I have this exact list, well minus the kitty litter. My boyfriend is on his way back from the US right now with a suitcase full of oatmeal and q-tips. I've tried to make my own almond (peanut) butter in the mixer with a touch of honey. It was ok. I was glad to find popcorn here though. Anyways, subscribing to your blog right now!
Chelsea (in Torino)

Tina said...

Hi Christy,
I made my own peanut butter this past winter to make cookies, but it wasn't the same... my part of Serbia doesn't have it, and it is super Expensive in Belgrade.
about the Female issues:
not sure if you would be interested, but I found out about the "Diva Cup" just last summer. It prevented me from having to take all my fem. products to Serbia this past winter. I love it. It is healthier and greener than using Tampons.
Google it. I have nothing but good things to say about it.
I concur, Europe would be crazy over Target or Walmart!

Shelley E said...

Thanks for the laugh! :) I am sure it isn't funny for you, to not be able to find the items you want, but the bathing suit comments were funny! :) I hope you finally sends you "care packages" with your favorite items!

Anonymous said...

Poor you, everyone is missing food from home. a quite of a solution could be, there is big choiiiiiceee :).
Good luck with ur cravings

Kate said...

word on #4. i smuggle 6 months supplies when visiting home.

deniseblackman said...

Just found your blog and am subscribing now! We will be back to Italia in September, the last time before our 6 month trip in a few years. One of the things I want to do is to visit a grocery store to see which of the food/ baking products I cannot find so I will know what I need to bring! ILooking forward to your future posts!

Kimberly Wassenberg said...

When I was living there, Americans were allowed to shop in the PX on the army base. I can't remember which town in was in, but you might check it out. American products and prices. I had peanut butter and cereal withdrawls too!

Gaia said...

Wow! Just stumbled upon this list, and I just can't resist responding.......

Peanut Butter - You're right, Skippy does cost about 5 Euro, but it DOES exist (as well as smooth)also there's always the Dutch brand Calve although it's not nearly as good--- have you ever thought that Italians prefer NUTELLA to peanut butter and therefore it's a Luxury Imported Item that warrents the cost?

2. Oatmeal - Quaker Oats can be commonly found in any Esselunga store in Italy. Other places you might try are some of the foreign stores catering to Africans/Asians/South Americans, they always seem to carry Oatmeal. Anyway the word in Italian is Avena, and if you look for it you will find it in any large grocery or health food store store.

3. Cereal - I can't figure out where you are shopping, but any supermarket I've been to has at least 15 different Kellogg's cereals, 5 - 10 Nestle products and then various generic brands. Even places like Lidl make a generic cereal that is the same as Cinnnamon Toast Crunch or sugar smaks.

4. Feminine Products - Hmmm, wonder how the remaining 40 million Italian women get by every month.....

6. Isn't Nyquil made by Vicks??? I believe they do have a cough syrup by Vicks---try that maybe it's the same

7. Perhaps the brand Q-Tip isn't in Italy, but similar quality exist with or without the plastic tip.

8. Kitty Litter - don't know what the Arm and Hammer kind is, but I buy a type of silica gel litter that costs 5 euro a bag, is biodegradeable and can be flushed in the toilet and in theory lasts a month (although I change the litter every week) These types have been on the Italian market for about 6 years now and are 100x better than the old fashioned litter type- I've even found it in the centre of Florence.....

9. Hairbands - yes the big thick hairbands exist here.

10. Personally find more surf style Swimtrunks versus the speedo type swimsuit here in Italy--although there are some who sport the "banana Hammocks" as far as swimsuits, it probably comes down you're own inhibitions regarding the women's swimsuit, this is where you just need to go with the flow.

Sorry Christy, I'm sure you have had problems locating the above items, but what got me was your tone as being the "EXPERT" on all that exists in this country, when in reality, you have been here for 1.5 years and for the most part limited to the city center of a tourist town. As the saying goes " When in Rome, do as the Romans" essentially you need to adapt to Italy, not Italy to you........

Christy said...

Dear Gaia
This blog is a fun, carefree diary of things that I want to remember while living in Italy. I think if you read more of it you will see that I write alot about the positive experiences I have here. Many of which is adapting to living in a foreign country, and the personal growth that comes along with it.

Even in this particular blog entry, it is intended to be fun and not so serious. It does make me feel bad that you read it as me being trying to be an "expert". I can only think that you interpreted it incorrectly.

You are right, my opinions are primarily based on my 2 year experience of living in Florence. I have only lived in one other town in Tuscany, where things were much different than here. Hopefully my experience of living in Italy will expand to other areas as well :)

I truly appreciate your thoughts, comments & suggestions for the listed items.
All the best,

Why Rome? said...

Maybe it's a Southern thing because I have had some of the same experiences and withdrawals here in Rome. My parents came to visit the end of May and brought us a suitcase full of goodies from the States. What was in the suitcase? Peanut butter (12 pounds worth :-), syrup, ranch dressing mix, pancake mix and Nyquil, along with a few other things.

I have also craved cereal and oatmeal since we moved here. I found Kellogg's Corn Flakes, which I eat often (with a spoonful of sugar) because it reminds me of my younger days at my Grandparent's house. It's those little tastes from home. :-) I have looked (though not extensively), and have not found oatmeal here in Rome. I did find Muesli though. We went on a cruise last month and I ate oatmeal with brown sugar every morning at breakfast (along with a plate full of waffles, pancakes and biscuits...breakfast foods we don't have in Italy). Although my husband likes a lot of Southern foods, he didn't care for oatmeal. When we go back to the States to visit in a few months, oatmeal will be coming back with me. ;-)

Katie said...

I'm coming to Florence in May for 5 days - maybe I can bring you some of these goodies! It's always nice to meet up with fellow bloggers when you travel! :)

Anonymous said...

Skippy is disgusting and unhealthy. You can make your own so easily with a food processor!! AND Nyquil is the worst thing you can use for a cold remedy. I work in the medical field, in the states, married to an Italian citizen. Anyhow, just my two cents :)

Christy said...

Hi Anonymous,
Thanks for your comment. I am sorry you don't like Skippy and think it's disgusting, I think its delicious. But you are right, it probably is unhealthy. Just like a bagillion (yes, I made up that word for unbelievable amounts of things) that could be bad for us.

Nyquil seems to always do the trick. May I ask since you are in the medical field, could you offer a better, healthier solution for the everyday cold? I would appreciate your insight.

Balance is key in all things in life, but I am unsure on why I am explaining myself to an unknown person on my blog?

Grazie mille!

Anonymous said...

Skippy, among many other processed foods in the US, has GMO's. Monsanto. If you are not familiar with Monsanto I highly suggest reading up on it.
You are fortunate to be in Italy where everything is fresh, although it seems frozen foods and such have made their way to Italy, unfortunately.
As for cold remedies, basically water and other fluids i.e. clear broth, warm lemon water with honey. No OJ, coffee, caffeine or alcohol (as found in Nyquil). Salt water gargles. Saline nasal drops and sprays. Zinc, chicken soup and even working up a sweat can help get it out of your system faster. Nonprescription decongestants and pain relievers offer some symptom relief, but they won't prevent a cold or shorten its duration, and most have some side effects. If used for more than a few days, they can actually make symptoms worse. They are especially dangerous for children. Keep that in mind for when you have a family.

I am posting as Anon because I don't have a blog. Thought of starting one, just haven't had much time. My husband makes me laugh everyday with his Italianized version of American colloquialisms and I'd love to jot them all down one of these days.

I'm not criticizing you at all. Just informing you as not everyone knows these things. I was scolded by my MD for using Nyquil when I was in college. We all learn something new everyday :)


Christy said...

Thanks for the tips! I use almost all of those you mentioned regularly, even when I do not have a cold, so good to know they are healthy.

Especially chicken soup, we love making it from scratch! I appreciate the feedback and you taking the time to respond with the suggestions.


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