Shopping in Sicily
If shopping is on your holiday to-do-list while in Sicily, you can be assured you will be able to find everything your heart and soul desire. However a little know-how of the process of shopping and shopping customs won't go astray as it may be slightly different to what you're used to.
Always ask for a ricevuta or scontrino (receipt), also on markets, and in every restaurant or bar. If the financial police controls - and they do! - and you cannot prove that you have payed and the amount has been registered - the fines can be high, very high. If you get caught buying a copy of a brand on the market or at a street vendor, you and the vendor could be charged up to € 10.000.
Finding the right shop
While big cities in Sicily do have department style shops that contain everything, largely products are located in small businesses instead. This can mean that shopping takes a little longer than you're used to but you will get special produces. Sicilians get their bread, cakes and sweets from the pasticceria (bakery), meat from the macelleria (butcher) and so on. Similarly for non-food items you may need to go to a cartoleria for paper goods, pads and pens, the profumeria, the farmacia or alimentari for toiletries and the merceria for underwear, tights or pyjamas.
If you're after a supermarket look for SPAR with meat, dairy, vegetables and alcoholic drinks or the COOP and SIDIS which are similar and also stock bread, toiletries and other items such as books. All towns will also have their own local market on a set day or days of the week where you can get a lot of cheap local produce. In fact larger cities will have several of these and they are worth visiting particularly in Palermo and Catania. In these markets you could find fresh meat, vegetables and fruit, electrical appliances, clothing and tupperware, dinghis, shoelaces, shampoo, undies, shoes, fashion jewellery, flowers and plants, CDs and porcelain, pots and pans.
What time to shop
What to buy
Sicily is a great place to buy gift items or souvenirs. For example there are some excellent ceramics to purchase in places like Caltagirone, Santo Stefano di Camastra and Sciacca. You could find these in useful kitchen items such as plates, bowls and spoons or even as ashtrays, vases or watches. A lot of people also like to buy models of the brightly coloured Sicilian carts that were once used around the island. Other fun items to look for are the Sicilian puppets, but be aware that they are industrially produced. Maybe you'll stumble over a handmade marionette in an Antiques shop - it will sure cost a fortune.
Dried tomatoes, pickled olives and olive oil, pistachio cream, wine, jams, dried herbs, cheeses and salamis also make great gifts and souvenirs.
In Enna, right next to the motorway exit, you'll find Sicilia Outlet Village, featuring most luxury, international and Italian brands with discounts up to 70% all year round. It is really worth the drive. There are free shuttle services (weekly) from all main towns - in summer also from the main tourist resorts.
If you shop for clothing or shoes in Sicily - and you definitely should, as Italy is famous for shoes, bags and designer wear, you may be confused by sizes. All good shops have helpful staff. Here you'll find a size calculator.
Italy is ladies paradise - shoes and handbags at every corner!
Where to Shop
While it's not possible to list every market and supermarket in Sicily, there are some in Sicily's two main cities – Palermo and Catania. that you should not miss on any account. The Vucciria market in Palermo is full of heady delights. This age-old market is really atmospheric and worth a stroll. It closes at midday on Wednesday.
Palermo has an abundance of markets – Il Capo, Ballarò, I Lattarini, Mercato delle Pulci (flee market), Mercatino di Piazza Marina, Le Bancherelle, Mercatino Antiquariato (antiques market) and Borgo Vecchio are some of these.
The two main food markets in Catania are La Pescheria and La Fiera (also known as 'A Fera 'o Luni). La Pescheria is possibly the best market on the island. It is located right near the Piazza del Duomo and as the name suggests it is a fish market, full of writhing and twisting sea creatures, the calls of sales man and the movement of produce. Go early for the best deals and most activity which is highly entertaining (the market finishes at midday). You can also pick up fresh fruit and vegetable produce nearby or eat here at night – a great place for dining.
La Fiera in Piazza Carlo Alberto runs until lunch time. Here you'll find fresh fruit but also cafes and snack bars. On Sundays the market extends to include a flea market.