A dual-language article
Learn some useful vocabulary with Italian language teacher Paola Fraioli
In the second of our series of dual-language articles, Paola introduces us to some of the vocabulary you might need on a stroll around town, and specifically in a special kind of shop called a ‘drogheria’.
When we look around the streets of our cities we can see multinational marche (brands) of any items: jeans, scarpe (shoes), gioielli (jewellery), oggetti per la casa (housewares). As Carlo Petrini (founder of the Slow Food movement) says, all the major città* (cities) around the globe tend to look the same; it is all like a big centro commerciale (shopping centre), with the same interior design that overshadows l’arte (the art), l’architettura (the architecture) and i monumenti (the monuments).
The same is happening with il cibo (food); we find that standardised food has taken over the fresh and rich Italian food culture although Italy is still resisting this trend.
In fact during one of my passeggiate (strolls) around Sulmona I came across a very interesting negozio (shop): la Drogheria. When I checked the traduzione (translation) of drogheria I simply found the word grocer, which certainly does not give any idea of what a drogheria really is and what an amazing selection of products you can find on its shelves. Some words are not literally translatable because they are part of the culture of another country and need to be understood in that context.
The storia (history) of this specific shop in Sulmona goes back a hundred years and inside you can smell its past, as the two proprietarie (owners), Anna Lucia and Paola, say themselves. The “Drogheria Pelino” (located just off Piazza Garibaldi), has to be experienced: the old shelves are still the same as they were in the past and they are full of the most incredible products which in some instances can only be found here! The smell belongs here as every piece of furniture does, the same as it has always been.
And when you walk into the Drogheria it is really the smell of all the spices that catches you. You can find loose zafferano (saffron), cannella (cinnamon), chiodi di garofano (cloves), semi di anice (aniseed), noce moscata (nutmeg), zenzero (ginger) and different types of pepe (pepper) and of caffè sfuso**. If your reason for visiting this shop is that you want to make a cake, here you can find everything from maizena (corn flour) to fecola di patate (potato flour) to farina di cocco (coconut flour). And a range of lieviti (yeasts) like for instance the lievito vanigliato (vanilla yeast). And to give the last fabulous touch to your cakes, on the shelves of the Drogheria you can admire elegant glass containers full of small and multicoloured decorations.
Many of the products on sale here can be bought a peso (by weight): so you could ask for un etto di caffè (one hundred grams of coffee) or for smaller quantities cinquanta grammi di cannella (fifty grams of cinnamon).
In a way, Italians have never stopped supporting small retailers. The benefits? Many. You can leave your car at home and enjoy your stroll around the town, you will reduce your packaging, you can have a chat with the experts and get some tips on your next baking project … all this and more is the experience at La Drogheria.
*the plural of città is città
**sfuso is used as a term to mean anything sold ‘loose’ or singly such as wine, ground coffee or nuts for example rather than prepackaged in determined quantities.