Sometimes I feel like I will never get used to the Italian ways. I have come to the conclusion that Italians are extreme. Either things are beautifully done or incredibly ugly! I remember my dad always telling me that he too, was always surprised how Italian’s could be the most talented artists of all time (ex: DaVinci, Colosseum, etc.) and at the same time build the most ghastly concrete buildings ever (our Saluzzo courthouse for example).


Yesterday I had to buy present-wrapping materials. Where to find tasteful yet affordable wrapping paper and decorations is still a mystery to me here in Italy. Would it be at the “cartoleria”? at the “tobacchaio”? at the “supermercato”? I had one place in mind, thanks to my wedding stationary searching days. A type of wholesale paper bag shop behind the hospital. I rush there in my free hour at 3:15 pm. which seems already really late in the day. I get there and find the door closed with a sign: OPEN at 3:30. Brrrrr… I should have known. So I watch all the old ladies arrive and feel like a doofus while I wait in line outside the door with these anxious dames. We finally dashed in and I quickly scan… napkins, plastic plates and hanging ribbons but no tissue paper or Christmas name cards. I can’t even see Christmas wrapping paper!

So I realize that this is going to be one of those many times where I will have to ask for assistance from the shop employee. The dread! I hate shopping in Italy! But how do I say “tissue paper”? Actually, I am not even sure they use it here for presents. (one of the bare extremes). I decide to describe it as something “soft” that you “roll around clothes” before putting them in a bag.

Beautifully wrapped example from Erborista VS. Thoughtless bag gifts

Aside from her condescending facial expression, her first brilliant suggestion was saran wrap or “celofan” (as they pronounce CHELLOFAWN). Really?! Thankfully my old lady friend who was hanging out in the store helped me out by saying she thought I wanted a type of “carta velo” … whatever that means. The assistant suddenly understands and whips out from under the desk a huge sheet of red tissue paper. Ahhh…of course… behind the desk! “Questo”? I say yes with relief and obviously ask what colors it comes in. She again looked at me strangely and just said, “red and white”. Fine. Ok. 5 huge loose sheets of tissue paper it was (it looks more like butcher paper to me).

Oh yeah…and then what about rolls of wrapping paper? This is a paper store and all I saw were rolls of plastic tablecloths. She pointed to a box on the desk where the wrapping paper came in tiny square packets. My mind started wondering how Italians wrap their presents. Maybe I am out of my mind. 3 packs of wrapping paper, 3 rolls of ribbon and 10 single pieces of tissue paper came to 25 euros … at a wholesale shop!

I walked home with my ROLL of tissue paper and SQUARES of wrapping paper! It wouldn’t be Italy if they weren’t so wacky:) Merry Christmas!


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