Don’t Touch the Veggies! (An Italian Lesson)

August 1, 2013

In Sicily, you wouldn’t dare touch the veggies yourself.*

(Hands off!)

Sicilian Veggie Market, copyright Jann Huizenga

You have to ASK for each thing.

So before you travel here, you may want to learn a word or two.

Here’s a little Italian lesson:

Can you find these foods in the picture below?:Β pomodori, lattuga, pere, mele, peperoni rossi, cavolfiore, arance, finocchio, asparagi, melanzane.

Sicilian Fruit and Vegetable Market, copyright Jann Huizenga

Want to learn to pronounce them?Β Click hereΒ forΒ a list of fruits and veggies in Italian, along with audio pronunciation.


*Except in a supermarket, but even then you’d better put on plastic gloves!


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42 comments to Don’t Touch the Veggies! (An Italian Lesson)

  • John Schinina

    Ciao Jann,
    I found all the fruits and veggies to be wonderful in Sicily and I believe the clerk should be the only one handling them. People have a tendency of abusing the touch, here in the states, when corn is in season, people start shucking them in order to find the perfect one, the problem is once the corns shucked it starch’s immediately

    • Jann

      πŸ™‚ John, I have to plead guilty about the corn. I always sneak a peak because I hate those worms…

  • I’d never heard that, Jann, so thanks for the “heads up”! And thanks for the link to the pronunciation guide, too. Sicily definitely is on my Bucket List of places to visit!

  • Jann, I learned the “don’t touch the veggies” lesson the hard way one summer in Spain. Accustomed to selecting my own produce, I was shocked to feel a woman swat my hand all the while screaming, “No toque el genero!” I was so embarrassed! Fortunately, I have never again touched the fresh produce. πŸ™‚

    • Jann

      Well, that’s pretty extreme on her part. It would have scared me off ever buying fresh produce again!

  • Pictures of beautiful vegetables and how to pronounce them – that’s why I love your website. It is very inspiring and teaches me something.

  • Cathy

    Yes it would definitely be hard for us to get used to NOT picking out our own! Personally I’m very touchy-feely when looking at them, they’d be horrified at me! But I can see the reasoning and it’d nice to know that not everyone & their dog HAS manhandled your produce!

    I didn’t get to do much shopping while in Italy (still looking forward to returning!) but DO remember the little shop in Rome I went in to look at liqueurs while my friend went to a clothing store with the teens. I adore Limoncello and when the man saw me looking at a few bottles of the less expensive brand he just said NO! Do NOT buy that, not good! and proceeded to pour me a hefty shot of his recommended brand, delicious and not much more expensive than the other. Then he insisted I try the creamy Limoncello..another hefty portion.. of course by then the others were waiting so I had to hurry. Now I prefer to slowly sip & savor a liqueur, so after 2 good sized shots within 5 mins, lets just say I doubt it was the weight of the limoncello bottles in my backpack making me slighly stagger the rest of the way! But oh oh oh I so enjoyed that Limoncello when I got back home!

    Great pics, I envy a climate that allows these little outdoor markets!

    Hope all is going well with you Jann xoxoxox Cathy

    • Jann

      Ciao Cathy! I love your stories. Thank you for sharing them on my blog!! Ha ha, can’t believe you bought bottles (plural) of limoncello and hauled them all the way home!

      That creamy limoncello is called CREMONCELLO in Sicily, and it IS divine. Everyone’s mother makes homemade stuff here. Why don’t you try? xxxx

    • Cathy

      Ha ha, only 2 bottles! Actually I have been making my own liqueurs for years now, love them through the winter months especially. I have made Limoncello a few times and I must say it turns out very well, I just had to have the real McCoy to compare it with!

    • Jann

      Wow, Cathy–I’m impressed!

  • Personally I love the gloves and the ‘are you being served’ attitude in Italy, Jann. Don’t you? One of the things I miss and love when I go back. The whole ‘experience’ of buying something, anything is more memorable. Not ever faster or even necessarily better but it leaves space for interaction with another person whose job it is to help you and I love being part of that. xx

  • Oh I have made this mistake so many times! Just figured it out last week. πŸ™

  • Anasthasia

    Near my house in Sicily is a small market that I am
    now allowed to pick my own veg and fruit and put in
    the sacks. That said I admit I never touch or pick
    up anything I don’t buy. It’s sort of a compomise I
    guess as I was one of those stange Americans that
    wanted to touch things before buying. They are so
    nice and speak to me in the shop or when we meet on
    the street dispite my idiosyncrasy.

  • Gian Banchero

    Yes Jill Iacopelli, years back during my first visit to Italy it took me a while to realize that IT WAS the job of the vendor “to pick the very best for you”. It’s still a little difficult but I have learned to trust vendors without fail.

  • OK, I’m too lazy to click on the link to get the answers (and plus I don’t want to leave your Sicilian world) so I’m going to take some guesses. I see you’ve kindly left two clues: melanzane is egglant, and of course asparagi is asparagus. Pomodoro is tomato and arance I think is orange. So I’m going to guess that dill (it is dill?) is finocchio, and pineapple is mele. How far off am I?

    PS. I AM a knitter and crocheter, and like nothing better than knitting in public so I would love to be with your ladies on the bench. PPS. Here in Australia, knitting in public exerts a curious influence on men. They flock like moths to a flame πŸ™‚ xx

    • Jann

      Narelle, yes, you’re perfect on the first four! Finocchio is fennel and mele is apple. So funny about Australian men flocking to knitters. πŸ™‚ I wonder how you’d psychoanalyze that???

  • Non si tocca! I love this little sign in fruit and vegetable shops. Our local shop has Patrizia to choose for you and she always does a great job.

    • Jann

      And isn’t it amazing how many great recipes you get from these folks? I learn a lot of local gossip, too!

  • Anitre MacDonagh

    Ha! Ha! I’m the pazza anglese (crazy English girl, even though I’m from Detroit) in Pozzallo, They let me man handle the fruit and veg at the markets. I love the photos and pronunciation lesson. Grazie for helping my crappy Italian, Jann.

    • Jann

      They must really love you to let you touch their produce, Anitre! Sometimes I just resort to pointing rather than pronouncing. πŸ™‚

  • OMgosh,
    I am sure I’d be in MUCH TROUBLE in Italy!

    Lovely photos, sweet Jann. xxxxx

  • How many of us have learned that the hard way!? Haha. The fact is, though, that they really do pick the best ones for you. They take pride in giving you their best. *sigh* I wish it was like that here.

    • Jann

      The better they know you, the better the produce, in my experience. These interactions are so much fun, don’t you think? Much better than picking your own anonymous stuff in a supermarket. Thanks for stopping by Rosann. Hope all is well with you!

  • Francisca Anaradoh

    I always forget! ! I get the fierce telling off each time! lol!

    • Jann

      πŸ™‚ It’s like learning not to touch a hot burner. You’ll eventually get the hang of it, Francisca!

  • Aida

    Oh boy! Worse than that, i was in a sweater shop in rome..i walked in with a friend who was on the heavy side..immediately
    The clerk started waving her hands as she ran pass me and yelling No, No,!! She approached my friend saying we have
    Nothing in your size! With that my friend responded i am not buying for myself…. We quickly ran out of there which was a very
    Expensive mistake ….because ! we ended up in a leather store on the via condotti….which cost me 700 euros for a red jacket..
    Must admit it is BELLA,….

    • Jann

      Oh my goodness, Aida! What a weird story! I’m glad it had a happy ending with your lovely red jacket, expensive or not… πŸ™‚

  • how funny + so true!

  • Sam

    Maybe its a matter of scale: Whenever I go into a small hardware store in Italy, I’m not allowed to touch anything. I have to discuss my needs with the owner first. But then I go into the Italian equivalent of Home Depot, and I can paw through anything there.

    • Jann

      Exactly, Sam. That’s what’s so hard about frequenting small hardware stores in Italy–you have to know how to say nails, tacks, and wire.

  • Jill Iacopelli

    Oh my how so very true!!1 I sure giggled when I read this! My first time in Sicily at the fruit market I, as I would in the USA, went over and started “touching” the veggies and was immediately “attended to” by a very nice and “assertive” store clerk who told me that it was his job to pick the best of what I wanted, and when I indicated that I really liked to choose my own, he questioned with “you don’t think I know my job? It is my job to pick the very best for you!” I quickly apologized in my broken Italian and have never made that mistake again! How I wish I would have read your blog before my first visit!!

    • Jann

      I love your story, Jill. Thanks for sharing it. πŸ™‚ Thank goodness Sicilians quickly forgive when they hear the foreign accent!

  • Angelo Milo

    I recall a time when even in a department store in Italy where the clerk got irate when I hand inspected a shirt. On my last trip in the Fall they seemed to relax with that somewhat.

    • Jann

      Yes, Angelo, I think you’re right. The clerks hover in department stores, making you feel like a shoplifter, but they seem to allow you to touch stuff.

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