When students first arrive, they soon notice that shopping choices in Prato are very different than those they’re accustomed to at home.
Unlike many large supermarkets and department stores in the US, shops in Prato tend to be smaller and family-run. Like many shops in Italy, their hours are generally dictated by city law and are listed in the shop window. Such small shops often open around 9 or 10, close for a mid-day break between 1 and 4 pm, and then stay open later, usually until 7 or 8 pm.
Remember, this is not a “siesta”! The break gives shopkeepers a chance to run their own errands, pick kids up from school and coordinate family meals. During your stay in Prato, you’ll learn to plan your shopping and eating activities around these opening times until it comes naturally.
As with restaurants, most shops will be closed one or two days a week, with Sunday being the most common “day of rest.” Certain shops and services tend to stay closed on Mondays, such as hairdressers.
Shops in Prato are also more specialized than many of their U.S. counterparts: here you’ll find plenty of bakeries, stationery shops, shoe shops and perfumeries, just to name a few. One of the many benefits of Italy’s smaller-sized shops is that the salespeople usually know their merchandise very well, and can make suggestions for you. And if you visit often enough, you just might get to know the shopkeepers.
While these shops look small, it’s interesting to note that nearly everything that can be found in a shopping mall can also be found in the city center, if you know where to look. Keep in mind that in any given shop, not all merchandise for sale is necessarily put on display – which means that you have to be brave and ask! And shops can often order special merchandise for you if they don’t ordinarily stock it. As a result, you’ll generally have more of a relationship with local shopkeepers than you might in the U.S.