Wednesday, February 9
Our bikes go on the train today with ease and great success! In fact, today marks our ninth and tenth trips on the train, and we have only been asked to show our monthly passes one time so far. After our class, we are able to ride about a mile outside the city walls in just a few minutes to visit Coop, a supermarket even bigger and more modern than EsseLunga. Even though Coop is short for the Italian co-operativa, the Italians all pronounce it cope, with the “o” sound a trifle extended because it is doubled. We tell our language teacher that we would call it a co-op, but it is spelled like the place we keep our chickens in America.
We have shopped at various Coop stores in years past, but we are surprised to see some advances, including a huge section where one can purchase already cooked food, as we are used to seeing in our Gig Harbor Safeway and most other large grocery stores. We also see many foods that we had a hard time finding during our year in Padova. In fact, other than the language difference, Coop looks almost identical now to American supermarkets, which makes becoming an Italian a whole lot easier than it was when foreigners had to shop in one tiny store to get bread, another to get fruit and vegetables and another to get meat. It is strange that Lucy and I come all the way here to experience the uniqueness of the Italian culture and to see what it is like to be Italian, but instead we rejoice when we find a place where we can buy everything at once and much more cheaply than at the individual stores. Coop is packed with Italians, as are all the grocery stores, so not by a long shot are we the only ones choosing convenience and cost over charm and atmosphere. What will happen when all the old ladies in San Salvatore die and no longer shop at Luigi’s macelleria? Coop and EsseLunga sell huge varieties of bread, cheese, fruits and vegetables, too, so who will need the panificio, the fruit vender and all those other little stores that give Italy its special character?
They won’t die out completely, as location, tradition, personal service and charm will still have their appeals, but Italy, just like the rest of the world, is changing, and I have only been coming here for fifteen years. I just count myself as fortunate to have come in time to see a little of what the old country once was like.