A trip to the stationery shop

  • 20 April 2020
  • Prue Scott

Some excitement today. Some shopping! No, not that silly sort of shopping; this was serious stuff. Your actual necessities.

Some of our shops have been open all along – pharmacies, banks, supermarkets, family-run food shops, the pasticceria – but to this we’ve now added children’s and babies’ clothes, and stationers (cartoleria). The former is no use unless I stoop to fashioning socks out of baby socks. Why can’t we adults buy underwear and socks? Come to that, why are there no men’s undies on the washing lines? No, maybe best not go there.

The prospect of a stationery shop was almost too much to bear. I was quivering, dear reader. I was almost in a Jane Austen-like flush. I wrote out my list and translated it into Italian, as there’s no guarantee the staff will speak English or understand my weird combination of poor Italian and miming (how you do mime “staples”? Think about it).

I warmed up with a visit to Farmacia Centrale. I sometimes overdo the rich food (no, really?) and have run out of Gaviscon indigestion tablets. I also needed wipes for my glasses. I chatted via FaceTime with painter Sue while I waited the regulation 3 metres away from the door and the two people inside. The lovely pharmacist knew exactly what I wanted, although I have to say the indigestion tablets are a funny brown colour.

The onto the cartoleria. This shop is really for artists, so focuses on paints, sketchbooks, canvases, etc. However, I presented my handwritten note:

Cucitrice; she nodded yes. Piccolo o grande? Piccolo.

Graffette – Si.

Perforazine – singolare o perforatore? Perforatore, grazie. Prego

Raccoglitore ad anelli – piccolo o grande? Grande, grazie. Prego.

Anyone watching through the window would have wondered what I was doing, trying to mime raccoglitore ad anelli because I had used the wrong word.

Next stop, La Saponeria. The cleaning shop with its on-trend window display of mascherine at €3 each, hand sanitiser and candeggiare. The former – face masks – are in hot demand and, so far, I haven’t had my government-funded delivery of two. This might sound silly – why deliver only two? I think they bought as many as they could and that’s how it worked out. Candeggiare is bleach and not that I’m into bleaching everything, but the combo of the pigeons (who may be smoking) and the used butts outside my door got too much. Of course, when I got home, the city had cleaned the street and it had all gone. So, now I will bleach wildly inside.

There are butts everywhere and I suspect the owners are not allowed to smoke inside at home and, of course, they’re there all day. Unless it is the pigeons.

La Saponeria also had the refills for the plug-in zanzare repellent. Essential, given we sit on a plain decorated with water courses. I have heard them, I have seen them, but I haven’t yet been bitten. Is it possible the Italian zanzare doesn’t like me? Oh, what bliss that would be. They seem to be quieter and lighter than the NZ variety. Probably down to Italian design.

While we’re speaking of wildlife, the flies are the size of Aussie blowflies and just as persistent! They are also noisy which leads me to think they were designed by Ferrari.

Oh, here’s what I bought at the cartoleria.


Cucitrice – stapler

Staples – staples (although I don’t believe that translation)

Graffette – paperclips

Perforazine –  hole punch

Raccoglitore ad anelli – ring binder

Una penna rossa – red pen

Una penna verde – green pen

I bought the pens on account of having bought notepads with grids in dark charcoal and I can’t read my notes when I use a blue pen. The things we learn.

To finish, something from the “only in” files

The Guardian International reports. "While taking your dog for a walk may be allowed under Italy’s strict lockdown, a woman in Rome discovered not all animals are equal in the eyes of the law when she was arrested while exercising her turtle, writes David Batty. The Roman police said the 60-year-old woman was “caught outside her home without a justifiable reason” and fined €400, according to AFP. Roman police spokesman Nunzio Carbone told the news agency that the turtle was “as big as a pizza” but not wearing a lead."

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