18 April 2007


I always enjoyed a trip to Home Depot when we lived in New Mexico, even if just to browse the aisles. Valerie said I could spend an hour in the hardware store and not even buy anything. The past few years I preferred the customer service provided at locally-owned franchises like True Value and Ace Hardware and made most of my purchases there. This practice is easy to continue here in Italy as there is a similar hardware store here that are family-run operations, called a “ferramenta”.

These establishments are small businesses with many items crammed into a small space; there are no wide aisles for carts. Employees greet you to ask what they can get for you. They may carry everything from screws to kitchen utensils to office supplies. They generally do not carry building supplies such as lumber or bricks.

Looking around these stores you would wonder if they would actually have what you want, but when you ask for something they always seem to pull the part out of some hidden drawer. My forays to the ferramenta have usually been preceded by a search through the dictionary for the words I will need, then with a combination of these words and hand gestures I am able to convey to the employees what I need. This is one of the establishments in Italy that really does seem to focus on customer service.

There are large home improvement type stores outside of the centro storico that are called “brico” which is an abbreviation of “briccolage” which basically means to repair or rebuild. These tend to have the same impersonal service you would experience at a big box store in America; I prefer the personal service of the locally owned establishment.

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