Home > Italian customs, Italian language > Village prices

Village prices

Valtopina certainly isn’t a city but since there’s no proper Italian word for town, the nearest is ‘village’. Confusingly, though, the Italian word for village also means country!

Anyway yesterday I came across a very extreme example of village prices.

Chokri, our Tunisian gardener and handyman had worn his paintbrush down to a stub so I went down to Valtopina to buy him a new one from the ‘ferramenta’. This type of shop is roughly an ironmonger’s but more widespread and useful.

Valtopina’s ferramenta has either changed hands very recently, or was being manned by its holiday staff, obviously a married couple.

The shop was empty except for the husband behind the counter and the wife hovering.

I asked for a paintbrush and the wife conducted me to the back of the shop and pointed out the right size one. Eight euros.

I coughed slightly and remarked that it was rather expensive.

“Oh but it’s very good quality, you see,” remarked the wife. “We’ve sold lots of them. See this empty rack? That’s where they were.”

“But eight euros for one paintbrush …”

“Seven euros fifty,” called the husband.

“Oh, all right then,” I agreed, with visions of Chokri painting without any bristles at all.

I passed a ten euro note over the counter. The husband looked at it, opened the till, felt in his pocket, then said he would have to run next door to get some change.

A pretty pass, I thought, that they shouldn’t even have two euros fifty in the till.

“Let me see what I’ve got by way of change,” I offered.

I managed to produce seven euros thirty-three.

“No,” said the husband. “It has to be seven euros fifty.”

I packed it all away again, feeling rather cross. When I’d stowed the last coin I said, “I’ll leave it, thanks.”

“All right, I’ll take whatever change you had there,” said the husband.

“No thanks, really. I have to get to the Pharmacy …” I excused myself.

I phoned Chokri who, on his way in this morning, bought a perfectly respectable paintbrush for one euro twenty.

Chokri's paintbrush

Chokri’s paintbrush

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