Buying Salami in Italy

How to Buy Cold Cuts in an Italian Market

We often say "salami" (or even "cold cuts") when we mean a single type of cured meat the Italians call salame, the singular of salami. Unlike Italy, Americans find very few types of salami in supermarkets. In any store in Italy (or salumeria or Norceria, the generic names for places that sell salumi, or salted and cured meat products like proscuitto) you'll find many, many examples of salami, along with other dried meat products.

What do you need for a good, romantic meal? A few types of artisan salumi, a little wine and bread, and maybe a "thou" you like a lot. Like everything in Italy, simple is best.

The picture below represents 1 etto (about a quarter pound) of prosciutto, a type of cured ham available all over Italy. This is how it looks when it's sliced and you cram it into a bag and unravel it when you get home.

This amount of prosiutto should cost you maybe 3 Euro or so, depending upon quality and origin. Prosciutto means "ham" in English, so this is Prosciutto Crudo, or "raw" ham. You can also buy prosciutto cotto, or cooked (boiled) ham.

Italians would make at least four sandwiches out of this, it's a highly contentrated food because the water has been removed and Italians like a balance between the bread and the ham. Americans might make one or two sandwiches out of this much prosciutto. We've included instructions on how to order twice as much, due etti, for the mangione (big eater) in your life.

An Etto of Prosciutto

un etto di prosciutto crudo
Un etto, or about a quarter of a pound of prosiutto

Find out how to order this amount of Prosciutto crudo, followed by the polite "per favore" or "thank you" by pressing the "play" triangle on the left of the box. I'll teach you how to say "un etto di prosciutto crudo, per favore".

If you wish to buy twice as much prosciutto, you'd ask for "due etti".

But there's one more step if you want to make sandwiches. You need some bread. Normally, you'd order a "panino" for this. Note that a panino can be a filled sandwich or just a bread roll to make a sandwich out of. The plurals may be tricky for you if you haven't any experience, because American shops insist on making a "panini" a single sandwich. Thus in America you can order a ham panini, which is ordering "a more than one ham sandwich". This is the point where my Illinois mother would bend down and point out to her little Jimmy that I shouldn't make fun of them "because they don't know no better."

So, in conclusion, if you see buns, then try to order a panino to make a sandwich with. It's "un panino" for one, "due panini" for two, "tre panini" for three, and so on. Or just stick out some fingers. Here's how I say it, but you can do better:

One panino

Two panini

Notes on the Units of Measure and Language

The units of measure we'll use are etti. One etto is a tenth of a kilogram, or .22 pounds. Due etti, or 2 etti, are .44 pounds. It's pretty easy if you're used to seeing a quarter or half a pound.

Typical Salami You'll Find in a Supermarket in Italy

Below is a list of some of the most popular types of salami found in Italy. You should find them in most supermarkets, as well as in a salumeria or norcheria (both signifying places that sell cured meats, the later named after Norchia in Umbria, famous for its meats, especially wild boar.) Those listed are just a few of the hundreds of kinds of salami you'll come across as you traverse Italy; each of Italy's 20 regions has its own variation of spices, textures, form factors and meat grind.

Felino - Salame di Felino comes from a town near Parma that the Etruscans called "Felsina." It is aged in the same manner as the famous prosciutto, and is considered one of Italy's best salami.

Finocchiona - Throw some fennel seeds into your meat mixture for salame and you'll have Finocchiona. It's one of my personal Favorites.

Soppressata - Originally from the south (Calabria) soppressata is flattened during the curing process, giving it it's characteristic shape. It is one of the softer salami.

Ventricina - From the Abruzzo and shown above, this is one of my favorite salami. The roughly ground pork is made slightly spicy from dried hot peppers called peperoncini, and sometimes has fennel seeds and orange peel added as well. Very nice.

More on Salami

The Istituto Valorizzazione Salumi Italiani has a website which has some English pages. There is a restaurant list as well, so you don't have to go out and buy your salami.

Shopping in an Italian Market

We also can teach you how to buy chicken at the butcher shop or in a supermarket.

To find out what an open air market is in Italy, come along with us to our local market via our Fivizzano Tuesday Market Video.

More Italian Travel Planning