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What the $#*% is a Negozio Cinese?

The first time I heard it, I thought the person talking about it must be racist.

I'd asked where to buy something mundane, like toilet paper, and I was told:

"Ah. You can get it at the cinese." [pronounced chee-nay-see]

Uh...the what??

Now, I couldn't imagine life without one.

negozio cinese

Il Negozio Cinese: The Lifeblood of Calabria

The word cinese means Chinese. So you can understand my confusion when I was told to go to the Chinese to buy toilet paper.

In fact, a negozio cinese is a store run by Chinese people. They're found throughout Italy, but I've seen more in Calabria.

I've been told that Chinese immigrants get some great tax breaks in Italy, which is why they open stores.

And what stores they are! If you're American, imagine Wal-Mart and the Dollar Store having a baby. The smaller ones are filled to the brim with every imaginable item you could ever need, and then some. These smaller shops tend to make me feel claustrophobic; the aisles are super narrow, and everywhere you turn, there are piles of party favors, bottles of nail polish, and sponges waiting to be knocked over by a careless shopper.

a small negozio cinese

The remarkable thing is how much they actually hold. I'll look for something random that I'd easily find on Amazon, say a light shade for my ceiling light, and when I don't find it, I'll ask. Sure enough, the owner knows exactly where those light shades are squirreled away.

There are a couple of larger cinese in Soverato that are better organized and less crowded. There are clothes, shoes, party favors, bath towels, lighting fixtures, toothpaste...pretty much anything you could need. Francesco and I visit one of these almost weekly and I never stop marveling.

But What About the Quality?

The quality isn't always great. The decorative items are cheap, so they're sub-par compared to what we'd find at Target. But the prices are always low.

And there are a lot of knockoffs when it comes to shoes and clothing. I've seen shoes that look very similar to brands like Nike or Adidas, but they sell for €15 instead of €80. I can't speak to the quality, though Fra bought a pair recently, so we'll see how they hold up.

I'm trying to get away from ordering things on Amazon as much as I did in the U.S. I want to support local and minimize the environmental footprint of my purchases. And so I, like everyone else here, shop at the cinese.

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