Friday, June 17, 2016

Would You Rather....

...enjoy a day starting with a delicious breakfast omelette at your hotel, followed by an afternoon repast in a cafe sipping wine and sampling exotic cheeses, before a late dinner at an osterio recommended by guidebook expert Arthur Frommer? Or would you rather eat in your own apartment?

Yes, I'd prefer the first scenario, too. But I'd also like to win the lottery, have naturally curly hair, and wake up at least twenty pounds thinner. I'm afraid the first dining scenario is no more likely for me than the others (Although I'm still holding out hope for the lottery.), but I have found a way to compromise so I still get the best of a city's cuisine while remaining on a budget.

I always rent an apartment with a kitchen. Here in Florence, even if I did nothing but prepare my own water, tea, and uncork an occasional bottle of wine, I'd be saving at least €15-20 a day. But I want to save even more than that so I can enjoy the occasional wine-sipping evening with friends in a sidewalk cafe or the fixed-price lunch (€14 for antipasto, main dish, wine and dessert) featuring the wonderful porchetta that I know is waiting for me in the tiny bistrot around the corner.

So how can I easily (After all, I did not come here to cook or clean.) make sure I'm savoring the cuisine of Florence while staying on a budget? In short, the answer is carry-out, or, as it's often referred to here take-away.
Sarting with the chicken and going clockwise: lasagne, spinach stuffed pasta with tomato and cheese sauce, eggplant parmigiana. Each of the first two pasta dishes were generous enough to provide two meals.
It's easy to find the best carry-out places by checking guidebooks, websites, or by asking residents. My treasure is La Mangiatoia on Piazza San Felice 8 which is a three-minute walk from my apartment. (This is also the Piazza where Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning rented a house for a number of years. I'm sure they frequented my carry-out place as well!)

Here I can buy Florentine delights, including chicken cooked in Tuscan fashion by flattening it under a brick and grilling it over an open flame, for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant. In a town where even bottled water costs €2.50-3 in a cafe, the savings of this easy do-it-yourself dining is considerable.

Please understand that I am not an advocate of spending more than five minutes preparing anything to eat. In fact, I consider myself to be a master of "assembling," not cooking.

With an already prepared bag of greens from the local grocery store (Conad supermarket is near the Ponte Vecchio. Or, many side dishes are available from La Mangiatola.), a bit of dressing whipped up from the olive oil and balsamic vinegar left by previous tenants, some bread from the baker, and an entree from La Mangiatoia, I eat very well indeed. All of the entrees pictured above cost a total of €14.50 and fed me very well for almost a week.
Today's lunch. The eggplant parm, salad, and bread were delicious!
Practicalities -

Since food can be a huge expense, be a frugal traveler so you can take more trips. Saving money on food does not mean doing without the local cuisine.

When you save so much on food, you can afford a few euros for flowers to make your apartment even more like home.

Should you wish to rent Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning's house, it is available from Britain's Landmark Trust, a unique program enabling travelers to stay in historic residences.


  1. Thank you for your blogs. I love reading them!


    1. Thank you. It's nice to have you along for the adventure, and I know you'll enjoy your month in Florence when you take this same class.


  2. La Mangiotoia, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett's house rental

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