Saturday, March 8, 2008

How to Be Frugal and Experience Life in Italy Without Being Robbed By Gypsies or Going Crazy... a Reflective

A. 1) Don't forget that you are in Italy--and may never go there again. Therefore, see exactly what you want to see. I studied Michelangelo for about a zillion years; I really wanted to see the collections of his sculptures at the Academia in Florence but I let time and wealth constraints dominate my judgement and I went to the Palazzo Pitti instead. Of course, the Palazzo Pitti, a Renaissance palace, was great; it had Boticellis and Raphaels and Titians out the wazoo, not to mention amazing architecture, which is one of my favorite things about visiting Italy, but in the end, I have a much larger emotional investment in Michelangelo than in the Medicis. Florence is famous for its very intricate replicas, but apparently the copy of David that I saw outside the Palazzo Vecchio just makes you notice his big hands, and the original makes you cry.

Of course, this also means I have to visit Florence again, which I am ok with; I also have to visit Rome again... and I'd like to visit Bologna again, but that's another story.

A. 2) Be cautious, but don't get hung up on fear of getting pickpocketed. I think this also has to do with the fact that I did not go in tourist season, but I never had even a near-burgled experience. By the way, I developed and highly recommend the Fake Romantic Couple method of protecting your money while in crowds; wear one of those little zippy things underneath your clothes to put your important info and the bulk of your money in, and then put about 10 or 20 euros into your right pocket. Then take the left arm of a gay male friend. Of course you can easily substitute the Fake Romantic Couple method with the Real Romantic Couple method by replacing the gay male friend with an actual romantic entanglement.

A. 3) Find out what the plural of "euro" is before you go to Italy and spend money. And get ready--it'll be a bumpy, controversial ride.

A. 4) Know at least a few words of Italian before you go to Italy.

A. 5) Your new favorite alcoholic beverage is a caipiroska. A caipiroska, developed after the caipirinha, the national drink of Brazil, is popular in Europe but rare in the States and consists of pure vodka plus lots of sugar plus lots of lime or lemon plus lots of ice. Therefore, one will make you happy. Two will make you tipsy. Three will make you broke. So, if you're like me, you only have one. But you have to order one.

A. 6) Don't be afraid to have new experiences. Make eye contact with a Communist. Try pate. Order caffe corretto grappa. You will probably not finish it but you will be able to say you had Italian moonshine in your turbo coffee. Try to communicate with your bus driver who doesn't speak a lot of English. You might find out you had the same oral surgery and will be able to communicate by pointing to the titanium plates in your face and miming rubber bands with "ping" sound effects.

A. 7) Don't ever pay 2,50 E for two scoops of gelato. You can find 1,90 E gelato somewhere else. (Italy, incidentally, is a very expensive country. You should probably never live there. The euro did uncharacteristically crazy things to their economy and I think the lira is still somewhere in the land of dead money crying its eyes out.)

A. 8) You know those people who tell you never to spend money in Venice? They're so right!


John Alston said...

Thanks. Being unloved would be rather lonely.

You like Mike? ;)

Claire said...

I LOVE Mike! ;)

I got to see the Sistine Chapel and the Pieta and practically all the buildings and bridges he designed, so I was a rather happy camper for the whole trip.