Money matters

How to stretch your student dollars

Haley Kingsland
May 15, 2008

With the exchange rate between the dollar and euro at an all-time high and the price of oil breaking records, spending money in Florence is downright depressing. But even though the euro is strong, there are many ways to conserve your soldi and still enjoy this city. A few simple steps can dramatically lower your spending and increase your Florentine experience.

 

SIGHTSEEING If you have 10 state museums on your itinerary, consider membership with the Amici degli Uffizi (www.amicidegliuffizi.it). Adults pay 60 euro; those under 26 pay 40. Perks include unlimited access to participating museums without ever waiting in line. Buy a $25 student ISIC card in the States beforehand and it may also help defer the cost of museum entry (www.myisic.com). Another option: tell museum staff that you're a passionate student of art history and you may just find that your ticket is free. Plan ahead: if your friends and family want to come visit (or even if you'd like to return to Florence someday!) each March, during La Settimana della Cultura, all state and city museums are free throughout Italy (www.beniculturali.it/settimanacultura).

 

FOOD Luckily, finding a delicious, economic meal in Florence is quite easy. When eating out, check the amount of coperto, a hidden cost that covers seating and bread. Be aware that many bars charge more for sitting down and many restaurants for sitting outside. Also, don't succumb to expensive gelato along the well-touristed routes. Gelateria dei Neri costs less than some of the more well-known places and tastes just as good.

 

If you have access to a refrigerator, buy yummy lunch ingredients from the Mercato Centrale or Mercato Sant'Ambrogio and pack a panino every day. Fill your Nalgene bottle with fresh tap water, which is usually potabile- but check to confirm its healthiness. If you've had a big lunch, the aperitivi tradition, in which plates of appetizers come free with drinks at local bars, is an excellent and cost-effective light dinner.

 

DAILY LIFE Always inquire about a discount (especially if you are a student) wherever you go-whether you are buying paints at an art store or visiting the parrucchiere. Know that toiletries such as shampoo, Q-tips, deodorant, and tampons at farmacie are usually overpriced and that you will find better bargains at local supermercati. Buy laundry detergent at the supermarket as well, and if you're lucky enough to live near a Wash & Dry lavarapido, insert your money on the complimentary card that saves 50 centesimi per load. Run along the Arno or through the Cascine instead of joining a gym.

 

For free Internet, gratis membership at the Biblioteca delle Oblate at Via dell'Oriuolo 26 offers three hours of wireless per day (remember to bring your passport to sign up). This library also has a selection of books in English, so check the Oblate before buying. Matinee screenings at movie theatres are always a few euro lower than the evening price, and some theatres even offer discounts on a particular day. For school supplies, forget about the shamelessly expensive notebooks at cartolerie and search the ‘99 cent' stores for better bargains. You may end up with pink notebooks splashed with fat orange cats, but paper is paper.

 

TRANSPORTATION If you ride the bus often, consider purchasing an ATAF Carte Agile (10 rides for 10 euro, available at newsstands). Buy one-ride or four-ride tickets (1.20, 4.50 euro) at any tabaccheria instead of paying 2 euro aboard (www.ataf.net) If you'll be here for a while, you could even buy a cheap bicycle (about 50 euro) and get around like a true Florentine! Also remember women traveling by taxi alone at night ride at a 10 percent reduction, and that taking a cab from a taxi stand will cost less than calling for one.

 

TRAVEL Plan ahead to take advantage of the best deals. For budget flights, use sites such as ryanair.com, skyeurope.com, easyjet.com, and Travelocity.com. Even a Google search such as ‘Cheap flights to . . .' can yield promising results. The best alternative, however, is simply not to leave Italy on the weekends! Florence itself has plenty to discover, and towns such as Siena, Pisa, Ravenna, Viareggio, Lucca, San Gimignano, Ferrara, Bologna, Assisi, Orvieto, Perugia, Modena, Arezzo and Parma are easy trips. Rome, Milan and Venice are just a train ride away. If you have the time, opt for Regional or Intercity trains instead of the carissimo Eurostar.

 

NIGHTLIFE Some bars and clubs have reduced prices or entry on particular nights, during Happy Hours, before a certain time, or if you buy a number of drinks with a group. Call or check their posted prices before going out!

 

SHOPPING Bi-annual government-sanctioned sales offer amazing shopping deals in stores everywhere in July and after Natale. The popular and reasonably priced stock in Zara is always changing, and an exhausting but successful search at the San Lorenzo market (where high-quality pashminas sell for less than in local stores) will also yield unbeatable prices, as do the market at Santo Spirito (first two Sundays of the month) and the traveling markets.

 

 

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