One hungry, budget-minded vegan who loves to travel and faces a punishing exchange rate (one euro= $1.49). How did the adventure go? Let's take a look.
First stop: Venice! Gondola rides are a "must" for some, but at 100 euro per ride, that was just too much. Just being there amongst all the beauty was enough.
A fresh fruit and vegetable market for healthy snacking. Picnicking is the way to go for lunch when I travel. Supplement with olives, bread and other picnic fare at the Co-op supermarket by the bus stop.
I stumbled upon this tiny bar filled with locals.
My glass of prosecco, just 0.90 euro!
I visited two nearby islands, including Murano, famous for its glass factories...
and Burano, known for its lace and pastel-colored houses which reminded me of dollhouses.
Lounging about a lace shop, a Burano cat.
Upon witnessing the beauty of laundry hanging out to dry in the sun, a man declared to his wife, "We're going to stop using our dryer at home." Project Laundry List would be so proud! Laundry hangs out to dry all over Italy. Become a hang dryer. Slightly less fluffy towels and crisper jeans, yes. Cleaner Earth and some money saved: worth it!
Cheaper accommodations can be found on sites like Hostels.com, HostelBookers.com, and HostelWorld, which are not just hostels, but also bed & breakfasts, guesthouses and small budget hotels. I stayed a half hour bus ride outside of the city, and got a taste of authentic life, including seeing so many biking around town for their errands and socializing outside of small shops.
$Get your travel books from the library, versus purchasing them. The information soon becomes outdated. Budget-savvy, pithy and intelligent Rick Steves was my tour guide. Download free audio tours of Venice, Rome and Florence on his site.
$Pack your reusable water bottle in your luggage. According to my Rick Steves book, "Venetians pride themselves on having pure, safe, and tasty tap water piped in from the foothills of the Alps." But what do you see everyone carrying, and being served in restaurants: bottled water, the plastic bottles of which can also be seen floating in Venice's canals. Short of traveling in places like Mexico, I see no need for bottled water. If you're showering and cooking with it, why not drink it?
$The universal rule I’ve found: venture outside of tourist spots, or stay outside of town: pay local prices. Find cheeseless pizza marinara on menus everywhere for 3.50 euros, or pasta for around 8 euros. A family friend (think Paul Giamatti's character Miles in Sideways) advised to stick with the house wine, which you can get a 1/2 liter of red or white for 3.50-4.50 euros.
Onto Bologna. I stayed at Agriturismo Cavaione on the city outskirts, which involved two different bus rides from the train station, but was worth the effort. With other guests sightseeing in town and the owner gone for the day, it was like my own Italian villa!
My welcome drink, enjoyed on the balcony.
With a view like this, and a few busy days in Venice, this was the perfect opportunity to take it easy.
What better place to order a take-out pizza than Italy? This pizza marinara was just 3.50 euro.
Nature's alarm clock. I got an unexpected wake-up call from someone who pawed his way into my room...
Next stop: Florence and the Amalfi Coast.
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