Dear Tarte aux Fraises,
I am travelling on a shoe-string budget, yet I would like to experience local Italian atmosphere while enjoying a simple meal, where can I go?
Though not as fancy as the restaurants in terms of the food served, but if you are looking for a place to simply:
- enjoy a good cuppa caffe or drinks and some light bites such as panini, brioche, ‘instant’ pasta, pizza, lasagne, and quiches at cheap rates,
go to a bar or caffè. Opened for breakfast till late, it is a good place to spend the time without being rushed, to hang out with friends or meet people. Some of the caffè/bars can be pretty posh and well-decorated for the young and hip, serving alcoholic drinks, and others are the fuss-free old style coffee shop or bars patronized mostly by elderly men gathered over beer or coffee and chatting away, while some simply sit there reading their newspapers.
What? Is there really such a good dining deal for less than 10 euros?
SI!!! Many bars in big cities like Milan and Florence, where there is a big population of young adults, adopt a happy-hour concept where you pay for 1 drink around 8 euros, and you get to eat free-flow buffet-style of food like pastas, pizzas, lasagnes, sandwiches, salads, cheese, salumi, as many times as you can. This is known as the aperitivo (say ah-pear-ri-ti-vo). It usually starts from 7pm till dinner time at about 9pm.
What you can expect normally is, when you enter the bar, a waiter will show you to a table and take your drink order. Once that is done, you may proceed to go to the buffet bar and get in the snaking queue to get your food. Payment is made upon the serving of your drink or anytime during your meal.
I would like to have something over at my accomodation.
Travelling on a budget would probably meant that you are not putting up in a 5-star hotel, and hence, there is no restaurant or bar in the building to have your meals.
However, when there’s a will, there’s a way. In fact, there are more than one option where you are still able to have a nice meal within your daily budget without having to leave your lodging.
- Head to a local open-air market or supermarket in the town or district
Nothing beats hands-down getting fresh ingredients from the local stalls at the morning markets either open-air or covered ones or packet pre-mixed of pasta sauces from supermarkets and whipping up a hearty Italian meal, to be enjoyed in the privacy of your room’s balcony or in the dining area of your accommodation.
How about inviting curious fellow holiday-makers in the same lodging attracted by the aroma of your cooking, to try your cooking together? What a good way to make new acquaintances, isn’t it?
- Get a take-away from a caffè/bar or pizzeria
If your lodging does not have a kitchen for guests’ usage, or if you simply prefer convenience and privacy, how about going to the bar/caffe or pizzeria near you, and grab some food back to eat?