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The Cost of Food in Italy?

■ 18 May 2011 by James Martin

I’ve noticed recently that our current top article is (cue the crumpets): Food in Italy—Is It Expensive?. So I thought I’d expand the discussion.

goat heads and waiter pictureI live in a rural area—where food isn’t particularly expensive. My favorite restaurant over the years has been the Spino Fiorito, a bed and breakfast that features a three course lunch with wine and coffee for 10 Euros, including tax and tip. That’s a bottle of wine and a lunch with desert and coffee. Lunch seldom runs you more than 16 Euro a head around here, unless you go overboard on the ala carte menu.

Sure, that’s darn near cheap. A bottle of wine in San Francisco will cost you minimum $28 in a restaurant.

Eating at home? I’ve seen markets in which you could buy three (small) chickens for 6 Euro. That’s cheap, too. And bread, which you buy by weight, is about a quarter the price of decent bread in the San Francisco Bay area. You don’t have to search out good bread in Italy. It’s normal.

Of course, in Rome and Florence prices are higher than in the Lunigiana. You’d expect that. But higher than a quality meal in New York or San Francisco? Not for me. I just spent $200 on Martha’s birthday dinner.

We recently found a restaurant in Florence serving main courses for 2 Euro. Yup, here’s the chicken. The restaurant is in an alley: I’ Raddi Trattoria on Via Ardiglione 47/r Firenze

Of course, there are more expensive things on the menu, but generally in a little family-run trattoria with reasonable prices you can find pasta for 6-9 Euro and main courses from 10-20 Euro. Wine is as cheap or expensive as you want.

But I can tell you, when I get home from Italy I’m absolutely astounded at the prices for raw food in California. They’re getting higher as we slump into deeper recession. I’ve always wondered how this could happen. I’ve found the answer, or at least part of one. It’s (mostly) due to deregulation of financial instruments allowing financial institutions to gamble with each other over your mortgage, currencies, and in this case, commodities—without any benefit extending to the society at large, unless you think of higher prices (to pay for the gambling) as benefit. Read about it: How Goldman Sachs Created the Food Crisis

So don’t give up on the idea of vacationing in Italy because you’re scared of the food prices. That’s nuts. If you’re going to Tuscany and have an iDevice, download a copy of Tuscany for Foodies and you’ll eat well for surprisingly little.

(By the way, the photo above is from another rural area where food is tasty and inexpensive, the Gargano. In the picture (click to see it full size) the waiter in Monte Sant Angelo is trying to convey that on the day that Aurthur Miller visited, goat head was on the menu. It is not expensive, even today.)

The Cost of Food in Italy? originally appeared on WanderingItaly.com May 18, 2011, © James Martin.

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