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5 Cities on $250 a Day

 

Florence

 

For inveterate shopper Lynn Yaeger, combining restraint with small rewards spells success in Italy

8:00 A.M. Waking up in my $170 room at the Hotel Monna Lisa (27 Borgo Pinti; 39-055/247- 9751; www.monnalisa.it), I'm well aware that I've already used up two-thirds of my daily allowance. Really though, if you can't get all dolled up and swan through a 16th-century lobby, then whatever is the point of visiting Florence?Besides, I reason, the price includes breakfast.
Amount Left $80.00

10:30 A.M. You can kill a lot of time in this town looking at art treasures, but not today: I'm here to shop. On this trip, however, Pucci and Prada will have to wait. Even relatively affordable leather gloves from Madova (1R Via Guicciardini; 39-055/239-6526) now cost $85 due to the hideous exchange rate. Instead, I apply myself to finding a few affordable seductions: a $10 packet of Florentine stationery from Cartoleria il Parione (10R Via del Parione; 39-055/215-684) and a $2 pen topped with a wooden Pinocchio from the Straw Market (Loggia del Mercato Nuovo), where there are tons of trinkets for sale, but not a stick of straw in sight.
Amount Left $68.00

12:30 P.M. Florence still keeps to the ancient tradition of shutting up tight for lunch. I decide to have my own snack—a $15 Caprese salad and a Coke Light—in the rooftop Terrazza café of the department store La Rinascente (1 Piazza della Repubblica; 39-055/219-113), which stays open all day. The café has a view of that big marble pile known as the Duomo, and I give it a thorough once-over, dispelling any lingering guilt about this culture-free day.
Amount Left $53.00

2:30 P.M. The problem with lunching on cheese and tomatoes is that you're hungry two hours later. I pop into Giacosa Roberto Cavalli (10R Villa della Spada; 39-055/ 277-6328), a wild café where photos of Il Signore Cavalli framed in fake zebra fur hang above tables covered with ivory shagreen. My cappuccino and mini tart ring up to $3.75—approximately $1,625 less than one of the designer's dresses.
Amount Left $49.25

3:30 P.M. Because I'm not wasting time looking at frescoes and statues, I can spend hours at the jewelry shops on the Ponte Vecchio. But nothing, not even the flimsiest bracelet, fits into my budget.
Amount Left $49.25

8:00 P.M. I'm starving, but no one else in Firenze is apparently the least bit hungry. Except for two frosty dowagers, I am virtually alone at the chandelier-laden Caffè Gilli (39R Piazza della Repubblica; 39-055/213-896), which has been serving bistro food since 1733. I have the penne alla Bolognese, an insalata Gilli, and—why not?—a big bottle of mineral water. When the $38 bill comes, I am alarmed to see that the water cost $10.
Amount Left $11.25

10:00 P.M. Back in my room, I whip out my Pinocchio pen and stationery, tote up the expenses, and discover that there's money to spare. Now, if only $11.25 would buy those Madova gloves!

Total Spent $238.75

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