Three weeks ago, I packed, or rather stuffed, my bags for my journey to Florence. After being here a few weeks and with six more to go, I thought it would be useful to share some tips I wish I knew about food culture before coming here. My initial expectations were that I would eat every delicious carb in sight for the first week and then calm down afterwards once I got my bearings. It was the exact opposite! If you are on a budget like me, you don’t want to be spending loads of money on every meal here, and you will find it difficult to get to a grocery store until you are settled in. This brings me to my first tip.
1) Take advantage of airplane food! As any self respecting food lover would, I hoarded any free food I got from the plane in case there were periods of famine in the next few days. Let me tell you, this was the best thing I could have done. Don’t be ashamed! If that stewardess offers you extra food, you take it and hide it away like a bear going into hibernation. You will be so busy the first few days with tours and jet lag that having free food around is a blessing.
After a few days, the whole starving thing and salted peanuts deal gets old. Nevertheless, you don’t want to eat out every meal. My next tip will help once you get settled in your apartment.
2) Get to a grocery store. I suggest going to the grocery store chain “Conad” if there is one nearby. The vegetables are cheaper in Italy as well as the pasta, so take advantage of this. To stay healthy, throw some veggies into your pasta, and call it a day. Meat, on the other hand, is very expensive here. For me, a cost effective solution was to buy canned tuna and to hard boil eggs.
Now let’s get to the real stuff here. We need to talk about dessert. When it comes to sweets, my wallet just seems to open itself! The other night, I went to buy gelato and was not quite satisfied, so I went and bought another cup! I rationalized this by telling myself that if it is fruit or nut flavored, it is practically healthy for you. Nevertheless, as I sit here writing this blog with a jar of Nutella and bag of Italian biscotti in hand, I know what my last tip should be.
3) Do not bring Nutella into your home! Do not bring any dessert into your living space for that matter if you have any hope of being somewhat healthy. If you really want some gelato or cannolis, you can go to the nearest gelateria or pasticceria while getting the added benefit of having to walk yourself there.
My final tip is to above all enjoy the delicious regional food Italy has to offer. Buon appetito!
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