This piece first appeared on Fifty Jewels. See the author’s bio and contact info below the post.
I’m just wrapping up two months in Italy. It’s been more than fabulous and has sparked a desire in me to keep on traveling. The most asked questions I’ve received is “How did you do that?”.
In this post I’m going to outline all the details of my trip, the costs and what went into making it happen. Andiamo! (Let’s go!)
How I Decided on Italy
The decision to take off for a couple of months was made while shoveling snow in my hometown of Incline Village at Lake Tahoe. I love the lake, but I’m not a skier. (Snowshoer, yes.) It was looking like a heavy snow year (it’s STILL snowing there!) and I thought maybe someplace else might be a better choice to spend a couple of months.
My first step was to pull up Airbnb and research pricing for apartments in Florence. Why Florence? It just came to mind. I’ve been wanting to go back to Italy since I spent a semester there in college, it’s on my Bucket List in my bullet journal and I figured it was as good a place as any –provided I could find an affordable place to stay.
My research showed a number of great choices in Florence, right in the city center, for under $1000 per month*. After narrowing down my options and asking for a special rate for a 2 month stay, I finally chose the lovely Massimo on via dei Servi. The monthly rent was offered at 800E. The location is fantastic, especially if you’re interested in being in the center of the action in Florence. On one end of the street is the Duomo, the other a lovely and popular Piazza.
It was my original intention to rent my place in Tahoe as a ski lease for the months I was gone. I ended up leaving my place for use by my family and didn’t rent it. However, the rate in my area for a rental like mine is around $2300 per month. This income could have easily offset my expenses for my trip and actually made me some $$ while I was playing in Italy. Next year — it’s getting leased out! (Let me know if you’re interested . . .)
A Video Tour of the Fifty Jewels Florence Apartment!
Off To Europe!
I shopped for airline flights over a series of a few weeks until I found a price that I liked. I flew from San Francisco to Rome (roundtrip) for $600. The train station is located right at the airport, the trip from Rome to Florence was an hour and a half by high speed train and the fare was less than 20E (20 Euros). The regional train, which makes local stops and takes about three and a half hours is free.
Once in Florence I simply put the address of the apartment in my phone, followed the directions, and walked the 10 minutes to my new digs.
My hosts in Florence are lovely and were helpful with suggestions to get me set up, offering me a local map with places to visit.
There’s a small market on my street for general groceries and household needs. There are two fabulous ‘farm to table’ options, Saint’ Ambrogio, the local farmers market and the Mercato Centrale, a much more upscale food extravaganza. Both offer the very best in fresh fruits, veggies, cheeses, meats, breads and anything else you could possibly want! Think a hunk of Jarlsberg the size of a small loaf of bread for 5E — it would be $30 in the states!
These feet were meant for walking . . .
Florence is a very pedestrian town. Everything in the city center is within a 20 minute walk, usually less. I haven’t been in a car since I arrived. (I’ve almost been mowed down by a couple . . . the taxis WILL take you out!)
For getting out of town the bus and train system is very efficient. As I’m writing this, I’m on a three day side trip to the lovely Lucca, an hour and a half train ride from Florence, a 15E roundtrip fare.
This is Italy, do I really need to say anything??
The food here is fabulous, dining in or dining out. I’m a huge fresh fruit and veggie lover and have had a wonderful time reconnecting with the flavors of my childhood. You know, the days when a carrot actually tasted wonderful and not like a woody, flavorless stick. And the pears and apples — oh my! Flavorful and crisp, not mushy. The Arugula (Rocket here) is a completely different experience than what they’re peddling in the plastic bags in the states. The flavor is fresh, bitter, flavorful and SO good. Most items in the market are less expensive than back home, often by a lot.
I’m a fan of ‘hole in the wall’ places for eating out. I want to find the place with a funky vibe and fantastic food. I’ve been lucky to discover a few on this trip and they get my business regularly. Lunch is the meal I eat out and the prices range from 6-9E. Top that off with a little gelato and I’m good to go!
Ah, and we come back to choices, wouldn’t you know it?
The biggest part of what made this trip, and the other’s to come, possible is how I decided to set up my life. Trust me, it wasn’t always this way (you can read about the other life and it’s demise HERE).
My life today is much different and that is intentional. I’m very careful today about what I say ‘YES’ to. Here are some key elements that have made a flexible lifestyle possible:
- My work is location independent. In other words, I can work from anywhere there’s an internet connection
- My monthly living expenses are less than what my utility bill used to be (ok, so I had a really, really BIG pool)
- I’m not a shopper or a spender. The jeans I wear today have been with me for almost 10 years. I would much rather spend my money on experiences than stuff.
- I don’t have any debt. My car is paid for and I don’t have any credit card balances.
- I’m very self motivated. I’m also very independent.
Midlife is a wonderful season to see and learn about the world around us. We’re smart, we’re healthy and mobile, we’ve got a few bucks and we know how this whole gig ends . . . so nows the time!
Heck, the kids don’t call us anyway, so why not take off?? Let them worry about US for a while . . . Send them a pic of a map of Greece and an ad for a Moped, that ought to do it.
What’s next for me? I leave Italy in early April and will be in Las Vegas for a few days for a conference. Early May is a trip to Sarasota, Florida to meet up with the fabulous Jill Seale. Then I think I’ll spend the summer in Tahoe. As for international travel, I have a few places in my sites: Croatia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Malta.