Jun 24, 2015

Lutz Do Italy

Vernazza in all its grainy iPhone camera glory
When we decided the UK was the place for grad school, one of the most appealing factors was its close proximity to the European continent.  The months leading up to our move we would excitedly research flights on Kayak and Skyscanner from Scotland to...anywhereinEurope... and gawk at the disgustingly low prices.  We envisioned weekend trips to Prague, Amsterdam or Paris at least once a month. Ha!

The cost of living in Edinburgh is--get this--significantly higher than that of Wichita (can you believe it?) and we have a very limited budget because stay-at-home mom plus full-time grad student dad equals poor. We've been able to support ourselves through savings and student loans (gag), but haven't traveled on the continent as we hoped. The experience of living abroad has been more than enough--we know how lucky we are to be doing this. But! I have been dying to go to Italy for a looong time.  I took a semester of Italian my freshman year at KU and did less than stellar (8:00am class, every day? freshman year?) but fell in love with the idea of visiting a country known for pasta, ice cream...and a little bit of history.  So we made room in the budget for a trip to Italia last month and it was so, so worth it.

Thankfully, we didn't even have to make too much room.  Here are some ways we saved $$$ (really, £££. Though I guess in Europe it was . I digress.):

  • We flew RyanAir to Rome and EasyJet back to Edinburgh.  Both are well-known budget airlines and are just that...cheeeeap!  I was slightly terrified of flying a budget airline as we read in forum after forum of the crazy luggage restrictions, hidden fees, and sneaky ways they try to fine you.  We carefully read over all their policies and had zero problems with getting charged anything extra. Our luggage was even slightly above the weight restriction on both flights and they didn't care. 
  • AirBnB!! We booked accommodation through AirBnB in each of the four areas we stayed. We had an entire house with a furnished backyard in Rome and fully equipped apartments everywhere else. We weren't even that picky or necessarily trying to get a really nice place--we cared more about location and access to public transit--but fell in love with every place we stayed.  They were all so clean and even cuter than the pictures posted online.  The owners of each property shared advice and recommendations on things to do and places to eat in the area.  The owners of the house in Rome invited us to a party one night (though we were too exhausted from a day of playing tourist to attend) and we got caught up chatting with the couple in Florence.  Every location provided us with a crib for Eleanor and it was so convenient to have a separate room for her to sleep as opposed to staying in a hotel and needing to whisper/tip toe around after 8 PM each night. The best part?  All of our accommodations were way cheaper than a hotel! We didn't look into hostels--I know there are family friendly ones available--so I don't know how they compare.  We also had some credits for AirBnB and used them to completely cover two nights in the most expensive location (Venice).  We loved it! 
  • We were cautious about spending money on food.  We hit up a local market in every city to stock up on groceries for breakfast (though I do regret that we didn't go out for even one Italian prima colazione), and snacks to sustain a toddler, an 8 month pregnant woman, and my 6'3" husband throughout the day. We ate street food for lunch (slices of pizza, paninis, etc) and pre-purchased Groupons for dinner out on the town.  We also made dinner ourselves in our apartments a couple of times. Honestly, we didn't spend more on food than we do at home...though we did spend more on gelato than we do on ice cream in a month... or two... (which is saying  a lot because we eat a shameful amount of ice cream) but we had to follow the advice of getting gelato twice a day, so, no judging.
  • We limited our paid sight-seeing.  I'll elaborate (lucky you) on what we did in each city later, but we went to Italy with the mentality that we were just there to enjoy being there. We knew it would be unrealistic to try and do a hardcore Rick Steeves-approved tour.  Eleanor was just getting good at walking and had limited tolerance for the stroller/carrier, I had (still have!) a stress fracture in my foot and 20+ extra pounds in my abdomen.  So we went at a leisurely pace and just enjoyed the atmosphere.  Someday we'll return with unlimited funds and an empty womb and will do all the stuff the guidebooks tell you to.  But this was perfect for us (and easier on our bank account).
Our nice camera is still broken (it turns on and the menu/screen works, it just won't take photos for some reason. We have been meaning to send it in to Nikon for almost a year now), so we just had our phones and dinky little camera for the trip. Sad, I know. But I'd still like to share some photos and details about the trip because my journaling habit has decreased significantly since the birth of my daughter, and what is the blog for if not posterity?  So, descendants of mine, do stay tuned for highlights of each city. You know you're excited.

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