The Money of Italy

Italy uses the Eurozone Euro. I heard that some people think that the Euro looks different in each country. Not true. The Euro is the same in all the countries in which it is used (Note: my father reminded me that each country can make their own coins and these coins are valid in the entire Eurozone — for example, Italy just put out a coin with the image of a Nutella jar on it). Here is a list of the countries that use the Euro. For photos and more info, here’s a link. The Euro symbol is derived from the Greek letter, epsilon, and is also from the E in Europe while the two lines that cross it are a sign of equilibrium. When writing the symbol in English, the symbol goes first. In other languages, it goes behind the number. So €1 = one euro (“yu-roh”) or 1€ = un euro (“eh-oo-roh” or “aero”). The euro is divided into 100 cents.

Generally, other than housing and utilities, the prices in Rome are not too bad (compared to Washington, DC). In terms of rent, shared housing, like in DC and New York, seems to be the way to go. A single room is about 500 euro ($600). The thing that really costs is utilities — three times New York City prices! Internet costs around 15 euro per month but Netflix is 22 euro per month. Gas and cars are probably pricey but I don’t drive here. Due to the virus, there is no tourism so I don’t know what it costs to be a tourist. Eating outside is not allowed right now, but back in November, I sat outside for a meal and it cost 13 euro. No tipping required. Ready to go food is also not very expensive so why cook? Just kidding. An added bonus about food in Rome is that due to European regulations, most of the food is preservative free.

Remember when chicken tasted like chicken?

Of course, there are expensive things too. A custom made eco-friendly bed costs 4,000 euro, but Ikea is here so you can also get a bed for a few hundred euro. Imported items are pricey. Office supplies and paper is on the pricy side with office chairs running about 200 euro. Gelato is also not cheap. But, considering it’s artisanal and all natural, it’s not that expensive. The sizing in Rome is smaller than in the U.S. so a medium gelato is about the size of a small or child’s size in the U.S. But, hey, you probably appreciate the portion control?

Whole wheat toasted ice cream sandwich for four euro ($4.40)

Most small shops and restaurants prefer cash, Euro, as they pay a hefty fee when a customer uses a credit card. Some shops will only take cash, although this is rare. When I was “antiqueing” I found that I had to pay in installments as I didn’t have that much cash on me that day. If it’s early in the day, many small shops can’t make change for a 50 Euro so I try and mainly use 20 and lower. One ends up lugging around a lot of coins as the lowest paper bill is a €5. A €2 coin can get you a coffee.

Speaking of toilet paper (Weren’t we?), I recall once paying for the most expensive toilet paper I’ve every bought… until 2020. It was back in the 1980s and it was at the Vatican. I’m sure that I climbed to the top of the Vatican and saw the impressive St. Peter’s basilica inside but what I remember, is the 100 lira I had to pay for one sheet of single ply toilet paper. The piece of toilet paper was only slightly larger than the 100 lira bill. I am not sure why I didn’t spend more to spend a penny. To get some idea of how expensive that square of toilet was back then, it’s the equivalent to about 25 U.S. cents in today’s money.

Is It True That You Don’t Tip In Italy?

Is it true that you don’t have to tip in Italy? Yes, it’s true. But people are happy if you do. In sit down restaurants, one can add ten percent or so. In the touristy places, they may expect it. But, as there are so few tourists (and right now during an orange day or month, no traveling outside your city — so only very local tourist) in Italy due to the virus, I think the foreigners make sure to tip.

In a taxi, round to the nearest Euro. In a casual place, like a stand up pizza place, no tipping necessary.

Not sure about tipping the shampoo gal/guy as I haven’t been to a salon here (a bad haircut helps keep me at home, although shaving my eyebrows would work better).

Chacao Market in Caracas

14721518_10154599602749618_3622970407324197371_nIn any town, the market is my favorite place to visit. In Caracas, for the expat, Chacao market, is the place to buy fruits and vegetables. Chacao market is a five story high building but the stalls are located on the first two floors. The central area is open all the way to the ceiling. This makes for good people watching from the second floor railings. Despite what one hears about in the news, there is lots of food available if you have the money. Along with fruits and vegetables, the market has cheese stalls, egg stalls, and deli stalls. There are also some stalls specializing in imported goods. It’s possible to find almost everything, once in a while, at a heft price. There was a bag of rice which cost $130 back in December. Now it costs $280.

14720447_10154591938289618_2513827240827488746_nWhile shopping, I like to get a deep fried empanada snack. In the photo, the empanada cost under one buck. Sauce included. The prices have doubled in the past month.

Upstairs, one can buy juice from the juice guy (a liter costs about $2-3). I’m not sure why he is the only one in this business but he is. While he now has his own credit card machine, for a while he didn’t. There were primarily three types of juice available: orange, orange and carrot, and beet, orange, and ginger/mint (I think). Sometimes, he also sold grapefruit. No mandarin juice (which was common in Colombia).

This brings up another thing about this market, and I suppose many other places here. Not everyone has a credit card machine (or “point”) so sometimes you get sent down to another stall to charge your card and then you come back with the proof of payment. But, most vendors have a “line” or telephone line to connect their debit machines. When paying, you must enter your ID number and pin. You need your ID for almost everything so it’s good to memorize it.

Chacao market also has flowers for sale but nothing like the massive flower market in Bogota. Venezuela, like Colombia, has a varied climate so they could grow anything they could dream of. Some differences between Chacao and Paloquemao (in Bogota), is that the Venezuelans must have some use for unripe papaya because it’s possible to buy it in Chacao, but not in Paloquemao. Also, the cold weather fruits like applesa and pears are much pricier in Caracas. Chacao was still my favorite place in Caracas.

On Safari in the Masai Village

There is almost no way to avoid being exploited as a tourist. If we accept it, then we pay. My friend wanted to go to an “authentic Masai village” and so we did. It cost us about $25 per person. We were shown around and encouraged to contribute to the school and the well, etc. then we were encouraged to buy souvenirs. A horn soap dish and two elephant hair bracelets were the only thing my friend wanted. The chief’s son started the bargaining at $100. We did not buy anything. My advice to anyone when dealing with cash cows is to give us the feeling that you respect us. That is the best sales technique.

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