Barter makes a comeback at an Italian trattoria in Florence diner
A Florence eatery is letting patrons exchange goods in return for a meal out in the recession
At walking distance from the tourist cafeterias around Palazzo Vecchio, Donella and her husband Frank are busy bartering wine and potatoes for a meal of Tuscan "pici" pasta with pork sauce.
The neighbourly couple have recently launched a 40-seat restaurant in Florence that allows customers to exchange vegetables and used goods for a traditional Tuscan dinner, in a way to encourage people to dine out despite the recession.
"We decided to open a restaurant, a gathering place for those who like to go out despite the crisis," said co-owner Donella Faggioli, who sports a blonde mohawk hairdo and tattoos.
"Many cannot afford to go out to dinner in the evening … and don't have enough money to last to the end of the month. So we decided to go back to the old barter system," she said.
Named "L'e' Maiala" after a Tuscan saying for "hard times" which derives from the word for tough female pork meat, the trattoria revives a tradition that the owners remember hearing about from their grandparents when barter was a common currency in Florence at the end of the second world war. "The type of cooking is dedicated to the memory of our grandparents who would be at home on Sundays and would cook these … same simple but very tasty dishes," fellow owner Leandro Bisenzi said.
Bartering has been around for centuries as an alternative to money, but a prolonged recession may have increased its prevalence as cash-strapped firms trade services through intermediaries to cut costs and reach out to new clients.
At the trattoria, the owners prefer to swap meals for other food. "Wine, vegetables, potatoes are something we can use," Faggioli said. "We are eating here in exchange for these two bottles of wine. It's a great idea for Florence and for everywhere else - above all in this period of crisis," customer Rosella Testa said.
But customers be warned - Tuscans are canny traders and not every offer results in a meal.
A jacket with a price tag of 400,000 liras (about HK$2,000) was refused because it was considered unwearable.