Thrifty diners barter goods for food in Florence

Tue Oct 9, 2012 12:43pm EDT
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By Antonella Ciancio and Alessandro Bianchi

FLORENCE (Reuters) - 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 neighborly 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 told Reuters.

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 World War Two.

"This restaurant is dedicated to our grandparents. The type of cooking is dedicated to the memory of our grandparents who would be at home on Sundays and would cook these same flavours, the same simple but very tasty dishes," fellow owner Leandro Bisenzi told Reuters TV.


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.   Continued...

Italian restaurant owner Donella Faggioli poses with traditional fiascos (bottles) of chianti wine at their "L'e' Maiala" restaurant in Florence October 6, 2012. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi