The Spanish Steps Get Steeper


Surprisingly, an anemic U.S. dollar doesn’t mean Italians are raking in fat profits on handmade leather sandals in Capri or glasses of vino rossa on the deck of Venice’s Hotel Danieli.

It actually means Italy is on the brink of a recession, which many people are writing about, including the International Herald Tribune. Soaring food and gas prices ($7.80 a gallon in Rome) have tourists watching their euro while Italty’s GDP shrinks with a drop in industrial output and a huge public debt.

Italy has lagged behind the rest of Europe for more than a decade because of these problems and low labor productivity. I knew there would be trouble when Milan got hold of decaf! All those sweet long naps after lunch.

It couldn’t come at a worse time as I’m preparing to be in Italia per la prima volta. And while I’m keeping my reservations at the De Russie and Villa D’este (mostly because a relative is treating), I’m not counting on buying much more than a couple of souvenirs for my husband and daughters. I will have to say non, grazie, to the chic understated apparel and superior leather borse. Good for the planet, you say? You’re probably right. You greenies are so disciplined!

But too bad for me and the vendors who, according to my sister, see me coming a mile away. I’ve been worshiping Italian finery since pulling Valentino dresses for my mother when I was nine. Valentino, by the way, has retired after 45 years with a slew of lavish houses, so he’s not too worried.  But students do have to worry, especially American students who want to study in Italy.
According to USA Today, students who coughed up $1,000 for an apartment in Rome two years ago have to pay $1,245 today, and that doesn’t leave a lot of extra euro for a big pizza pie. Even when the moon hits your eye, amore only goes so far.

It’s even impacting U.S. service people and NATO personnel. Stripes tells us people moving off bases have cited higher living expenses as the reason. A $30 meal now runs around $45, and while the military gets a break on gas, rising fuel costs translate into a 4.8% rise in grocery prices.

C’est dommage, now that I’ve missed the highly sought after saldi on the Via Condotti in Rome and Via de Tornabuoni in Florence. The sales are held the 2nd week of January and July each year. I hear the discounts are pretty good.

Our brutta dollar may not affect the super rich who are still booking $3,000 a night suites at luxury 5-star hotels, according to top L.A. travel agent, Annette Sordoni.  But if the dollar-to-euro picture keeps tilting like that famous tower, we middle class tourists may have to settle with a night in North Beach.

Luanne Bradley

Luanne Sanders Bradley is the West coast Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in San Francisco, California.