Travelling to Tuscany on a budget

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Florence

“P.S…are you going on Ryanair? If so, good luck…”

These were the words of comfort I received from the Features Editor before I set off on my trip to Tuscany over the inter-semester break.

Mid-flight, this got me thinking – are budget airlines really all that bad? They provide us with cheap flights, making our breaks affordable and cheerful…. or so we think. A ticket that originally started off as £14.99 amounted to nearly £60, after hundreds of taxes were added on during the booking process.

However, after the pain of mounting costs subsided, the excitement of inter-semester madness set in, and it was indeed a great trip. We did manage to enjoy a reasonably priced break, something that many of us in St Andrews may believe is near impossible. I hope to share a few hints and tips on how to have a great break in Florence without breaking the bank.

1) Fly into Pisa and hop on a train to Florence straight from there. It’s quick and only costs around eight pounds. The trains weren’t amazing, but they were clean and reasonably efficient, so what more do you need?

2) Accommodation Florence is teaming with Hotels from 5* to 1, but in a city that has an almost endless list of things to do, a hotel is really just a place to sleep and store your things. There are masses of low-budget places; our Hotel Stella Mary, for example, was clean, spacious and very central, for just £20 a night, including breakfast.

3) Italy is famous for its food, and like anywhere, this can be displayed in award winning  (expensive) restaurants. But, as we learned, the simpler the better. Simple meals were amongst the best we ate in Tuscany, using local ingredients and subtle flavours. Look out for the small eateries away from the main tourist attractions that don’t have people ushering you in! The best tip of all when it comes to food is aperitivo – this is a small buffet that is available in most bars between 7-9pm, a concept that us English found very bizarre, but at the same time, rather amazing. Getting a drink at the bar entitles you to countless trips to the food selection, a tip that saved us money, as we didn’t have to buy supper! It is a massive cheat, but a great tip for keeping your finances in check if you are travelling on a budget.

4) Coffee is something that many of us here in St. Andrews are addicted too. In Italy, this saw my love for coffee reach new heights. Whilst in Florence, you can get an espresso for around €1 a shot – an amazing price, which made me realise why Italians spend so much time in cafés sipping away.

Having covered the essentials whilst on a student holiday, I think that much of this money saving can be undone by the lure towards expensive tourist attractions and activities. But, carrying your student ID is a great tip, as under 25’s are entitled to supplements and discounts in many museums – the Uffizi being the most famed is definitely worth a look. Priceless works of art seem so much nicer when you’ve only paid half the price to see them!

Start investigating for Easter break; I would certainly recommend Florence as an option, as it really is good fun. It’s small size gives it an almost St Andrews-like intimacy, with everywhere reachable by foot, so no money wasted on taxis!

Indie Shergill

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