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Italians barter for their supper in an effort to beat the economic crisis

posted 2 Oct 2012, 04:49 by Mpelembe   [ updated 2 Oct 2012, 04:50 ]

A Florentine Restaurant takes an old-fashioned approach to the current economic crisis by accepting products in exchange for meals.

FLORENCE, ITALY  (REUTERS) - Restaurant entrepreneurs in Florence launched a new restaurant this week that allows their customers to barter products in exchange for their dinner, in an initiative to encourage diners to eat out despite the economic crisis.

It's nothing new, insisted the owners, it's an old Florentine tradition that they remember hearing about from their grandparents when barter was a common currency in Florence at the end of World War II.

Co-owner Donella Faggioli explained the concept which emanated from people starting to feel the pinch.

"This idea came to mind, because of what life is like now here in Florence for the people. Unfortunately many cannot afford to go out to dinner in the evening, or even to have enough money to last to the end of the month," Faggioli said.

"The name 'Maiala' (pig) is also a Tuscan saying, a way of describing 'hard-times'. So we decided to go back to the old barter system," she said.

Items accepted for exchange are many and varied, although priority will be given to local food from the rural Tuscan countryside. But the trattoria will also negotiate rates for local crafts both antique and modern.

Customers arrived and their goods were examined. A large jar of olives and a good bottle of Chianti were warmly accepted. And paintings of many different genres were offered.

The cooking is homely and hearty - again a throw back to old Florentine traditions.

"This restaurant - The Pig - is dedicated to our grandparents. Also the type of cooking, is dedicated to the memory of our grandparents, who would be at home on Sundays and they would cook these same flavours, the same simple but very tasty dishes," enthused co-owner Leonardo Bisenzi.

Diners seemed to be enjoying the novelty of swapping items for their meal, or receiving hefty discounts on the final price. Some hoped that other places would take on-board this idea.

"It's very nice because they use this barter system. I brought a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red wine. So 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," said customer Rosella Testa.

To avoid being sucked deeper into the euro zone debt crisis, Italy has implemented austerity measures that have sapped consumer morale and intensified its recession. With the end of caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti's term just six months away, and no clarity about what sort of government will follow him, most Italians are not hopeful that they will have any more cash in their pockets any time soon.