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Monday, 03 May 2010

Living in Rome, Florence and Paris on a Fixed Income - Page 3

Written by Russ Firlik
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We were fortunate, especially with the current economic and housing crisis, to have sold our small apartment in New Hampshire for a bit of a profit. Since we had recently retired after over thirty years as educators, we now had the time, the incentive and the self-determination to follow our long-loved passion of slow traveling. In other words: we are senior citizens who will spend our junior year abroad. For the first time in our 45 years of marriage we were homeless, jobless, and after giving our 2003 Honda Hybrid to our daughter, also carless. What were we to do? Follow our passion!

Money exchange: Just as you value your health, you must also value your finances. Money exchange is always a challenge since the Euro and dollar are inexplicably conversely interconnected. When the stock market is up, generally the dollar is down against foreign currencies, and the reverse is true as well. We watched carefully the exchange rate, not the market, to make our important money decisions. When the exchange rates were more favorable we purchases cash Euros, and used a credit/debit card when it tended to be more of a favorable rate of exchange. If the credit/debit card rate were higher than the cash rate of exchange we would use cash. The currency exchange rate is sometimes as volatile as the market and you have to be a careful examiner of the exchange rates. We carefully selected a bank that had favorable fees and services.

Flights: Again, due to competition and comparative search engines available, European flights were relatively less expensive than we imagined. However, you have to be a keen researcher to secure the best flight deals. In addition, you have to have some flexibility in your travel itinerary and dates.

In summary, we secured accommodations that were within our monthly housing budget in Rome. We knew what our cost for the three months would be. We learned how to use the efficient transport system in order to visit the sites that we were destined to see and feel. The total expenses for the three months living in Rome, including return-flights, all airport transfers, living expenses, that is, food, beverages, museum passes, bus and train expenses, books, was $153.00 per day –for the two of us! This was not only within our monthly income steam, but we actually saved a small bit and we used it for a flight home. Ironically, we were fortunate in that the Euro vs. the Dollar turned in our favor from initially 1.43 to buy Euros to 1.28.

Our next stop was Florence and Tuscany- the beginnings of the Italian Renaissance.

“The Florentines, in fact, invented the Renaissance, which is the same as saying that they invented the modern world.” Mary McCarthy

Florence accommodation: Florence and the Tuscan hills were our next experiences. To be near Florence was important, but so was the experience of the Tuscan towns and villages, with their pre-Christian churches and art and their 10-12th century frescos. We searched to find a location that was not directly in the expensive city of Florence, but Living in Rome, Florence and Paris on a Fixed Income, Europe on a Fixed Income, year abroad Rome, Florence, and Paris, seniors on a junior year abroad, Russ Firliknearby and reachable via public transport, while still being in the Tuscan countryside. We wanted a totally different cultural lifestyle than that of Rome. We settled on a rather inexpensive (off-season) 15th-century villa apartment, high atop a Tuscan hill. It was large, clean, and up several flights of stairs, and since it was during October and November, colder than usual with fewer tourists as well.

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