Alice-Azania Jarvis: I'll eat my words (with Italian ham and cheese)

In The Red

So. I might just live to eat my words – and not for the first time, as regular readers can attest. On reflection, I was, perhaps, a little over-zealous in my boast that "with a bit of clever footwork, anything can be done on the cheap". It's about planning and about discipline, I sermoned. True, I was talking about thrifty festival-ing (at Lovebox, at V, at Reading), but my advice was meant to be applied more broadly: to parties, to weekend entertainment, to summer holidays.

And now, like a muppet falling into an incredibly obvious trap, I'm being made to realise just how wrong I was. As I write, I'm eyeing my bulging backpack, mentally checking off things I need for this year's summer holiday. Because it begins tomorrow – and it ain't looking cheap.

Following last year's successful (and affordable) jaunt in Spain, I thought I'd push the boat out a little, try a new continental path. And so it was that, back in the dark months of March, I booked a week off work and set my sights on Tuscany.

At first, things looked good. The flights were cheap enough. I'm not checking in any luggage so, hopefully, I won't incur any of the standard budget airline extras. And I've opted to stay outside the major tourist hubs, in a tiny village a good 30 minutes' drive away from the closest of the region's famous hill towns. I've even followed my own advice to the letter – honestly, if there's a more thoroughly planned trip being taken anywhere I'll eat the lever-arch folder full of information I'm taking. I've written up the itinerary, planned where we're going to be when, what to pack to save any last-minute dashes to duty-free – but when it comes to how we're going to avoid spending when we actually get there, I'm at a loss. Because Italy, it has dawned on me, is expensive. From accommodation to car hire, it's a good step up from Spain. Or Cornwall. Or Reading Festival. Or any other trip I've ever taken. And no amount of planning is likely to avoid it.

So far, I've managed to come up with one measly money-saving tactic: picnic. Italy is the perfect place to dine on a bench, I keep telling myself. After all, they have all that ham! And cheese! But as for what to do about petrol, about museum entry, about the fact that actually I'd quite like to eat indoors at least once, well, I've no idea. What I do know is this: my boyfriend has applied for a credit card. And that can never be a good thing.

a.jarvis@independent.co.uk

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