In The Red: I was doing so well until Pisa airport departures...

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The Independent Online

Remember last week? My eating my own words? Well I'd like to vomit them back up, please. Or re-eat them. Because I was wrong. Wrong about being wrong. Which makes me – possibly for the first time – right. You can do Italy on the cheap! Careful planning and preparation really will save you money – and the past week is evidence.

Our savour was our village. As anticipated, prices in the sticks were less than half of those in the city. Dining in local cafes amounted to less than my weekly grocery bill. Souvenirs are plentiful and cheap and there was no shortage of ways to while away time when our petrol budget was spent. My list of affordable restaurants came in handy – but so did the churches which, with their array of artwork and refreshing shade, offered a (mostly) free alternative to the rather less affordable museums.

Ironically, the one thing I thought would be cheap, the flight, really wasn't. Blame me, or blame the clever construction of airport waiting areas, but somehow I always end up spending against my will the moment I reach departures. It's usually worse going out. This time, though, it was the way back wot done it.

Hire-car ditched, we waltzed out of the sun and into the air-conditioned hall of Pisa airport to be met with all shades of hell. Queues spiralled round pillars, past shops, into corridors, losing themselves in each other so that, eventually, no one knew who was going where. Departures looked less like a waiting room, more like my daily commute on the central line. As several hundred travellers fought over the half-dozen seats on offer, we lurked like sardines on the sidelines, wondering what we could do.

And so it was that, in a desperate bid to numb the pain, €6 suddenly seemed like a sensible price to pay for a plastic cup of wine, a mini pack of biscotti a snip at €4. Everywhere, people were doing the same, pushing past one another to shell out, driven by a kind of end-of-the-world desperation. With news that our flight (easyJet, surprise surprise) was delayed, the pace got more frantic. And so I found myself accumulating one €4 key ring, an €11 pack of ham and multiple €3 bottles of water. Getting back to London, the prospect of a taxi ride home suddenly seemed like a bargain. In contrast with the day's splurge, it probably was – though my wallet will be feeling it for a while.

a.jarvis@independent.co.uk

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