A Frugal Short-Trip to Verona, Italy

The main plazza of Verona. Good place to eat your ice cream!

The main plazza of Verona. Good place to eat your ice cream!

Right after returning from the little old boys city tour to Eastern Bavaria, the Woodpecker family decided to boost the best spring Germany has seen since years a bit more by a jump over the Alps.

Woodpeckers over-hours piled up quite a bit over the winter time, and as my career is not really proceeding too much anyway, I can take easily take advantage of short-term holiday request.

I don’t know how it works in other companies, but with my boss it is: “You sacrifice you life for the company (like he does) and then you get ahead career-wise, or – if you are fine not getting ahead quickly – you can do your job on your own way as long as output is fine”.

As you might have noticed, I de facto decided for the second. I would obviously love all the freedom PLUS a career, simply to max out Woodpecker family income and savings, but this seems to be asked a bit too much.

Anyway, off we went, and as the beautiful city of Merano was covered already last year (one month later and with MUCH worse weather), we only had to choose among Verona, Padua, Milano, Vicenza, Venice, Bassano and about 1.000 other beautiful Italian destinations all less than 6 hours drive from Munich.

Obviously we went for the most frugal choice (least driving time) and picked Verona, the partner-city of beloved Munich, a mere 4 1/2 hours drive south of home.

At this time of the year this otherwise quite crowded city has a unique and very relaxed flair, you will always find a seat even in the most beautiful spots, prices are low and the beauty of the city all the same.

The frugal choice is of course the local youth hostel, where a family of four can stay for a bargain of 40 EUR per night, including something that these guys call breakfast.
Actually the place was ok, situated in a fantastic old but somehow spooky worn-down villa with private parking in the yard for free (not unimportant in this crowded Italian cities). On the other side, this one really is VERY basic, so you better go there only for sleeping, or spend a couple of bucks more for an AirBnB apartment.

The good thing about the cheap accommodation is that your budget automatically stays so low (sleeping and transport are typically the most expensive parts of travelling) that you can easily go for some nice extras.

Overall, a frugal way to travel Italian cities is:

  • Stay in the youth hostel. But only sleep there, as their quality is way below e.g. German youth hostels. However, they are often central, often have free parking and you will meet loads of funny people.
  • Use public transport which is very cheap and well-developed
  • Always eat PIZZA ! Pizza ist mostly of very high quality and very reasonable price, even in the most touristic spots. That’s great, because sometimes you should indeed sit in a restaurant in one of this marvelous plazzas and enjoy a meal there. A pizza in the most touristic Roman Arena area in Verona is still only 8 EUR. Add a glass of house wine and you can hang out in one of the worlds nicest places for 12 EUR (2 EUR cover charge, a “special” Italian add-on.
  • Other food is often overpriced and varies too much in quality (and quantity). Not recommended, unless you have local insider information.
  • Another great thing is Italian coffee. In most cafes or even restaurants, it is ok to sit down and only have a “cafe” (i.e. a tiny tiny Italian Espresso). They almost always taste great and seldom cost more than 1 EUR. So you can have your food in the local park as well and then enjoy a cafe in a beautiful plaza if you wish.
  • If the place you stay is too crappy, eating out for breakfast is a good choice. Even in places crowded by tourist during the day, in the morning it is often surprisingly relaxed. And even in tourist traps you will typically get a cappuchino plus two lovely Italian croissants at prices below 5 EUR. Good value this is.
  • Ice creme is mostly great if it is hand-made (“artigianale“). This is often the case, in Italy it is fortunately hard to find overpriced and boring tasting ice cream from a chain shop. No chance for Häagen-Dazs.
  • Most of the beauty of Italy lies in the little alleys, the plazas, the flair, the countryside (always use small side-streets not the highway to see the nice parts), the churches. All of this is for free!

Find below some impressions from the trip. Hover for subtitels, click to enlarge.




A short trip to Merano, Italy

Castle Tirol near Meran. Great hike, good food and fun for the kids.

Castle Tirol near Meran. Great hike, good food and fun for the kids.

Four days off, the weather in Munich disgusting, and Woodpecker families holiday budget 2013 yet untouched?

Three reasons to pack the bags and head out for a quick surprise trip to Northern Italy – Merano it is.

A really beautiful small town surrounded by impressive mountains but deep down in a valley at only 300m height. Making for on of the most spectacular climates in Central Europe. Palm trees and cactuses wherever you look, but surrounded and shielded against the clouds by snow-covered peaks of 2500+ meters.

Shielded against all clouds?

Well, unfortunately not. Though promising more than 300 days of lush sunshine per year, we saw only one of those, plus two days of grey and one day of downright terrible weather. However, temperature was well around 12 degrees C. These days you have to be thankful even for this, with wide parts of Europe still in the icy grip of winter and fresh snow in Munich right now as I gaze out of the window.

White mountain peaks in the mist over the roofs of Meran.

White mountain peaks in the mist over the roofs of Meran.

Anyway, Merano is highly recommended, especially for those living e.g. in southern Germany. Only 3,5 hrs drive from Munich, a beautiful and relaxed city, good food, and fantastic surroundings. With loads of old castles, perfect hiking, walking and mountain-biking paths, wine plantations, great gardens, cable cars, clear streams and rough mountain tops, you name it!

We did one walking tour to some nearby old castles with little Woodpecker on his little bike and very little Woodpecker carried. The rainy day we spent in the local thermal bath – a great spot to idle away bad weather.

And costs were low, mainly due to the local youth hostel – a great accommodation for only 44 EUR per night, all four of us. Private bath, clean, calm, central and good breakfast. This is how it should be always!

All in all, the plan is to dramatically increase this kind of low effort, low-cost short trips in 2013 – given Woodpecker families preferences of curiosity and sense of adventure, they simply add a lot of life quality an easy way and on low-budget.

Move away from the sofa, head out and explore your surroundings as well!



Travelling: Kids, Budget and the Happiness of Southern Countries

Far away shores are alway’s the most appealing one’s, aren’t they? (Ultra long time exposure – 2 minutes – of waves)

4 weeks after Woodpecker’s are back from their fantastic Italy journey (see here and following posts), I would like to wrap-up some general findings from this trip:

1)      Where to go

2)      Travelling with small children

3)      Keeping Budget

4)     A southern lesson in Happiness / What we can learn from our friends in southern Europe

Continue reading

Italy Part 5: Sicily

The southern Italy traffic nightmare continued: A street in Cefalú

The journey continued on our final destination: Sicily

As always we underestimated the richness of this island, the sheer amount of things to see and the time you need for seemingly small distances (probably got used to much to racing along on German Autobahn…)

So we decided to skip most of the cultural and ruins stuff 😉 .
Well, to our defense I have to add kids needed rest (if nothing else available, blame it on the kids 😉 ) and it was getting rather hot – see below on our sirocco adventure.

Continue reading

Italy Part 4 – Tropea/Calabria

I still didn’t find out why all historical Italian cities are built on the very top of the highest mountain around – but it sure looks charming! (Castellabate seen from the hotel pool)

Next stop on Woodpecker family’s 2012 Italy travels:

The beautiful city of Tropea in Calabria.

Actually the drive was quite strenuous. On a map this in only 150 km (93 miles) as the eagle flies. But it turned out to be a 7 hrs drive (without breaks), quite a lot if you have two bored little kids in the backseats. Total driving distance was 300 km (185miles) with an average of less than 50 km (30 mph).

Tell you the reason why:

The pics below are from that road, which is supposed to be THE major connector road in the region!

Lovely views all the way, but sure no stress from speeding 😉 Continue reading

Money should be the means and not a goal.

Another one in my collection of “nice beaches within cosy surroundings”. The beach in St.Maria de Castellabate, Cilento, Italy. View to your right…

You probably know the phenomenon:

When travelling, or general when being in new situations, one starts to see things different, or additional ideas pop up that are faded out as long as you are struggling in the daily thread-mill.

Something crossed my mind the last days:

Not to confuse the goals of life and means to reach them

The goal clearly should be a maximum amount of happiness and well-being. And it is not to forget that frugal living – the topic I wrote, read and discussed most about in the last months – is only a means to reach that goal. Strictly saying it is only one out of several means. Continue reading