I am writing in the interest of advising travelers to Italy about a major problem that surprised me on my March visit to Florence and Venice--outlandishly high prices!
As a former travel writer and frequent visitor to Europe, I always have found Italy's prices to be in line, or even somewhat lower, than other European countries. In fact, the value of the lira--or lack thereof--often has made Italy a bargain. But no longer.
First, highway tolls are excruciating, and there seems to be no way of estimating the cost of a drive in advance. It cost 43,000 lira (about $33 U.S.) to drive from the border at Mentone to Florence on the highway, about 350 miles. In one instance, it cost $18 for a two-hour drive.
Secondly, hotel prices in Florence and Venice were double those of the summer of '85. Simple, clean, double rooms in the two-star category (which is about as modest a category as I would recommend) were about 85,000 lire ($65), including breakfast.
There is little doubt that Florence and Venice are extraordinarily beautiful cities. Everyone should visit them at some point in their lives. This year, however, the price will be high.