Beating the Crisi Blues 2: bartering

This series looks at ways to thrive despite the widespread pessimism threatening to pull us under during these tough economic times. My nuclear family has not escaped its tugs, so to beat the crisi blues I try to focus on what I’m grateful for and find cheap creative ways to keep life fun. Luckily one of the great things about Italy is how relatively inexpensive it can be to enjoy the dolce vita. Sometimes tough times call for traditional measures. The age-old system of bartering is an amazing way to procure goods and services if you don't have the cash to pay for them. I love bartering professional services whenever possible. A few years back I received some gorgeous works of art in exchange for writing bios and critiques for some contemporary artists I knew. I even bartered with the creative folks who helped me create this blog! Now you can get into the spirit too by participating in "Barter Week Italy" from November 19 to 25 and stay at B&Bs up and down the Italian peninsula in exchange for goods and services. Visit the site here to find out more:

You can trade anything within reasonable limits, of course. Many B&Bs need, for example, photo or video shoots, or small-scale maintenance work on their property. The scope of what can be shared and exchanged can be endless, the important thing is not to sell yourself short or be embarrassed, but offer your barter seriously, politely, with curiosity and empathy, affability and originality.

Or you could just grab a meal at L'e' Maiala restaurant in Florence, which just opened in September and also works on the barter system. So far it's the only restaurant in Italy to do it, but I bet you it won't be the last. This recession-era restaurant has received some international buzz, including from me! Check out my article about L'e' Maiala in Maclean's, "Let's call it a swap meat", here.

So far, most diners have offered bottled foodstuffs like wine, olive oil and preserves in exchange for their tripe, ribollita and, of course, pork prepared in a variety of ways. The name of the 40-seat restaurant has also prompted patrons to contribute to the swine-inspired décor. “I love that one guy decided to paint a pig on a vase and bring it to us,” says Faggioli. “People are having fun. It’s interesting, different.” And a welcome option for Florentine foodies who are being forced to be frugal.