Bartering in Italy

So I packed all my diet food for our trip to Italy last week.


What I should have packed were elastic waist bands and mumus. What planet am I on that I thought I could spend a week in the country that invented carbs without eating any of them? No surprise that I brought every single protein bar home with me plus eight pounds that I’m carrying somewhere along my coastal region.

We learned this week that man can, in fact, live on bread alone because that’s the only thing that Rex (6) would touch. I managed to force a few apples and some Italian hot dogs down him toward the end of the week by threatening to take him to the Italian hospital for shots, but otherwise he was very happy with his daily dose of white rolls and absolutely nothing else.

I’d like to tell you that I enjoyed eating in Italy but this would be a lie. There was no drinkable water where we were staying so I had to rely on Diet Coke. Let’s just say while we disproved the myth about bread, I realized that man cannot live on Diet Coke alone. I’m so full of sodium I could have floated home. Pair that with the fact that none of the restaurants opened until 7:30 and what you end up with is mini kitchen spaghetti for seven nights. Ugh.

Since I live with Mr. Penny Pincher we don’t buy much in the way of anything on vacation (“Water? How much did that cost? Do we really need water?”). But I’m not about to make a pilgrimage to an Island in the Mediteranean without something to show for it.

As we made our way through one of the village markets I came across a booth with hand made Sardinian artifacts. Belts, pocket knives, beautiful leather works. But I only had eyes for one thing: the local cow bells. They were beautiful iron bells hanging from sun tanned leather straps. I’d actually seen the smaller ones on cattle in the countryside.

Growing up on the farm, my folks had a big bell they would ring in the evening when it was time to come in from the field/neighbor’s/barn. I loved the sound of that bell calling me home, I can still hear the exact tone of it in my mind.

When I saw the large brass bells I knew I had to have one.

And thus began the most obnoxious bartering session of my life.

“Sweetheart, I want this bell for my house.”

“A bell? What are you going to do with a bell?” he asked.

“Um, ring it for the kids to come home. Plus I can get a cool hook and hang it by the front door. It will be awesome.”

“That sounds stupid. Why do we need a bell?” We went the rounds which might have included foot stomping and mild fit throwing until he agreed to consider letting me buy the bell.

I asked the Italian gentleman how much and he quoted me a doable price. “Well?” I asked Jason after working the price down and making an almost deal.

“That’s ridiculous. I’m not spending that much for a bell.” He turned and walked to the car.

I made my apologies to the man and huffed after him. After five minutes of marital bartering I finally talked him into the bell. He handed me the cash (sans 5 euro) and I headed back to get my bell.

And the Italian wouldn’t sell it to me.

It was like being the center of a really obnoxious bartering sandwich with my husband on one side and a stinky old Italian man on the other. I even tried the local arm waving technique and slight shouting method. No good. I had walked away from the deal and it was off the table. He would sell me another bell, but there weren’t any there that I liked nearly as well.

So the only thing I brought home from Italy are my eight button constricting pounds to remind me of our wonderful island vacation. The lesson? The next time I try to barter in a foreign country I will leave my husband in the car.


  1. CUTE story Annie . . . . . maybe your husband will some day turn into a husband like mine (I know you really don’t want my husband, ha!) When shopping, I hammer and ha about something I really love and won’t buy it . . . my hubby will be telling me “just buy it!” and I don’t. He’ll surprise me by going back and buying the item I want, and when I unpack . . . there it will be!!!

    I did that with a “triangle.” Kinda like a bell . . . . but a big triangle to ring and call the kids home. He made me buy it, because he could see how much I wanted it. I used it to call my kids home from the neighborhood pool with it and it still hangs by my back sliding glass door. It embarrassed the heck out of my kids. THE WHOLE POOL, would stop swimming and wonder what that noise was, while my kids would sheepishly get out of the pool and come home. It saved me a walk to the pool and my voice because I didn’t have to yell!!!

  2. Oh trust me I’ve been there! Bartering in a foreign country can be an ambitious task. I’ve failed numerous times but eventually you’ll get a good deal. You should think I have a lot of practice, because I’m addicted to bartering! Being on a tight budget I always pinch pennies, so I signed up on, an online trading platform. It’s great because you can swap houses, services and almost any kind of goods. And the negotiations are usually a lot smoother 🙂

  3. I’m so sorry for your loss! I love Swiss bells myself and have a beautiful bell (not Swiss, but the sound is amazing) on the floor next to our kitchen door. It’s waiting for me to go out and trim sheep feet and put that bell on my ram. I love, love, love the sound of the bells ringing in the pasture. I tells me a lot. If there’s just little ringing all is okay, and lots, coyotes or scary dogs are after my lambs. The bells lull me to sleep when my husband’s on duty. Hey! YOU COULD’VE USED THAT! (Oh, minor thing…you need some sheep and goats) Oh my gosh, Annie, I’ve never known anyone else that has loved the sound of cow bells. I wrote balls–glad I reread my comment.

    I had the same fight with my Steve at Pismo Beach, my younger days, with a bunch of little ones (in a stinking tent and tons of sand and a newborn) We were literally stuck-out in the dunes too many times in a short/long weekend. We packed-it-up and on the way-out, I asked Steve to buy me a sand dollar (one!) shell, so I could remember the weekend forever. I don’t think I’d remembered the camp-out nearly so well if I hadn’t been so ticked he wouldn’t buy me a sand dollar. I got, “Go out an pick one up for free in Ventura, it’s only 15 minutes away from our house!” I’ve decided I hate Sand Dollars anyway, because of our tiff and my crying. Oh, and I’m still not happy my sister let the doves out of the cage on the patio. You know if you break open a sand dollar there’s doves inside, right?

    I did see Peace, love, and Muffin Top at the movie theater with my friends and still want to go to Italy. That’s crazy talk to myself because I’m allergic to wheat. We have it stockpiled in our basement and shed and even have dang wheat seeds in the barn. Honestly, I don’t mean to rant, but this post of yours brought back so many memories.

    Hope your time there in Germany is wonderful and I’m so glad you’ve been able to travel around to so many places. Your posts are delightful and the messages seem to always relate to the crazy in myself. Oh, you’re not crazy, but you give me ideas. Confession: We had a bachelorette party for my daughter. HA! The good thing is my daughter’s 4 sisters and hoards of girl cousins gave her the straight talk that I had no intent of starting. Every once-in-a-while she’ll ask me, “Where’s that box that says, ‘Do Not Open’ ?” You’re such a kick!

    Thank you for the post, I may not wait for help to have some wrangling time grabbing at sheep feet and attaching some bells. Hugs, Susan