Settling in. Today's first order of business was changing money. As I must pay for my apartment in Florence with cash, I brought a fair amount of dollars with me, thinking that it would be easier and cheaper to change them to euros than pulling euros directly out of my accounts via ATM. Not so. First, people I talked to, including the B&B owner, did not know of any banks or change agencies that would take dollars. Walking around I found that banks here do not let people enter unless they have an account with that particular bank. There were no large banks with several people waiting for tellers. Rather they were small, cramped spaces where only one person at a time could do business.
I found a tourist information booth and was told there was one cambio outlet on our side of the River (the Vatican is on one site of the Tiber, while most of the other sights are on the other). I found when I got there that there was a 10% fee for exchange and the rates weren't all that hot either. It was a shock to find out that while Yahoo and other currency conversion tables I looked at said the Euro was worth $1.36, when I got here I found that the Euro cost anywhere from $1.47 to $1.69. Makes a difference in a 1200 euro/month rental. Thinking that there might be more choices across the river, I walked on, and did indeed find the $1.47 price without the 10% fee. Dollars to euros.
Another surprise was the fact that all restaurants and shops do not take VISA or any other credit card. Smart idea, but inconvenient to say the least. Even my B&B owner, while he will accept VISA, would prefer cash. I've done most of my traveling in Asia and Central America, where the dollar has been welcomed. Not so in Europe. The sense of the power of the greenback is diminished.