Florence | Fair Exchange

Bartering for dinner is beyond the bounds of common experience for most of us. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and a tavern in Florence lets diners trade sundry goods and objects against their bill. L’è Maiala opened last autumn in outlying Via Poliziano, not a tourist trap but a genuine Florentine osteria with a convivial mood, serving some first-rate regional dishes at honest prices. But its main attraction remains the singular practice of payment by barter, brainchild of brilliant offbeat marketing agency Stranomondo.

Acceptable wares are mostly wine or other produce, original arts and crafts, or bric-a-brac with antique or vintage value, preferably of local origin. It’s as well to start negotiations when you book, but bargaining is mainly on the spot with staff well-versed in market values. No obligation on either side: L’è Maiala (which, by the way, is an earthy Florentine expression invoking a female swine and implying that things are not going too well…) also accepts real and plastic money. It’s worth a trip out to the northern quarters even if you have nothing to trade in, for the fun-and-games experience, the sheer lack of refinement, the cheery staff and atmosphere, the above-average house wine and some fine Tuscan fare with the odd flash of creative culinary genius. And in spite of the porcine theme.