Italians clean pockets, go shopping

The lira is still valid currency in a chain of four food stores in Milan. Although the lira was pensioned in favour of the euro in 2002, about 20% of business at “La Scelta” (the choice) stores comes from the old notes, owner Ernesto Colleoni told the Italian edition of Vanity Fair.

While rummaging through drawers or pockets of old coats, many Milanese — mostly women but also young people — find the odd 10,000 lire (circa €5) or even 100,000 lire (circa €50) notes, Colleoni said.

Every two months, Colleoni makes a trip to the Bank of Italy to exchange an estimated 3,000-6,000 lire to about €1,500 – €3,000 in euro.

The store isn’t the only place that takes the old currency: hangers-on to the lire will be pleased to know they can also buy an aperitivo at Milan’s Angel Café. If you don’t have any of the old currency, they’ll change it at a rate (one euro = two thousand lire) that means you’ll be having cocktails with prices of yesteryear.

It’s perfectly legal, but this double-currency commerce will last only until 2012, when the Bank of Italy no longer accepts the lira as legal tender.