Planning a trip to Italy this year and looking for ways to save? While traveling in Italy is usually more affordable than in other countries (we’re looking at you Sweden, Denmark, and Switzerland!), trip expenses can add up quickly.
Happily, we’re here with some advice on how to save while planning your trip to Italy and once you’re on the ground. Here are 11 budget tips to help you live la dolce vita without breaking the bank.
Note: This guide was edited and updated in 2023 by Carlotta Mazzoli in Florence, Italy.
Italy budget travel tips
1. Book early and consider shoulder seasons
It’s no surprise that summer is the busiest tourist season in Italy. Whether you want to book one of our favorite cheap hotels, or find a great deal for cheap flights, make sure to book as early as possible.
For even better rates (and fewer crowds!), visit in the spring or fall. For the absolute best deals, take your Italian holiday in winter. Christmas in Italy is a treat, and Rome is especially beautiful this time of year and never gets too cold.
On the other hand, there are a few advantages to going to Italy’s big cities in the heat of August. Throngs of Italians go on vacation, so even though there may be still plenty of tourists in Rome, Florence, and Venice, the crowds can be a little thinner and the hotel rates take a tumble. Here are some tips on going to Florence in August.
For cheap flights, we recommend shoulder or off-peak season, but also booking your flights during the week, as opposed to during the weekend. Budget airlines, like Ryanair, moreover, usually offer discounts for early morning and late night flights. Take advantage of the extra time, and book one of those options to save even more.
2. Consider visiting less touristy parts of Italy
We get it, you have been dreaming about this trip to Italy for years, and now you want to see absolutely the best (and most famous) attractions in Italy. You can picture yourself on a gondola in Venice, visiting the Colosseum in Rome, or the Uffizi in Florence.
But have you ever considered visiting Turin? Or perhaps the beautiful beaches of Calabria and Basilicata? And what about Urbino, the birthplace of Raffaello and one of the best-preserved Renaissance cities in Italy?
Italy is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, it is packed with artistic, natural, and historic sites, and everywhere you go, you are guaranteed to find something worth visiting. Just get off the beaten track, and try visiting less popular areas. Here you will find authentic gems, friendly people, and much cheaper prices.
3. Sleep small and central…
Large chain hotels are among the most expensive accommodation options in Italy. These familiar brands usually come with lots of perks — and a very high price. Luckily for budget travelers, Italy is full of affordable hotels and pensions (family-run guesthouses) that not only offer low rates but also plenty of charm and character. Take advantage of these boutique hotels, family-run pensions, and even religious accommodations like convents to get the best deals.
Also, make sure to double check the location of the hotel before you book. You may find a hotel or bed and breakfast that offers a great rate, but if it is so far away from the sites, you might end up spending all of that money you saved on extra taxis at night.
Related: Best budget hotels in Rome
4. …or sleep outside the most popular cities
If you can’t find a great place right in the city center, you might want to consider the complete opposite option and sleep in a small town nearby.
A prime example here is Mestre and Venice. While Venice is usually really expensive and good accommodation options are quite difficult to find for a reasonable price, neighboring Mestre is always cheaper and there are plenty of options. Plus Mestre is only a short 10 minute train ride from Venice, and you can also jump on a local bus or tram. In addition, Mestre itself is a nice small town, with plenty of restaurants and bars, and its train and bus stations connect with all the major cities in Italy and Europe.
And this rule applies to every city in Italy.
- When visiting Milan, you might want to consider Monza or Como for your accommodation.
- In Florence, you could stay in an agriturismo in the countryside, instead of an overpriced hotel in the suburbs of the city.
- If visiting Cinqueterre, you can stay in La Spezia.
- If you are going to the Amalfi Coast, you can opt for Sorrento or one of the smaller villages on the hills, instead of Capri and Positano.
Just think smart and you might end up in a quaint little village that will steal your heart.
5. Use trains and buses instead of renting a car
Now that you have booked your trip and found an accommodation, you might think you will need a car to move around Italy. Do not make this mistake! Italy has an extensive train system, with both fast trains and local commuter trains, that can take you basically everywhere. In addition, several private companies are operating long-route buses, which are usually even cheaper than trains, and that connect all the bigger (and not so big) cities in Italy.
Using trains and buses will help you save time and money. Trains (especially fast trains like Italo and Frecciarossa) are a much faster way to reach a destination, and renting a car and paying for gas and parking spots can become quite expensive. Moreover, with trains you will get right to the center of a city, as the main train stations are usually centrally located, and you won’t have to worry about permits to enter the city, fees, fines, or any other expense that might occur when renting and driving a car in Italy.
Just remember to book those train and bus tickets well in advance if you want to save even more. All the train and bus companies usually have discounted tickets, and prices tend to go up the closer you get to the date of your trip. (This tip only applies to longer journeys, as ticket prices for shorter jaunts on commuter trains are fixed.)
6. When visiting a city, use public transport or just walk around
Another great way to save while visiting Italy is to take full advantage of public transportation or just walk around. After all, there is nothing better than wandering around an Italian city and just getting lost in its beautiful streets and piazzas.
Most of the places you will visit in Italy are likely to be small, so you won’t really need a car or taxi to move around. Remember to pack a comfy pair of shoes and download a map on your phone, and I can guarantee you will be able to visit most of the major attractions just by walking.
If you’re visiting a larger city, like Milan or Rome, or if you are tired of walking, familiarize yourself with the local public transportation system and use this instead of calling a taxi. Note that Uber or Lyft are not used in Italy and local taxis can be quite expensive. On the contrary, a ticket for a bus or subway ride, or any other means of public transportation, usually costs around €1.50 to €2 and they are safe and reliable.
If you are unsure of what lines to take, just use Google maps, as it has all the different options. Remember to stamp the ticket when you hop on the bus, tram, or train, otherwise you can get slapped with a fine if stopped by a controller.
7. Take advantage of free museum days
When visiting Italy, museums, palaces, and archeological sites are a real must, as they’re home to some of the world’s most beautiful and famous works of art. But all those tickets can be expensive, especially when planning multiple visits throughout your entire trip.
But don’t fret! Most of the larger tourist attractions and museums in Italy offer free entrance days throughout the week or at least once a month. Do some research ahead of time and maybe you can sync up your trip to a few of the free days. With prices soaring towards €20 for some museums now, a few free days can really help out.
Also, hit up attractions that are always free, like parks, churches, and some beaches. Be sure to check out this list of free things to do in Rome, free things in Florence and free activities in Venice.
8. If you want to go on guided tours, research free options
If you would like to take a guided tour, chances are it will be quite pricey. After all, the guys showing you around are professionals and they had to study for many years to learn their craft.
And while we’re all for supporting these professionals, there are options that can come at a much cheaper price or even for free. In particular, all major cities offer some sort of free walking tour. These are usually organized by local associations, or even hotels and hostels, as well as schools and museums. They are either free, or included in the ticket price, or you will just be asked for an optional tip at the end of the tour (remember, tips are not mandatory in Italy, although always appreciated!). And many museums offer free tours of their collections, especially on weekends.
For example, if you look on Eventbrite, you can easily find free walking tours around many Italian cities. And be sure to check out the official tourism websites for the cities you’re visiting, including the official sites for Florence, Milan, Rome, Venice.
9. Don’t fall for tourist traps!
When visiting a foreign country, we all look for great experiences and we generally have an idea of what these experiences will look like. But some things that seem “quintessentially Italian” can also be a “quintessential tourist rip-off”. These come in all shapes and sizes. Some favorites:
- A big meal at one of the restaurants lining Rome’s Piazza Navona? Hmmm — better pick wisely, as most will overcharge you for the view.
- A Roman walking tour with someone dressed as a gladiator? It might be a funny and kitschy experience, but the tour will probably be better with a regular guide.
- Being shuttled down Venice’s Grand Canal in a gondola by a singing gondolier? That’ll be at least $100 for a 40-minute ride. Take a water bus (vaporetto) instead, and save heaps of money. Venice is beautiful from any kind of boat.
Having said that, if you want to dine on the Piazza, pose with a gladiator, or shell out serious cash for a gondola ride, go for it, and have fun! Just remember these might not be the cheaper (and best) options.
Related: Avoid these tourist traps in Italy
10. Shop the markets for fresh (and super cheap) food
Italy is famous for its outdoor and indoor markets full of incredibly fresh produce, aged cheeses, handcrafted salami, homemade bread… hungry yet? It’s a rite of passage in Rome to shop at these mercato all’aperti (open-air markets), and we’ve compiled some food shopping tips to help you get the tastiest deal.
Rather than always dining out, save money on meals by shopping local and then throwing a picnic. Supermarkets, bakeries, and delis make excellent culinary destinations for your wallet. This will also require you to make a stop at the wine shop (of course!) where you can pick out your favorite bottle or even fill up your own with tap wine (like they do in Florence).
11. Go for an aperitivo
Have you ever heard of Aperol Spitz? Aperitivo is more than a meal, and definitely more than just a quick way to share a drink with friends. It is a rite, almost a religious ceremony for Italians, which they enjoy in the late afternoon and before dinner.
In a country that is so proud of its food, and whose social activities often revolve around eating and drinking, aperitivo is a definitive experience that you really don’t want to miss.
An aperitivo is usually enjoyed in the late afternoon, it involves a glass of wine or a Spritz cocktail (or even a beer or any other types of cocktails really), and some canapés or finger foods. It is a great way to sit down and people-watch, while trying some local wines and beverages, and taste some food before a well-earned dinner.
The best part? Usually, the food is included in the price, and you will be served some chips, peanuts, and possibly some “crostini” (bread with sauces and dips). Some places also have different options of pasta and cold cuts you can choose from. In some other places, you can choose to add a “tagliere” (a charcuterie board) for an additional price.
Your budget tips?
Have some budget tips for Italy to add to our list? Share with us in the comments section below!
Note: This guide was edited and updated in 2023 by Carlotta Mazzoli in Florence, Italy.
The post Italy Budget Travel Guide: 11 simple ways to save (2023 Update) appeared first on EuroCheapo's Budget Travel Blog.
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