How to Travel to Italy on a Budget

Italy on a Budget

Italy is on the top of so many travelers’ bucket lists, and between its ancient history, famous art, and great food, it’s easy to see why. And while Italy is not the most expensive vacation, the cost of accommodations, food, transportation, and activities can definitely add up if you’re not careful. If you think that a dream trip to Italy is out of your budget, these tips will help you save money while still having the trip you always imagined.

Save Money Getting to Italy

One of the biggest ways to save on your trip to Italy is to get a good deal on flights. Flights will usually be cheaper during the off-season, like fall and spring, and flying in mid-week, instead of on the weekend, can also save you a good deal of money.

Look at all the major airports in Italy, rather than restricting yourself to only the city you want to visit. Many cities are just an short and inexpensive train ride away from each other, so flying into Milan and then taking the train to Venice, for example, may be a little more cost-effective, and if you can fit that into your schedule, it’s a great way to see more than just one city.

Location, Location, Location

Staying at the most popular locations in Italy like Rome, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, and the Amalfi Coast, are not going to be cheap. Don’t be afraid to explore other, lesser-known parts of the country.  They may just surprise you. There are so many great hidden gems all over Italy! You’ll have a more authentic experience outside tourist areas.

Save Money on Accommodations in Italy

If you’re on a tight budget, accommodation is probably where you’ll be able to find your biggest savings. The cost difference between a luxury hotel and a small vacation rental can be in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars.

My best tip is to stay just outside the city center. The closer you get to the more touristy part of the cities, the more expensive hotels and vacation rentals and hotels will be.

It may be a hassle to trek into the city each day, but you’ll also get a more authentic experience during your stay. Having more locals and fewer tourists near your accommodations may also mean better, and more authentic food. 

Save Money on Food in Italy

Day Trips from Rome

One of the biggest draws of Italy for many people is the food! From pasta to panini to pesto to pannacotta to pizza, Italian food is unforgettable, and there are so many great places to eat in Italy without totally blowing your budget. You’d be surprised and what amazing food you can discover, even at the grocery store. 

The best way to avoid overpaying for food is to get away from the highly trafficked tourist areas. A restaurant with a view of the Colosseum in Rome is going to cost a lot more than one several blocks away.

Watch out for a coperto charge, which is an extra cost for sitting in the restaurant to eat. It’s usually only a few Euros per person, but it can really add up, especially if you have a big group. The coperto charge will usually be listed on a menu, but be sure to ask if you’re not sure. 

You can always pop into a forno, or bakery, for pastries or a slice of focaccia or pizza for only a few Euros.  If you’re traveling with kids, this will be the easiest and most budget-friendly way to feed the littles. 

Another way to save money while dining out in Italy is to drink tap water. As a tourist, you will generally automatically be given bottles of drinking water, but if you’re comfortable with tap water, then go for it.

Save Money on Transportation in Italy

train travel in italy

You can save a good deal in Italy by being smart with your transportation options. The good news is that train travel in Italy is excellent and affordable. You can get almost anywhere by train quickly and efficiently. 

Most people will tell you to buy a rail pass to save you the hassle of booking separate train tickets, but if you know where you’re going ahead of time, purchasing individual tickets is easy, and can actually save you a lot of money if you’re willing to do the cost comparison ahead of time. Another great way to save on the Italian trains is by using the regional trains vs. the high-speed trains. 

Save Money on Activities in Italy

There are a lot of tour options in Italy that can be a great way to see the country, but they do come at a cost, especially if you do several. It’s easy to explore Italy on your own without a tour guide. And even if you do want a tour guide, many cities in Italy offer free walking tours

There are also a lot of great free and cheap online museum guides that will walk you through Italy’s most famous museum and offer descriptions of many works of art. 

I recommend writing up your budget before planning your trip to Italy. Knowing exactly what you have available to spend will help you as you book your transportation, accommodations, activities, and even thinking about where and what you plan to eat. The great thing about Italy is that you don’t need to have a luxury trip to experience a beautiful, authentic Italy. 

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