From the Colosseum in Rome, through the charming watery channels of Venice, to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy has some of the most iconic places for travelers to visit. However, most people believe that exploring Italy is expensive. But, the truth is that Italy offers a plethora of inexpensive cultural activities and superb public transport. The tips mentioned in this article will show you that exploring Italy on a budget isn’t impossible and that it’s actually much cheaper than what people generally think. Read on:
Transportation tips and tricks for visiting Italy on a budget
Let’s start with the basics: your flight. If you’re flying in from some other European country, go for a budget airline. If your flight is from another continent, consider booking your flight tickets to a hub city, like London, Berlin or Paris. Even if it’s a place that’s not on your list, you will be able to get a flight with one of the European budget airlines and save a lot.
Another thing you can do is check out Air France’s Oh-la-la deals for the cheapest flights to Italy.
Italy also has a decent bus network across the country and inside most big cities. Additionally, if you’re staying in a city for a short period of time, consider hopping on one of Big Bus’s tours that cover the main attractions in the city and make the most of your short stay. And if you’re not interested in hop on hop off tours, you can book your own transportation (and save a few bucks) by using this link.
As I mentioned, Italy has a superb train network. You can cover the main locations with the Trenitalia express train passing through Milan, Venice, Florence, Rome, and Naples. I know that you might be used to purchasing your tickets through intermediaries that offer a better price most of the time, but that’s not the case with the Italian Railways. You’ll get the cheapest tickets by purchasing them directly from the Italian Railways. And if you book in advance, the fare will be even cheaper. Check out this useful article if you’re planning to explore Italy by train. For more tips about train travel in Europe, check out my detailed guide.
Enjoying this article? Then, check out this list of the best places to visit in Puglia
There are a lot of famous hotel chains in Italy that offer a lot of perks, but for an insane price. Luckily for backpackers, there are a lot of affordable pensions (family-run guesthouses) and affordable hotels (use my Booking discount code to save even more). You can also consider staying in convents or other religious accommodations. These places are very comfortable, affordable and often times at a great location! For example, I stayed in the Istituto Santa Giuliana Falconieri in Rome, located right next to the Piazza Navona in the historic part of the city; one of the best neighborhoods in Rome for travelers. The location is very important and you MUST check it before booking it. Some hostels might offer a price that’s too good to be true, but they might be located far away from all tourist attractions.
Finally, consider swapping your house with other holiday makers from Italy and save big on your accommodation by using home-swapping sites.
Budget activities that will help you save you a lot
- Rent a bicycle: this will cost you between 10 and 15 EUR per day, but it will allow you to see much more of the city and not to be dependent on the public transport.
- Visit cathedrals and basilicas: most of those will be free of charge. Not only that, but these breathtaking buildings will give you a glimpse of the amazing architecture and history.
- If you’re a museum fan: most of the museums in Italy have one day per week when they don’t charge an entrance fee. Make sure you find out which days those are for the museum you want to visit before you make your plans.
- Walking tours: most cities in Italy have walking tours that are free of charge! Amazing, right? These tours are designed for solo travelers or small groups. Most hostels offer these tours and the only thing you would have to pay would be a tip to the guide.
- Don’t buy water from supermarkets: that can be quite costly and the water from the public fountains is 100% drinkable.
- Ask one of the locals on the street where do they go for lunch. Their answer will not be in your tourist guidebook.
- Check out this list of Italian festivals. Many of them will be free of charge, and you’ll get to learn a lot about Italian culture.
- Prebook your tickets: this allows you to skip the long lines and sometimes, even save money.
Dining 101: Drink coffee standing up and say hello to Aperitivo
The aperitivo hour is one of my favorite things about Italy! Most bars in Italy serve a light meal with the drink for around 10 EUR. The aperitivo hour usually happens in the evening when people are meeting friends after work. The aperitivo is a good dinner substitute and will keep you full. Plus it’s a much cheaper option than going for a full meal. If you don’t take part in aperitivo when visiting, you will be missing one of the quintessential cultural expressions of Italy as a country.
Another must tip is to have your coffee and morning pastry at the bar. Most Italian restaurants have an extra fee in a form of tax you have to pay if you sit down at a table. Since I mentioned coffee, one bonus tip is to avoid having a cappuccino after your lunch. Unless you want to get some funny looks. Italians consider this to be a morning-only drink. Italians are firmly convinced that drinking milk after a meal slows down the digestion.
Consider the off-season or the winter
You don’t have to visit Italy during late spring or summer when there are a lot of tourists there. Visit between October and June, or even in the winter. Firstly, you will avoid vacation prices and higher-than-average flight ticket prices. Additionally, you will get a more authentic image of Italy and the everyday life of Italians when there are fewer tourists around.
What about the beaches?
We’ve all seen the beautiful pictures of endless rows of beach chairs under umbrellas. But, if you want to rent one of those prices go up to 50 EUR per day in the high season. That’s why even Italians go to the rugged, off-the-map beaches. Italy has plenty of those, and chances are, you probably haven’t heard about most of them. Check out my article about hidden gems in Italy to discover some of them. However, if you want to visit some of these, the best option is to rent a car. Do that with this special offer and save up to 20%.
If you’re planning a trip to Italy soon, I hope these tips will be helpful! If you have some more budget tips for exploring Italy that I missed, share those with me in the comments section below Finally, for more information about traveling around Europe check my tips for traveling around Europe on a budget.
Helpful resources for visiting Italy on a budget
Get the cheapest flights to Italy using this Air France special offer. Yes, this is an affiliate link, but the flights are so affordable, even I use it when booking my flights.
For the best travel insurance deals for your trip to Italy, I always choose and recommend World Nomads.
If you’re looking for some budget-friendly tours in Italy, I personally recommend Intrepid tours. Again, I am their affiliate but if you like learning about the country you’re traveling in and going to places not a lot of tourists visit, Intrepid is a great choice.
If you want to rent a car in Italy, this Sixt coupon gets you 15% off on all car rentals in Italy.
For transportation bookings, use Bookaway to save up to 10% on all bus, train and ferry rides in Italy.
And last but not least, if you want to save on all booking.com rentals in Italy, use my discount code. Alternatively, if you want to stay in some of the nicest hotels in Italy, use this special offer to get you great discounts on all Radisson hotels in Italy.