Visiting Italy on a budget: tips and tricks

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 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.

Italian trains

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

Accommodation tips

 

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 sites like Love Home Swaps.

coloseum rome

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.

Italy on a budget

  • 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.

Italy on a budget

  • 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.

Visit Italy on a budget

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.

Italy on a budget

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%. cinque terre

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.

RELATED: 21 Magical places that inspired fairytales.

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. If you’re a student, this STA discount code can help you save big on your flight to Italy and Europe.

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.

visit italy on a budget
visit italy on a budget
italy on a budget
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25 thoughts on “Visiting Italy on a budget: tips and tricks”

  1. I had to do a bit of Italy on a budget while I was there. It wasn’t always easy, but I definitely found some great deals on espresso, food, and wine wherever I went.

    Reply
  2. I had a difficult time understanding how to order coffee in Rome! It was actually quite funny because I didn’t understand why everyone was getting their coffee before me. In Florence, I figured out about the extra tax if you dine in…let’s just say I made the family get the cheaper option.

    Reply
    • It sure can be a bit confusing when visiting for the first time but I’m glad you figured it out 🙂 Thank you for your comment, Mallory 🙂

      Reply
  3. Awesome blog post! Love how informative the post is and also the hints and tips. Also, your photos of the Colosseum and Leaning Tower of Pisa are unreal! I have only visited Italy for 5 days, but I have big plans to go back there and do and old “Grand European Tour” of Italia! Thanks for sharing your article, bookmarked for future use 🙂

    Reply
  4. I always find Italy very expensive. It’s long due on my list but I keep pushing it later. Now that I got to read so many good tips to save money while traveling the country, I guess I can consider visiting the place next November. I guess it would be cheaper than during the summers as you recommended.

    Reply
  5. It’s a cool fact that many museums in Italy have a day in the week when the entrance is free! Also, it is really cool that many cathedrals and churches do not charge an entrance fee, I was in Budapest recently and it was quite the opposite! Also, free walking tours are a great idea – it is the new concept that has begun to come up in many European cities. Renting a bicycle is also pretty cool!

    Reply
  6. These are all fantastic tips on traveling around Italy on a budget. I do remember the train network in Italy to be really incredible and was so convenient to travel between cities. I am a museum lover so it’s good to know that most museums will offer one day a week a free entry – but I totally would go super early to avoid the crowds. The churches I remember were so incredibly beautiful and I do appreciate that it is free to enter. I have never done one of their free walking tours – I totally would love to try this one day as I think it would be so wonderful to learn about a particular city from a local point of view.

    Reply
  7. Awesome tips! Things in Italy sure do add up, especially accommodation. Love your tip about Aperitivo hour. Wish I had known about this when I went the last time! Will definitely take more notice next time. We went to Venice in the off season, i.e. Winter and one of the best decisions we ever made because the crowds were ore than bearable. We could even take decent photos without hoards of tourists everywhere!

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  8. I am planning to visit Italy next year with my boyfriend, and your post is very helpful. I will add your recommended places to visit in my list. Which of them are your top favorite?

    Reply
    • Thank you, Blair and I hope you have a great time. It’s really hard to choose a few but do take a look at my post about hidden gems in Italy – you’ll get a lot more suggestions there 🙂

      Reply
  9. Italy is one of my favorite destinations. Aside from good food, the sites and spots are really beautiful. I would have to agree that I also thought a trip to Italy is expensive but I was surprised that it was not exactly what I expected.

    Thank you so much for your tips. They are very helpful.

    Reply
  10. Wow! This bring back memories. I did a Italy trip with a shoe-string budget! It was incredible!
    I stayed in hostels and it was my first time. I loved it! And they were pretty close to the attractions as well.
    I have to visit Italy again to those cities which I didn’t go last time!!!! Your post is my reminder to book tickets!

    Reply
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