How to Travel Italy on a Budget
An Italian getaway evokes images of romantic cafes, scooter rides, seaside ruins, and expensive-looking views from a hotel balcony. But those expensive views don’t have to come at an expensive price! It’s more than possible to fully enjoy all the romance and history of Italy without needing to fully commit your wallet
The good news is; Italy’s rail system is fantastic. Once you get into the country, depend on the railways to get you from city to city. While the national trains are affordable, the regional ones are even cheaper, so take the opportunity to explore multiple towns in each area.
Within cities, the cheapest way around is definitely walking. As much as you might like the idea of riding around Rome on a Vespa, it’ll be easier on your wallet (and the environment) if you walk. Crowded streets can also make car or motorbike travel difficult; if you don’t want to walk, consider a bike.
Even hostel accommodation can be quite expensive in Italy so make sure you budget accordingly. In the cities, an Airbnb or other local apartment rental can be a more cost-effective way to enjoy Rome,Florence, or even Venice—plus, renting somewhere with a kitchen will let you save money by buying groceries instead of eating out. Renting with a roomie will also help lower your costs.
Outside of the cities, you can bunk in an agriturismo. These rented rooms in Tuscan farmhouses, rural cottages, and other idyllic locales cost quite a bit less than city hotel rooms and come with an amazing agricultural experience to match. Plus, if you get one with nearby railway access, you can still come and go from the city.
If you’re really strapped for cash, consider volunteering with a program like WWOOF. There are lots of great opportunities to trade a few hours of work on an organic farm for room and board, with the added bonus of getting access to great Italian food at its source.
Food & Drinks
The best way to avoid exorbitant food costs is to eat like the Italians do! Stay away from touristy locations and instead try shopping at the local grocery or farmer’s market, especially if you have access to a kitchen. A bottle of good Italian wine at home is delicious, and less expensive than drinking it by the glass at a bar.
Watch out at restaurants for unexpected fee traps. Much like those sneaky bottles of water in hotel rooms, that “complimentary” bread basket isn’t free. Send it back if you want to avoid an extra charge. Restaurants may also charge you more for the same menu if you are sitting instead of standing, and make sure you specifically ask for tap water, or you might get charged for bottled. But it’s not all a scare: most restaurants will offer lunchtime set menus which can be a treat.
Good news is, you don’t need to go on an expensive tour to sightsee in Italy! Especially in towns like Florence and Rome, the history is literally all around you. There are many statues, parks, and historical buildings you can access just as public spaces. For added public fun, try going during a festival like Carnivale di Ivrea.
It can also be worth it to visit the less touristy cities like Siena or Bologna. These smaller locations have just as much charm to enjoy and will offer less expensive attractions.
As you can see, with a little planning and research, it’s not difficult to save money on your vacation. So if Cinque Terre, Rome, or any other Italian destination is on your bucket list, stop dreaming and start planning!
Christy Woodrow is a travel photographer and professional blogger based in San Diego, California. She has been traveling around the world with her partner in crime, Scott, since 2006. Join them on their quest to find off-the-beaten-path destinations by following their adventure travel blog.