Another installment of my travel tips to help you stretch those hard earned dollars, today we are off to Italy!
Cheap flights to Italy
Milan is one of Europe’s biggest airport hubs and has a lot of charter flights to the rest of Europe and America. Compare prices with Rome, but if you aren’t too picky about your landing city, chances are it will be Milan.
European low cost company flying to Italy include Easyjet, Ryanair, Germanwings, Vueling and Wizzair. They are not featured in most flight search engines, you need to go on each site. Often it will be cheaper to fly, a Paris/Milan flight can cost 30 euros while the train costs 90 euros. You need to book 6-9 months in advance if you want those kind of prices, a few weeks before expect to pay around 100 euros.
Cheap accommodation in Italy
Hotels are not a very good value in Italy. Many still charge for basic things like wifi, and unless you score an early bird deal, you will probably sleep cheaper if you rent a whole apartment (on sites like Airbnb, this is my tell a friend link and you are awesome if you register through it!). We were traveling on a motorcycle so unable to book early, which made things harder as well. Via Booking we found a few good pensions, although I recommend you do spend time checking the services provided (charges for breakfast, wifi, etc) and customer review. Even that is not a guarantee, we booked a room that had AC on the hottest night of the year, turned out the ad was inaccurate and they were unable to even provide a fan!
Camping in Italy
From my limited experience, those weren’t too good a value either. The campgrounds were jam packed, especially outside of big cities like Florence, and very expensive! We paid close to 40 euros a night in Florence to pitch our tent. Apart from the national parks, it is quite hard to just camp anywhere. And even in the parks there are strict rules to follow. The only good value we got was in Venice with a campsite outside of town that had permanent tents with beds for 20 euros a night.
Visiting Venice and Rome
Those two cities are the most popular to visit in Italy. And that is justified. BUT expect to pay high prices for almost anything and be washed in a sea of visitors from Easter to September.
Rome and Venice have half a dozen must see, that you can do in two days. Instead of visiting every little church in Rome, I would visit two or three big ones(and the Vatican) then go to another city like Florence to visit its highlights.
Same thing in Venice, two days are enough to hop on a gondola or a vaporetto, visit a couple of museums, and then be off to another spot.
If you are only going to be there for a couple of days, you can splurge on central accommodation to make your visits easy. No cars are allowed in Venice and you need to park outside, the parking is very expensive (around $30 per day) so most people take the train or bus from nearby towns. A few campings around Venice offer tents with real beds for 20 euros a night and a 5 euros transfer to Venice, that would be the best backpackers option.
I know it is not very original but this was my favorite region on our trip last year. We started in Pisa, checked the tower, then headed to beautiful Lucca, a fortified sleepy town with some of the best food we tried in Italy, reached Florence for a few days, then South through the Chianti wine region and to the beautiful medieval town of Siena.
Tuscany is perfect for a weeklong visit, you can rent a car and visit those places that are no more than two hours drive apart. What I liked about it is there was a lot to do outside the museums and churches. After seeing so much art, I get dizzy, so I enjoyed just walking around, having lunch in a small restaurant for two hours, people watching and chatting, everything was so relaxed.
You can get to Tuscany in a few hours from Rome, by train or car. There are also lots of cheap flights to Pisa and Florence from the rest of Europe. Airbnb is a good place to find a charming B&B as your base for the week.
Cheap eats in Italy
This is no news that Italian food is absolutely gorgeous. Whatever you try, unless you are in a tourist trap, has been made with love and the freshest ingredients. Restaurant prices are quite affordable compared to France and Northern Europe, but the Italians almost always add the copperto, a cover fee of about $3 just for the privilege of sitting there. Beware because they do it in places that look like little bars too, so paying $2 or $3 on top of just a coffee or a beer makes for one very expensive drink.
Pizzerie are cheap, a pizza rarely costs more than $8, and you can wash it down with a liter of house wine for $6. Yes, wine is that cheap. And there are a very good finds under that house wine denomination.
Another good bet to eat cheaply is the menu of the day. In Italy, a menu is generally a two course deal, with pasta as a first dish and then some meat or fish. You will be full for the day. The menus come with wine and coffee for under $15.
Hotels rarely include breakfast and when they do it is not great so don’t count on that to fill your belly in the morning, however the bakeries are delicious, and you can buy a piece of bread or some cake to last until lunch. Bread is sold by the weight, the price you see is per kilo.
Another great place for delicious cheap eats is the deli. You will see amazing shops selling ham, mozzarella balls, cheese, stuffed olives, artichoke hearts, spreads, and you can get a box of crackers and a bottle of wine there too. That makes for a perfect picnic in the park. The ham is sliced paper thin, and there are as many kinds to choose from as there are cheeses. You can have that as a snack in your hotel for diner, and a menu meal for lunch.
Have you been to Italy? What is your favorite Italian food?
This post was featured on the Stacking Benjamins, thank you!