Table of contents
- 1. Skip the touristy areas for affordable accommodations
- 2. Go in the off-season
- 3. Stop by the wine country for a taste of Italy’s best
- 4. Forget Venice- go to smaller islands instead
- 5. Visit the Vatican after hours
- 6. Spend less time shopping- all those souvenirs add up!
- 7. Look for free events and entertainment in Rome
- 8. Get a rail pass
- 9. Do some house-swapping
- 10. Get close to nature
If you are planning to visit Italy any time soon, your biggest problem isn’t going to be how you get from the airport to the hotel or where to eat dinner. Your primary concern is going to be money and how much of it you can save.
Europe’s most beautiful country is also one of its priciest, but that doesn’t mean it has to break your bank. Let us show you how to go to Italy without going broke. There are plenty of ways to travel to Italy on the cheap. We’ve rounded up ten simple yet effective tips for going beyond a shoestring budget and still visiting all the major sites in a minimum amount of time.
And while it’s true that Italy isn’t a cheap place to visit in Europe, with some planning and smart choices, you can cut costs down to size. Follow these ten simple ways of saving on your trip to Italy, and you’ll have a little bit left over for a well-deserved plate of spaghetti al Limone or a gelato at the Piazza Navona.
1. Skip the touristy areas for affordable accommodations
It would help if you first looked for a place to stay in an area outside of where all the tourists are because then it will be cheaper and probably friendlier since you’re not acting like a loud American with a Rolex watch. If you’re planning on using the hotel as your base of operations, it will save you money to stay outside of town or away from any major tourist attractions.
If you are headed to Rome for three days and plan to see all the big sites like the Colosseum, Vatican City, etc., it’s going to cost you about $120 per day for a hotel in the middle of all the action. But if you get out of town by 10 miles, you could get accommodations at an agriturismo—a farmhouse-turned-hotel—for closer to $50 per day. You might think that’s too far away from all the tourist attractions, but it’s only 45 minutes to an hour away from Rome city centre if you rent a car.
Plus, not dealing with noisy tourists and expensive food means you can spend more time enjoying Italy and save on trip instead of fighting the crowds. I have stayed in B&Bs while travelling to Italy before, and they are a great way to save money. The rooms are usually pretty nice, and the breakfast you get in the morning is enough to last until dinnertime.
2. Go in the off-season
Most of Italy is pretty hot between June and September, so it’s best to avoid these months if you’re looking for affordable travel to Italy. The weather can be a bit more temperate in the late fall and early spring, plus there aren’t as many people out and about. Plus, if you’re lucky, it might even snow. This time of the year is when most Italians take their annual vacation, making travelling even cheaper if you stick to weekdays.
The winter months from November through February are especially great for getting a hotel deal. But beware that most places are closed because Italians vacation, so you might not find restaurants open, and museums/churches will probably be closed.
3. Stop by the wine country for a taste of Italy’s best
The region of Piedmont, where Barolo and Barbaresco wines are made, is one of the most picturesque areas in all of Italy. With rolling hills and castles, the place is close to magical. Plus, it’s a great place to stop for a glass of wine on the cheap and soak up the gorgeous views.
Touristy cities like Milan, Florence, and Venice can be costly in terms of food and drinks, for example, a glass of wine when you’re just sitting down could cost around 8 euros! In these places, it’s best to eat where the locals eat because then it will save money. In Piedmont (and most other areas in north Italy) the food is much better, and you can find trattorias where two people can eat pasta, drinks included, for around 30 euros.
4. Forget Venice- go to smaller islands instead
The streets of Venice are charming, but it’s also very touristy. The most beautiful island in Italy is Capri- this will be more expensive than the mainland, but it’s worth it. And if you’re looking for something a little cheaper, head over to Sardinia. It’s Italy’s top island, and it will be much more affordable than Capri or Sicily, which is the most popular place in southern Italy.
If you want to save money, then visit Procida or Ischia, two islands near Naples. Ischia has thermal waters, so this is a good place if you’re looking for health benefits while on vacation. Procida is best known for its beaches and has a lovely town centre with old churches and grey-stone streets to wander through.
5. Visit the Vatican after hours
The Vatican Museum is closed on Wednesdays, so if you plan your trip around this day, you will save yourself an entry fee (15 euros). On the other hand, you will also miss seeing some of the great works by Raphael and Caravaggio, so if paintings are your thing, go ahead and get a ticket on Wednesday.
In addition to the aforementioned Wednesday deal, you will also be able to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and climb up its dome for a stunning view of Rome for free on Sunday afternoon. The only catch is that masses are going on in the church and dome, so you will have to be quiet or get kicked out.
This is only the case during the summer, so call in advance to confirm this is still happening in the winter months.
You can also visit from 8-10 p.m on Saturday nights when the museum is open for a special night tour which will let you see the most famous works of art in a more “magical” setting for just 15 euros.
6. Spend less time shopping- all those souvenirs add up!
If you are like me, you might enjoy shopping for souvenirs, but it can eat up your budget since Italians make the best quality stuff.
Instead of shopping in Rome and Milan, where most things are incredibly pricey, go to small artisans’ towns like the Tuscan town of San Gimignano. There you will find beautiful handmade leather bags and can visit a gelateria on your way back down the hill.
If you’re into souvenirs that last longer than just a few days, then consider buying a nice leather bag and some good wine for your friends and family.
The cheapest places to buy souvenirs are flea markets (Rome’s Piazza Navona is a good one) and anywhere there are street vendors. Another tip- during Christmas time, look for little stalls in front of churches- they sell all kinds of religious paraphernalia, including Advent calendars for 1 euro.
7. Look for free events and entertainment in Rome
There is usually a lot going on in the city centre on the weekends, so look around Piazzas Navona and Spagna to see what’s happening. In the summertime, there are outdoor concerts in some of these squares and on the Gianicolo hill. During July, cinemas also have free screenings of older movies outdoors.
Rome also has a lot of museums that don’t charge entry fees, including the Capitoline Museums, Ara Pacis Museum, and Villa Farnesina. In the same area as Villa Farnesina, you will also find a park where kids can play, and people come to the picnic with their families on weekends called Il Pincio, and it is free.
There are also free concerts at Villa Celimontana, next to the Colosseum, and Villa Pamphili at certain times of the year. There are free piano concerts in Rome’s historic centre every Sunday from November to March at 5 p.m. The location of these concerts changes every season so check the Rome city website to find out where they will be held this year.
8. Get a rail pass
There are three passes for Europe, ranging from 15 to 45 days of travel within two months (the 15-day pass is also good for buses). These prices are per person- they can be shared between more than one person, and you can take as many trains as you like on each route.
A few examples of places you can visit with these rail passes are Paris, Venice, Milan, Florence, Rome and Amsterdam. Also, if you stay in hostels, they often have deals that give away some train/bus/tram tickets for free. Using public transportation is a great way to travel for cheap.
9. Do some house-swapping
House-swapping is the best way to save money in Europe- you can stay in an Italian family’s apartment for free. All you have to do is agree to take care of their plants while they’re gone and try not to burn their house down.
This arrangement also allows you to immerse yourself in Italian culture, and you might even learn a few words of the language. There are many sites online where you can find Italian families wanting to swap homes with foreigners.
10. Get close to nature
Italy has some beautiful national parks that are free. Also, if you visit any of the waterfalls in the north of Italy, you will find one of the most famous picnic spots. An example is Greve in Chianti. Picnics are a great way to calm down from all the chaos that vacations can bring.
The best way to save money in Europe is to be prepared before you go there. For example, everyone goes to the beach during summer, but no one visits the picnic sites and parks, making them perfect for hiking and picnics. The picnic sites always have a restaurant nearby, meaning you can also purchase delicious food. Oh, one last thing ! Get a Multi-Currency account to save on all your payments abroad !