How to stay on budget in…Italy

Lianna Martin March 13, 2012 13
How to stay on budget in…Italy

Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you can only go to third world countries. Being a budget traveler doesn’t mean you can’t experience ‘expensive’ destinations, it just means you need to do some research first.

The North and South of Italy are easier to imagine as two different countries, with two different personalities. While the sophisticated North sees the highest stream of visitors arriving to glimpse fashionable Milan and old world Venice, in order to stay on budget you can head to the often-neglected toe of ‘the boot’. In the rugged South Calabria sparkles with beautiful beaches, and for in-your-face culture shock head to Sicily. Wherever you find yourself, see if there is an agriturismo in a nearby small town, where you will get a closer peek into local life, at a super affordable rate. With an online library packed with a range of accommodation from rustic participation farms, to luxurious independent villas, agriturismos can be a great value.

Photo by Nick Kuchmak

Larger cities cater toward tourists, and a decent meal may cost hundreds of Euros if you are not savvy. Here the key is to walk 5 blocks in any direction away from the main strada, and look for a restaurant with a menu out front written only in Italian. It helps to know the level of service you should expect from an establishment. An osteria will be your most affordable option, and is good for quick meals and will have great wine. A trattoria is likely to be a traditional family run restaurant, where you can find local specialties. For the top level of service you would head to a ristorante, where you will dine on white tablecloths with formal servers. Knowing this, sometimes your most memorable meal will be a pizza on the street in Naples, or chestnuts roasting on the sidewalk in Rome.

Photo by Nick Kuchmak

Instead of hitting all the must see tourist sights, make a list of your own must-sees. Many of the most famous attractions in Italy are free. Spend an entire day getting lost in Venice wandering across cobblestone bridges, or spend an evening relaxing at the Trevi fountain, tossing in coins and taking in the romantically lit surroundings. Instead of going to expensive designer stores where the urge to buy might wash over you, sit for a half hour on a bench in Rome or Milan eating a (affordable) gelato where you can experience your own private fashion show.

Next time you see a great flight to Italy, don’t get intimidated by la bella vita, grab your backpack and go!


  1. magdalena March 13, 2012 at 10:55 am - Reply

    LOVE the new blog! Wow! Just another way to kill time during work now. I thought your Facebook and Twitter was enough, but G proved me wrong. Great post too on Italy. Loved Florence and Rome! Need to go back soon!

  2. Homestay in India March 14, 2012 at 9:17 am - Reply

    It was nice to stumble on your blog and I have actually enjoyed following your travels and experiences. Thank you for what you do and for inspiring others like me to do the same.

  3. adventure tours india March 17, 2012 at 7:50 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing your tips that how to stay on budget in Italy, Italy is my dream city to visit.

  4. Milena July 31, 2012 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    About staying in Italy on budget..I’m Italian and I live in the Northern part near Milan.
    I have to say that it’s true that the North can be more expensive but there are some ways to get by and have a great experience also here
    First of all Milan is a good base from which explore the North. You can easily go West to Piedmont (that is also cheaper than Milan area) and visit cities like Turin but also smaller towns like Novara. Both cities are famous for chocholate (the second also for same cookies) It s a green area, full of rice fields (we call it “the squared sea” cos when rice fields are full of water the landscape looks like the sea divided into squares!). There are many trattorie and agriturismi where you can try delicious dishes with rice, trouffles and gorgonzola cheese. Vine is also great!

    If you travel East from Milan by regular train (not the newest very fast ones) you can reach Venice in 4 hours, Padua in 3, Verona in 2,5, lake Garda in 1,5/2 hours.
    Stay in bed and breakfast and you will save money.
    In one hour you go to the enchanting lake Como.
    Dont see just Como city. Travel around and visit the small villages along the lake. A know a guy that works for a nice hostel in a nice spot in Menaggio. The beach is in front of the hostel.

    Then if you stay in Milan an affordable thing that you can not miss is the aperitivo in the navigli area green (subway stop in Porta Genova). at night it s the most lively area of the city and starting from 6,30 pm with 7 or 8 euros you can have a drink and a buffet dinner in one of the several places along the Naviglio canal!

    Just a final note: check out the train deals ( At the moment there is a special offer called “Io viaggio avunque in lombardia”. You pay 15 euros and you get a ticket to travel everywhere within Lombardia for one day.

    Have a great time in Italy!!

    • Hera March 6, 2013 at 6:16 pm - Reply

      hello, thank you for your comments , i found them interesting and helpfull i am travelling to Rome in October and would very much appreciate some help with accommodation, if you could maybe suggest some clean & comfortable hotels for 3 adults. and any other ideas on what to see would be really appreciated. (we are seeing the obvious tourist attractions) but anything else that we don’t want to miss. Kia Ora

  5. Rhiannon September 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    Meilena, Fabulous information to that only locals would know. I have friends in Italy I didn’t get to see the last time I was in Europe. Italy is a country that I find near & dear to my heart. Yes I would love to see Italy again, I was very young when there the only other time, too young to remember anything. Thank you for sharing your information about such an enchanting country. A wonderful day (evening) to you.

  6. Andrea October 7, 2012 at 2:52 pm - Reply

    Just to add a few infos to what Milena already said I think you might want to get south west from Milan and get to see Liguria. Places like cinque terre, Camogli, Portofino (and so many others) are just breathtaking!
    Have a look of these places on google, trust me, you’ll love Liguria!
    Regarding the food, which is something you gotta love in Italy as much as history and monuments, when you are in Liguria don’t miss the real Pesto genovese or allow yourself some tasty seafood!

  7. lee laurino March 10, 2013 at 1:51 pm - Reply

    great post: I return Home To Italy every year for 4 to 6 weeks and it is a never ending exploration of new places and people
    Hera, when in Rome try the hotel convents:
    clean, safe and although not posh they are affordable. Book yourself or use the service
    also the beehive near the main train station has rooms with shared baths or you can rent one of their apts or a room with private facilities.
    check the web site she has great suggestions

  8. Amy June 3, 2013 at 10:05 pm - Reply

    Do the agriturismos have blow dryers in the bathrooms?

  9. Jennifer Moore June 10, 2013 at 12:06 am - Reply
  10. Jen July 13, 2013 at 1:31 am - Reply

    On our second trip to Italy last year, we went to Puglia and the South Adriatic coast for a week. We had a wonderful time, and it was definitely cheaper than the north. The seafood was fantastic, and the people very welcoming. However, the main tourists are other Italians and Germans, so don’t expect to find very many people who speak English.

  11. Julia August 8, 2013 at 11:56 am - Reply

    I recommend considering doing shared rooms in a hostel, dorm-style. I found during my time in Florence and Rome, I was rarely at the hostel, so if I was just going to be there to sleep, I didn’t at all mind there being other folks around. I do think it’s important to find a place with quiet hours, though, as any dorm-style situation can get rambunctious (but in my experience that is almost never what actually happens unless you’re seeking out the party hostels).

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