Italy is on just about everyone’s travel bucket list but it’s not often thought of as a budget-friendly destination. However, when I returned from a 9-day Italy trip last spring I was surprised by how little I ended up spending. If you’re willing to pass on a few luxuries, you can get around Italy on a budget of about $65 a day (not including airfare).
Everyone thought I was crazy for spending my Spring Break in Italy right after returning from a semester abroad in Thailand. People either thought I was extremely stupid or a trust fund baby. Truthfully, I worked my ass off to save up for Thailand and I ended up having a lot of money left over. If I could do it all over again I wouldn’t change a thing — except maybe getting pick-pocketed on my first day in Florence.
Here’s how I traveled Italy on a budget!
We managed to score a pretty good deal on flights from Chicago to Florence. Our flight cost about $800 roundtrip during Spring Break which is a very popular travel time. I use skyscanner.com for all my flights.
This is one of the biggest budget busters no matter where you go. We saved money by staying in hostels and using Couchsurfing for our first few nights in Florence. Couchsurfing is absolutely free and hostels will set you back between $20 and $30 a night in most places in Italy. Our Couchsurfing host actually picked us up from the airport when we arrived which saved us a few extra euros.
Most cities in Italy are very walkable and so we had several days with zero transportation costs. When we traveled from city to city we took the train. This varies in cost depending on your destination however, we found most trips to be pretty reasonable. For example, the train from Florence to Pisa was only about €10. In Venice we bought a multi-day boat pass for €30 to travel around the islands. The biggest expense in the transportation category was our last-minute ticket from Florence to Rome which set us back about €80. This could have easily been avoided if we had planned ahead.
This is where the idea of traveling Italy on a budget seems the hardest. I’ll admit — most of my calories came from gelato and cappuccinos. But when we got around to eating real food, Italy had some pretty dang good cheap eats. A panini will set you back about €5 most places and a slice of pizza even less. A dinner and a glass of wine at a sit-down restaurant can set you back €10-20. We tried to avoid the tourist trap restaurants but some for meals we were just too hangry after a long day of walking to seek out the good stuff. Your morning cappuccino will cost you €2 at most places and a healthy serving of gelato about the same.
If you want to save a couple bucks you can buy your food in grocery stores and cook it up in your hostel. Some days we just got a hunk of bread and some cheese and wine and went to the park for a cheap picnic.
This is probably where we spent the least money, just because there is so much to see by walking around. In Florence, you can hike to a beautiful plaza that overlooks the entire city. In Venice we opted to walk around and watch the gondolas float by rather than pay €80 for a ride in one. Cinque Terre provided one of the most beautiful day hikes I’ve ever been on without costing a single euro. In Verona it is absolutely free to visit Juliet’s balcony.
The only activities that we opted to shell out some euros for were the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. These two important cultural sights set us back €12 for both and were well worth it. If you’re a history or architecture buff you will probably want to visit some more historical sites. We were perfectly content viewing these from the outside but the average admission for entrance tickets, shows, etc. is about €17 according to budgetyourtrip.com.
If you’re the kind of traveler who goes out every night and gets bottle service at the club you’re probably not looking up budget guides to destinations. So I’ll just assume you’re like me and enjoy a glass or two of wine or mojitos every couple of days. This is very easy to do in Italy on a budget. A decent bottle of wine in a grocery store will only cost a few euros. We even stayed at a hostel in Rome that offered extremely strong Sangria for free one night. We had more than our fair share and spent our night watching the Lizzie Mcguire movie in the hostel common room. When in Rome am I right?
We actually never made it out to the clubs or bars at all but after scouring the internet for minutes I found some average prices. A bottle of beer will set you back about €3.50-4.50 in a bar. Roughly the same as in the states.
As you can tell, Italy doesn’t have the be the expensive luxury destination it’s made out to be. Traveling Italy on a budget is actually very easy. If a broke college student fresh off the plane from studying abroad can visit, so can you!