Ah, Bella Italia. Conjures up images of designer boutiques, smart pavement cafes with eye-wateringly expensive menus, and beautifully dressed people sipping frothy cappuccinos in the sunshine, doesn’t it? Or perhaps Italy means flying down snow-packed pistes with the wind whipping your cheeks, or maybe it even touring the lakes, vineyards and rolling hills of rural Italy. My mother grew up telling us about Italy, of the fabric shops and the endless amount of gelato, despite not having an ounce of mediterranean blood in us.
Italy was the second foreign country I visited, and it was hot, sticky and crowded. After Nancy touted it as her favorite place in the world, I was disappointed with Rome and Naples, but loved Sorrento’s sea views. As it turns out, there is a seemingly endless list of different holiday experiences on offer in this glorious part of the world, and we went during the height of tourist season. What they often have in common is a certain luxury factor that many might associate with top of the range holidays and a price to match, though you might be surprised to learn that a trip to Italy doesn’t have to cost una pasta (haha, get it?).
Take my solo trip to Pisa. I flew on a budget airline, stayed with local hosts on couchsurfing and searched out the cheap eats, spending a mere 120€ between the flight, food and transportation . In trips to Rome, Sorrento, Capri, Florence, Pisa and Bologna, I’ve picked up a few tips for keeping costs down in the Boot.
Teaming a low-cost flight with your own choice of hotel is often a great way to enjoy a city break or a stay in one of Italy’s famous locations. Book your flight as early as possible, as scheduled flights rarely stay cheap for long – particularly over weekends or public holidays. Look for hotels with good reviews and try to find those that are close to public transport networks, or be prepared to walk a little distance to get to the main sights. Unless you hit on a great deal, those hotels within the city centre or close to the major sights are typically more expensive. Do your best to shop around – you’ll often find great deals where you least expect them.
Check out local markets for a quick lunch, and never eat at a place right near the sites. Take a look around, and you’ll see that there are zero locals around, and this for a reason! In Florence a few years back, I caved and devoured a plate of tagliatelle near the Medici Palace, and 250g costs me nearly 10€! When I travel, I often tweet locals or ask friends for recommendations.
If you’re after a package break, you’ll find plenty of Italy holiday deals through tour operators like Thomas Cook. The best discounts are often advertised on last-minute holidays, but you’ll frequently find some great deals on next year’s or next season’s breaks too.
And splurge when it’s necessary! I took a boat ride in Capri to the Blue Grotto and the Novio and I stuffed ourselves at a dinner theatre in Bologna. Italy doesn’t have to be expensive, but when in Rome…
Have you been to Rome? What are your top destinations and top tips for saving money while on a city break?