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Feature photo by kevinandersson Photo by pizzodisevo

Cheap travel in Italy is still possible – you just need a little luck and an adventurous spirit.

In this guide you’ll find advice for both a bare-bones budget trip of 30 euros per day and a more comfortable but still frugal budget of 100 euros per day.

Shelter

Lodging is where you’re going to spend the most money in Italy.

30E / day

If you’re an adventurer, Couchsurf. Besides bringing the cost of your stay down to $0, you will meet people who will undoubtedly be willing to host you next time you find yourself in Italy.

Couchsurfing is more popular and mainstream than you think. Rome alone has over 1,400 registered Couch Surf members.

100E/day

If you’re not so trusting or have a family, HI Youth Hostels are ample in Italy and are some of the most clean and beautiful hostels in the world.

For 10-20E / person / night you can stay in a renovated church, villa or a converted castle. Most offer family rooms for a higher fee.

Photo by travellingtamas

Food

Food is the heart of Italian life. Even in my poorest backpacking days, I existed on good bread topped with tomatoes, garlic and whatever cheese I could find for 2E per meal.

It is not customary to tip in Italy, so don’t feel bad and waste your money- the service charge has already been added to the bill.

30E / day

If you’re willing to buy and cook your own food, you should be looking at 10E or less per day for food.

Some saving tips:

Eat at the bar, don’t sit down. You could get charged as much as 5x the amount for an espresso if you sit down.

Shop the markets and don’t look down your nose at supermarket boxed wines; I’ve had good table wine for as little as .65E in Italy!

100E / day

If you spend a little more on food, you won’t be disappointed.

More saving tips:

Beware of tourist trap restaurants near major monuments.

Look for trattorias, which are cheaper than ristorante, and order only primi (first courses). This is usually a pasta dish and will fill you up.

Soda is expensive in Italy – order the house table wine instead. Wine is often even cheaper than water!

Photo by wtlphotos

Getting Around

There is an array of bus and train options to take you around Italy.

Once in town, you can walk anywhere that you need to go. There is absolutely no reason to take a cab anywhere unless you are in an extreme hurry.

30E / day

Get ready for this, don’t buy a ticket. That’s right- get on the train/bus and hope for the best.

Italy’s train and bus personnel only conduct random checks for tickets and because schedules are often crazy, you are allowed to purchase when you get on. If the conductor doesn’t come by, you’re in the clear.

Worst case scenario, you have to buy a ticket when the conductor comes by – so have money ready and pretend that you didn’t know any better.

100E / day

Metros, trains and buses are all relatively inexpensive. If there is more than 1 person in your group, you can save by purchasing a Saver Rail Pass at Tenitalia.

The Pass is for 2-5 people traveling together, and costs significantly less than purchasing individual tickets for each leg of the trip.

Sights

Why else would you come to Italy? The sheer volume of architecture and artwork is enough to keep you busy for months.

The sheer volume of architecture and artwork is enough to keep you busy for months.

The things to beware of are extras tacked on expenses – 2E to see this part of the monument, 5E to climb it, etc.

30E / day

Thankfully, most sites are free if you don’t enter. The leaning tower of Pisa, the Roman forum, the outside of the Coloseum, Florence’s Grand piazza, the Trevi Fountain and the beautiful countryside all are sights you can visit without paying a cent.

100E / day

You can choose to visit a few major monuments for under 20E per day. Most cities offer a discounted multi-pass, granting you entrance to all listed sites for one price.

Inquire for these at the tourist information centers, generally located in the train station in the center of town.

Happy Travels!

Community Connection!

For more insider tips on travel in Italy, get in touch with travelers from the Matador community.

RollingStone is an expert on Rome. VitaSogno knows the locals in Assisi. Ghino studied and worked in Italy for two years.

Suz (or diastro americano, as her Italian cousins call her), speaks fluent Italian and has lived in Florence and Rome.

The Matador travel community is blossoming. Join us today.

Budget + Backpacker


 

About The Author

Kelly Lalonde

Kelly Lalonde writes: “I get bored with normalcy, love pasta, love watching the city come alive on a long walk in the morning.”

  • Nomadic Matt

    I think with the current exchange rate, 30 dollars a day might be a little low but you could stll do it for less than 45 or so. I was just in Amsterdam and maybe spent 25-30 euros day by couchsurfing and cooking. Once you remove paying for a place, your expenses halve.

    Also, be on the look out for bread and water! They charge you in Italy for that unlike here in America. I kept refusing bread and water….and like you, drank the cheap wine. I mean it's italy right! :)

    excellent advise! (especially about the train!)

  • Kris

    love the tip about train/bus! i'm always looking for ways to save money while traveling.

  • Eva

    Great advice!

    I generally avoid HI hostels where possible, though. I find independents are usually friendlier (though you don't get the same consistency in terms of cleanliness, comfort, etc), rarely have lockouts and curfews, and FAR more likely to have kitchens – a key for self-catering.

    Colors Hotel and Hostel in Rome was fantastic – a little pricier in the high season than some other Rome hostels, but in the off season it went down to 17 euros a night including breakfast (this was 2007), and it was literally outside the gates of Vatican City. Great service, comfy beds, decent price, unbeatable location.

    The HIs in Florence and Venice were far and away two of the least hospitable places I've ever stayed… curfew AND lockout, loudspeaker announcements ordering people out. Felt like juvie.

  • http://www.nomadicmatt.com Nomadic Matt

    I think with the current exchange rate, 30 dollars a day might be a little low but you could stll do it for less than 45 or so. I was just in Amsterdam and maybe spent 25-30 euros day by couchsurfing and cooking. Once you remove paying for a place, your expenses halve.

    Also, be on the look out for bread and water! They charge you in Italy for that unlike here in America. I kept refusing bread and water….and like you, drank the cheap wine. I mean it’s italy right! :)

    excellent advise! (especially about the train!)

  • Kris

    love the tip about train/bus! i’m always looking for ways to save money while traveling.

  • http://www.matadorpulse.com Eva

    Great advice!

    I generally avoid HI hostels where possible, though. I find independents are usually friendlier (though you don’t get the same consistency in terms of cleanliness, comfort, etc), rarely have lockouts and curfews, and FAR more likely to have kitchens – a key for self-catering.

    Colors Hotel and Hostel in Rome was fantastic – a little pricier in the high season than some other Rome hostels, but in the off season it went down to 17 euros a night including breakfast (this was 2007), and it was literally outside the gates of Vatican City. Great service, comfy beds, decent price, unbeatable location.

    The HIs in Florence and Venice were far and away two of the least hospitable places I’ve ever stayed… curfew AND lockout, loudspeaker announcements ordering people out. Felt like juvie.

  • Sara, Ms. Adventures

    You forgot to mention "aperitivo" for food choices. In some places, you can get an entire buffet for the price of a drink (6-10 euro) A cheap meal :)

  • Miles

    Wow. Thanks so much for these tips. I want to visit every continent at least once,(3 down already!) but I was worried about paying to much. These tips most definitely will come in handy.

  • http://www.msadventuresinitaly.com/blog Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy

    You forgot to mention “aperitivo” for food choices. In some places, you can get an entire buffet for the price of a drink (6-10 euro) A cheap meal :)

  • Dennis

    Great advice!!!
    Definitely be careful with restaurants and water and bread. Even if you don't ask for the bread, they bring it and you assume it is free but they charge you. I was in Rome once and the waiter brought us (without us asking) the driest bread in the world and naturally we thought it was on the house only to be shocked that we were charged 5 Euros for it.

    Dennis
    http://www.italytraveltours.biz

  • Dennis

    Oh and if you're a student, don't forget to get your ISIC card before you leave home…it can get you great deals on everything from museums, fares, and hostel prices.

    Dennis
    http://www.italytraveltours.biz

  • Ilene

    Thank you for the great travel tips.

    However, I cannot disagree more about not buying a bus ticket – several years ago, on our first day in Rome, we boarded a bus bound for the Colosseum, without first getting tickets (we couldn't find any place to buy them). We decided to stay on the bus anyway, and somewhere along the route, in the middle of nowhere, the bus was boarded by two uniformed policia who demanded (in loud Italian, of course) that everyone without tickets get off the bus. About a dozen of us were taken off the bus and given “fines” amounting to $55 US dollars each – all for lack of a bus ticket that cost less than one dollar! We asked for and got receipts, which gave us access to all the public transportation we wanted to ride for the rest of the day but it was an expensive bus pass and an experience that I would never recommend to anyone else!

    I've always supposed we were strong-armed by the local police but clearly, we had broken their law and didn’t feel like we had any other options. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if we hadn’t had the Euros in our pockets!

  • http://www.italytraveltours.biz Dennis

    Great advice!!!
    Definitely be careful with restaurants and water and bread. Even if you don’t ask for the bread, they bring it and you assume it is free but they charge you. I was in Rome once and the waiter brought us (without us asking) the driest bread in the world and naturally we thought it was on the house only to be shocked that we were charged 5 Euros for it.

    Dennis
    http://www.italytraveltours.biz

  • http://www.italytraveltours.biz Dennis

    Oh and if you’re a student, don’t forget to get your ISIC card before you leave home…it can get you great deals on everything from museums, fares, and hostel prices.

    Dennis
    http://www.italytraveltours.biz

  • Ilene

    Thank you for the great travel tips.

    However, I cannot disagree more about not buying a bus ticket – several years ago, on our first day in Rome, we boarded a bus bound for the Colosseum, without first getting tickets (we couldn’t find any place to buy them). We decided to stay on the bus anyway, and somewhere along the route, in the middle of nowhere, the bus was boarded by two uniformed policia who demanded (in loud Italian, of course) that everyone without tickets get off the bus. About a dozen of us were taken off the bus and given “fines” amounting to $55 US dollars each – all for lack of a bus ticket that cost less than one dollar! We asked for and got receipts, which gave us access to all the public transportation we wanted to ride for the rest of the day but it was an expensive bus pass and an experience that I would never recommend to anyone else!

    I’ve always supposed we were strong-armed by the local police but clearly, we had broken their law and didn’t feel like we had any other options. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if we hadn’t had the Euros in our pockets!

  • Denise

    It's regrettable that you are advising young people to break the law and be dishonest just because the odds of getting caught are low. Didn't your parents ever teach you to do the right thing because it's the right thing, not just to avoid the consequences of gettiing caught? It's pretty easy to get away with lots of crimes (shoplifting, cheating on exams, jumping turnstyles, etc.) but it doesn't mean we do it just because we probably won't get caught.

  • Denise

    It’s regrettable that you are advising young people to break the law and be dishonest just because the odds of getting caught are low. Didn’t your parents ever teach you to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not just to avoid the consequences of gettiing caught? It’s pretty easy to get away with lots of crimes (shoplifting, cheating on exams, jumping turnstyles, etc.) but it doesn’t mean we do it just because we probably won’t get caught.

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  • Stu700

    Nice tips! I didn't know you could buy tickets on the train in Italy though and I didn't get checked very much. I always bought at the platfom on my recent trip there, but if I had know looking back, I probably wouldn't have bothered. I guess that's dishonest but ces't la vie. When in Rome, though, a good money saver is the Roma Pass for 20 euros. It gets you entry into two major sites of your choice (for example, the Colosseum and Sant' Angelo castle, reducd entry on a bunch more sites, AND free metro and bus travel for three days (so you don't have to worry about those pesky ticket inspectors).

  • kuzak

    I was amazed to read the comment about travelling without a ticket – to me it seems disrespectful; you visit a country and shouldn't "use & abuse". Surely you have come to enjoy what it has to offer? On my recent trip to Italy I travelled all the busses / trams and had a wonderful time learning the lay of the land; it gave me the opportunity to identify (and visit) the sights I couldn't find on my last trips and of course, I paid for travelling! Imagine if everyone decided not to pay? In any event, I felt gratified when I experienced inspectors boarding the buses and meting out tickets (practically every day) – serve the offenders right! Oh, did they argue and shout and argue some more!

  • Foreverfreebird

    Umm….I live in Italy, and the advice about bus/train tickets is completely wrong. Trains: It is not true that you can buy tickets on board. Tickets must be bought beforehand, and, if they are not for a specific time, must be also validated before getting on the train. While I have been on local trains in which the conductor never came around to check tickets, I don't think that I've ever been on a trip of more than an hour in which my ticket hasn't been checked at least once. Especially for travelers, who are likely to be on long hauls between Venice-Milan-Florence-Rome-Naples, the conductor does check tickets! If you do not have one, the conductor will charge you the price of the ticket, plus a fine. Buses: Bus tickets are not expensive to begin with. In my city, Milan, a one euro ticket is good for 75 minutes. For three euro, you can have an all-day pass for all buses, trams, and the subway system. For thirty euro, you can travel all you want for a month! You can buy tickets at metro stations in cities with subways. In any Italian city you can buy tickets for the buses/trams/metro at most Tabacchi, which are bars/shops licensed to sell tobacco products. They are all marked with a prominent "T" sign outside. There's one on nearly every street in Italy. Many newsstands also sell bus tickets. In some places (not all–you can't in Milan, but you can in Florence, for example) you can buy tickets from the driver, but always at a higher price. That said, yes, you can often get away without having a ticket on the city buses. Transportation department officials randomly board buses to check for tickets. I am on the bus or tram every day. Sometimes I go three months without seeing any checks, sometimes I see three checks in a week. However, if they do a check and you do not have a ticket, you CANNOT just buy a ticket at that point. You will have to pay a fine. The way it usually works here is that if you pay it immediately, you pay the lowest fine (usually about 40 euro). If you take a ticket and go by the office to pay it later, you pay a higher fine. If you don't pay within 60 days, you pay an even higher fine. When you are obviously a tourist, they will of course want you to pay immediately because they know that you will otherwise just leave the country without paying. All of this is NOT hassling tourists; it is normal policy and well-posted and well-known. Italian citizens are treated just the same. Although they may occasionally decide to be nice and let you slide since you are a confused visitor, ignorance is not an excuse! You knew the bus wasn't free. You knew you didn't have a ticket. And here in Milan, at least, they've been cracking down lately. Public transportation is already heavily subsidized by the cities to make it affordable. You will not break the bank using public transportation in Italy. I don't know how you could possibly spend more than five euro a day on transportation. I agree with the above posters–yes, we are often relaxed about the rules here in Italy, but it doesn't seem right to instruct people on a site like this to deliberately plan to break laws. Especially since, if all travellers did as you suggest, all chaos would break out. I'm sorry if I come across as overly negative, but it hits a nerve for someone writing an article as an "expert" to give such blatantly misleading information. The rest of the advice in this article is good and useful, although only a first-time traveler to Italy would be likely to not know most of it. I do highly agree with the suggestion to get away from tourist-trap restaurants. If you are in a restaurant with a view of a major site, it will either be outrageously expensive or have mediocre food or both. Just walk four or five blocks, and you'll get much better, and more authentic, food for less.

  • Sarah

    There is also a few days a month where certain museums are free. The Vatican Museum is free on the last Saturday of the month, I believe… & there are other days when you can get free admission to many other museums in Rome. These days are usually very crowded, so getting there EARLY is a great idea. I 100% second the comment about apertivo. Buy a drink and FILLLL UP! :) Oh, and definitely don't bother with the bottled water in Rome… the street fountains are not only safe, but yummy and fresh.

  • http://www.budgetfoodinrome.com/ Laura

    unluckily, you can find aperitivo only in big cities (milano, rome). anyway there are many other good ways to save money:
    -at lunch find a bakery and ask for a sandwich: it’s cheaper than in bars, cafè and restaurant
    -look for rosticcerie, trattorie and osterie: they are cheaper than restaurants
    -shop at local market and in supermarkets
    -for a light lunch you can also a ice cream
    have a nice trip

  • http://www.busforsale.com/sell/ JD @ Sell Buses

    Taking the bus is a great cost savor.

  • belbel

    I went to Venice in June and me and my parents (I’m 14) were staying in a relatively nice hotel in Favaro Veneto, the hotel owners gave us some free bus tickets so we could get to Venezia for free, we found a supermarket, got some table wine in a box and one night we got some in a bottle and it was nowhere near as nice, the vino tabola was less than a Euro too. You’re also right about the sitting down too, we were always standing, at one place it was €5 for a baguette-type roll (i forgot the name, sorry) and a glass of wine, but if you sat down it jumped to over €30!

  • Juliet

    yea, DO NOT skip buying bus tickets. on trains, you can sometimes act stupid and they’ll let you just buy the ticket onboard, but if you get caught on a bus without a ticket, you’ll get charged a 45 euro fine.. for a ticket that would have cost 2 euro. and after you buy that bus ticket, make sure you validate it onboard, or it doesn’t count. if you’re going to be traveling around the country a lot, look into eurorail passes, they can help you save money.

    one good option for cheap food is to find panini places, they’re everywhere and are usually really yummy and really cheap. there was this one tiny panini place near my school in florence where, almost every day, i would get a huge vegetable panino with spices and oil and a cheese spread for 3 euro.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1504590306 Virginia Anderson

    walk everywhere, enjoy the sites, the scenery is the best part of italy, buy a eurorail, stay at hostles, drink table wine not water, and stay away from the florence leather market if you want to save money. 

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