I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – our trip to Italy was pure magic. We felt a renewed sense of wonder in every city we visited and felt like even a lifetime there would never be enough to truly enjoy every aspect of the beautiful country. The people, the food, the history – all of it is remarkable. That said – I’ve gotten a few messages about how affordable it is for a visit. I’ll be honest and say that it’s not a cheap trip. We ate, drank, shopped and explored until we were busting at the seams, but budget travel in Italy is not impossible. After visiting several times and taking a look at our receipts, I’m here today to offer tips on how to swing a trip to Italy on $100 a day – and yes, that’s includes lodging!
Italy On $100 A Day
Lodging: One of the very best ways to save money while traveling in Italy (and abroad in general), is to rent a home or apartment instead of booking a hotel. This is my first tip, because not only is it the most affordable option for lodging, it also gives you the opportunity to do laundry, cook your own food (if you want) and truly immerse yourself into the culture of the country you are visiting. We stayed in apartments in both Venice (this one) and Florence (this one) thanks to my partner, HomeAway, and really got a sense for living like a local.
In Florence we were in the heart of Santo Spirito, a palazzo known for the Basicilica designed by Bruneschelli, just on the opposite side of the river from the Duomo across the Ponte Vecchio. See also: very few tourists and more authentic restaurants! There was a farmer’s market at the base of our building that sold the most beautiful flowers (plus lots of fresh fruit + vegetables) and every morning we saw kids going to school and church bells chiming. It was not something we would have experienced in a hotel. Plus – take a look at this dreamy blue tiled bathroom! I couldn’t get enough and the owner (who met us when we first checked in) told us it had just been remodeled!
For 2 nights and 3 days our total cost (with daily city tax included) was $258. We had 3 full days in the city, but only 2 nights so we definitely saved money in that regard and our host even let us drop our bags early (what a hotel might consider an early check-in) and keep them there later completely free of charge, which was a nice added bonus. For 3 full days, that works out to $86/day, or $43/person. SCORE!
Eating and Drinking: Dane and I are camels – we drink a ton of water and probably refill our Hydroflasks 2-3 times per day. In Italy, water is served bottled and any time you sit down anywhere (even if you just want a drink), you are charged a cover charge for sitting there. So just stopping for some water you’re looking at 5-7 euros. Eeek! That can add up pretty quickly. A really easy way to work around this is to pack your own reusable water bottle that can be refilled at many of the public fountains. DO NOT BE CONFUSED – I AM NOT RECOMMENDING YOU GET IN THE TREVI FOUNTAIN! You will see locals using the small water spouts around many of the larger cities (and we even saw some in the smaller villages) to stop for a drink. While filling, be considerate to not hog the fountain, particularly if a bunch of people are waiting.
When you’re in Italy, you’re going to want to eat, because HELLO?! Italians do food well – very well – and trust me, you’re going to want to get your fill of it. Italian breakfasts are light in nature (think croissants, chocolate pastries and coffee), so if you do it like the Italians, you’ll be spending 5-8 euros at breakfast and standing to enjoy your coffee and quick bite at the counter. Don’t forget to order a cappuccino – they are my favorite! Where breakfast is on-the-go, lunch and dinner are experiences. You’re not going to be getting much fast food in the way of quality or service. Meals are meant to be enjoyed, so just take it all in! Our lunches usually lasted around 1.5-2 hours and our dinners were 3+. Budgeting 40 euros per person each day for food ($46.75 based on current exchange rates) would be ample for good eating and still give you a bit of wiggle room if you’re sticking to $100 per day. To be honest – the food and wine is where I would splurge in Italy.
If you’re keeping track, we’ve reached $89.75 on our daily budget (maybe even less depending on how much you will spend for food), which means you have a little over $10 left for the day. In euros, this is 8.77 (based on current exchange rate). Thankfully, this is enough to grab solid aperitivo come dinnertime, pick up a gelato to stroll through the streets, buy some postcards (and stamps) to mail to friends or to simply pocket and use toward a tour the next day. There is so much anyone can do for free in Italy (walk around the beautiful towns, look at historic architecture, explore gardens and churches or wandering aimlessly and losing track of time (highly recommended). While it’s easy to spend money in Italy, you can absolutely make travel work on a budget!
So let’s chat – have you been to Italy? Daydreaming of going? What is your favorite town?