5 Tips on How to Vacation in Italy on a Budget

vacation in italy on a budget

One question I get a lot from friends and family who want to go to Italy or Europe on vacation is, “Is it expensive?” The answer: It doesn’t have to be! I spent less money in Italy on my last 2-week vacation than if I was going to take a 2-week long trip to Fort Lauderdale, where I was living at the time. Want to learn how to vacation in Italy on a budget, too? Here are 5 great tips to cut corners and still have a incredible time.

Research flights

You do not need to pay $1,000 for a round-trip flight to Europe if you don’t want to! I recently scored a one-way ticket to Ireland from NY for $180, taxes included. Here are some tips for finding the cheapest flight for your vacation in Italy on a budget:

  • Go incognito mode—if you don’t, booking sites will track your search and jack the prices up on your flight every time you visit
  • Use sites like Skyscanner and AirfareWatchdog—and set up low-fare alerts for your destination
  • Use points (if you have ’em!)
  • Be flexible with your date—you might want to travel on Friday to get the most of your weekend, but flights on Sunday or midweek are likely cheaper

Visit during off-season

vacation in italy on a budget

  • Take advantage of your office’s holiday break so you can stay longer (and use fewer vacation days)
  • Avoid the routine of having to cook and clean for guests around the holidays 🙂
  • There are so much fewer people at all the tourist sites that you will inevitably want to see.
  • Less time waiting in the queue
  • Opportunity to interact with locals, instead of just being one of the thousands of tourists they encounter every day

Book hostels

cool hostels in rome

If you want to vacation in Italy on a budget, definitely book a hostel. Long gone are the days when hostels were just for young people who didn’t mind bed bugs and loud noises. Boutique hostels are popping up all around the world, and can be as little as $30 per night! I’ve included all the best ones in another post—check out my round up, here: Where to Stay on the Cheap: 5 Cool Hostels to Try.

Other, non-monetary benefits include:

  • Book tours through your hostel for a discount
  • The opportunity to meet other down-to-earth travelers who are staying there
  • The inside scoop on the best things to do and see that are off-the-beaten-path
  • Prime locations within the city without the cost
  • Complimentary breakfast (just a coffee and a pastry)


What does the formal meal structure look like in Italy? Well, you have the…

  1. Antipasto (appetizer: cold meat, cheese, bruschetta)
  2. Primo (non-meat: includes risotto, pasta, polenta, gnocchi, lasagna, casserole)
  3. Secondo (the main course: meat and fish)
  4. Contorno (side dish, served with second: veggies)
  5. Insalata (if the contorno had a leafy veg, then no salad. otherwise this is the after-dinner salad)
  6. Dolce (dessert: tiramisu, pannacotta, zuppa inglese, cake, pie, or gelato)
  7. Caffe (espresso, never a cappuccino after 11am)
  8. Digestivo (grappa, amara, limoncello: to ‘ease’ digestion)

Does that seem like a lot to you? ?

Take advantage of something called the apertivo that tourists typically neglect and you won’t be breaking the beak on nice dinners every night. My advice: treat yourself to a few nice dinners in between nights of apertivo, and your wallet—and your scale—will thank you!

  • Apertivo is a drink and a light snack.
  • People (read: locals) don’t eat dinner in Italy until around 9pm, so the Apertivo is perfect for us Americans that are used to eating early. It occurs around 7pm-9pm.
  • Apertivo is very popular in the summertime when you can order prosecco, spumante, or a Bellini
  • Food can include olives, crisps, nuts, cheese and other fingerfoods—sometimes enough to fill you up if you’re like me and can’t eat and drink at the same time

Walk everywhere

Let’s say you’re staying in Trastevere, but you want to go to the Spanish Steps. You might think it’s too long to go there and back on foot. Well, bring your walking shoes! There’s no better way to see the historic center of Rome (or arguably, any city). The fact that you might have to cross the Tiber along the way is all the more reason to take a walk! Both times I was in Italy, I actually lost weight from all the walking. Not only do you save on train and bus tickets and cab fare, but you also…

  • Get some exercise in between all that eating
  • Walk through ancient Rome (or whatever city) and see all the monuments throughout
  • Avoid transportation strikes that occur almost weekly in Italy
  • Avoid having to navigate the confusing metro system
    • And the germs on the handrails!

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Save Money for Travel


Got any other must-know tips on how to vacation in Italy on a budget? I’d love to hear them—leave them in the comments below! 

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    1. Oh for sure, some of the apertivo I’ve had are downright wimpy, just a few chips and olives, but honestly, I’m not big on eating a huge lunch and a huge dinner so it ended up working out alright. But you’re so right, I should definitely mention the regional differences though in the post!

  1. My daughter and I were in Siena 2 weeks ago.. about 4 in the afternoon we stopped at one of the main restaurants that line the Piazza del Campo where they run the famous il Palio horse race.. We decided to splurge and order a prosecco for 5€ and were delighted to find it came with an aperitivo with cheese, prosciutto and a bruschetta-tomato topping!!

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