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How to travel to Italy on a budget

Incredible cuisine. Landmark art and architecture. Natural beauty from rolling vineyards and alpine lakes, to limestone cliffs on sun-kissed Mediterranean coastline. Italy offers a wealth of attractions and experiences. But partaking in everything this great European country has to offer can start to add up cost-wise.


First of all, there's the cost of flights, hotel rooms and other essentials like travel insurance. Most attractions like museums, cathedrals and archaeological sites charge for admission. And with so many culinary delights to sample, food costs can also quickly add up.


But don't worry. There are plenty of ways to see Italy on the cheap and plan a budget trip. Here are some insider tips on how to save money when visiting Italy, while still relishing the classic Italian experience.


Can you do Italy on a budget?

Yes! By doing things like traveling in shoulder or off-season, using public transportation, and taking advantage of affordable food, Italy can be a very budget-friendly destination. Whether travelling solo or travelling on a small group Italy itinerary, there are plenty of ways to keep costs down.


By including add-ons like meals and pre-booked accommodations, activities and tours, travelling with a small group tour will save you money. Our close working relationships with hoteliers, restaurant owners, and tour guides in Italy also enables us to get you the best deals.


Is travelling to and around Italy expensive?

While Italy may not be the most expensive country in Europe, it's also not the cheapest. The time of year that you visit, where in the country you're travelling, and how many things you want to do also factor in to how expensive your Italian trip will be.


There are ways you can keep travel costs down. You can take cheap flights on budget airlines, and fly into and out of major airports, as opposed to smaller regional hubs. And instead of going through the hassle of getting an international driving permit and organising a car rental, you can use public transit.


When is the best time to visit Italy while on a budget?

The time of year you visit Italy will also impact on how expensive your trip is. Summer is high season, so not only will all the tourist hot spots be very busy, but everything from tickets for flights to accommodations will be more expensive.


The best time of year to visit Italy on a budget is during the shoulder season, in either the spring or autumn. While the weather may not always be as perfect, you'll encounter fewer tourists, flights and other costs will be lower, and you will be able to find the best deals.


How much should I budget for a trip to Italy?

This varies depending on when and where you're visiting on your trip to Italy. Luckily, our affordable small-group tours start out as low as £975 for eight days of travel, excluding airfare. That way, while in Italy, you only need to budget based on personal preference for costs like food and drink, add-on experiences, and buying souvenirs.

Where should I go on a budget in Italy?

Where you travel on your trip to Italy will also impact on how expensive or cheap it is. Cities like Venice and Rome will be pricey even during low season.


For some of the most budget traveller-friendly places in Italy, head to Cinque Terre instead of Positano on the Amalfi Coast, Naples or Bologna instead of Milan or Rome, as well as countless charming small towns and villages throughout the countryside. Sicily is also very affordable all year round.

What is the cheapest way to get around Italy?

While you can keep transportation costs down by using public transit, there is one way to get around Italy at no extra cost: on your own two feet! With our small group walking tours and cycling tours, you can save even more money by being your own personal mode of transportation.


Apart from walking or cycling, using public transit is one of the cheaper options. You can easily get around big cities like Rome using the metro. You can also use buses in and outside of the cities. Train travel is especially popular, with both high-speed and regional train options available. The high-speed trains are generally a bit more expensive, but you can buy a rail pass to save money.

Where to stay in Italy on a budget

Staying in big Italian cities like Rome or Florence will generally cost more, especially during high season. The type of hotel will also impact the price. You can save money by choosing hotels that aren't close to major tourist areas, by sharing a room instead of getting private rooms to take advantage of double occupancy rates, or by staying in hostel dorms.


On Explore tours, we arrange all your hotels and accommodations for you to save you both time and money.


Other ways for budget travellers to save money in Italy

Here are some other top tips on how to be cost effective while travelling around Italy:

  • Seek out attractions that offer free admission. Some churches you can enter for free (with perhaps a suggested donation) while many museums also have free admission days – the Vatican Museums offer free entry on the last Sunday of each month. This is a great way for history buffs to see as much as they can on a budget
  • By budgeting on travel expenses, you can save enough to afford unforgettable experiences such as taking a gondola ride in Venice
  • If you're going to indulge in a cappuccino or espresso, drink it standing up at the bar and save yourself additional gratuity fees
  • You don't always have to scrimp and save the entire trip. You can spend less and be on a tight budget in certain cities in order to have more to spend in the places you're most excited to visit
  • Buy your own groceries. Visit a local market to stock up on affordable local foods and save cash instead of dining out
  • Head outside the city center, away from major tourist areas, to find more affordable (and better) Italian cuisine. Restaurants and stores near tourist attractions charge higher prices and are often mediocre compared to what can be found just a few blocks away
  • Save money on dining by eating a big multi-course lunch instead of a big dinner – dinners are more expensive


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