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How to experience Italy on a Budget: A thrifty traveller’s guide to La Dolce Vita

Travellers in Sicily, Italy Photo: Contiki

Italy – land of pasta, pizza, and unparalleled charm. From the historic streets of Rome to the romantic canals of Venice, Italy is a country that captures the hearts (and appetites) of travellers from around the globe! But let’s be real: living out your Italian dream can drain your bank account faster than you can say “gelato.”

If you dream of sipping espresso in bustling piazzas and gazing in awe at Renaissance masterpieces all without maxing out your credit card, fear not fellow penny-pinchers, read on as I guide you through the ins and outs of experiencing Italy on a budget!

Transportation: Buzzing around without breaking the bank

When it comes to zipping around Italy on a budget, high-speed trains are the budget traveller’s best friend. Sure, they may not serve champagne and caviar, but they’ll get you from Rome to Venice in a jiffy! Be sure to book train tickets early in advance, as this can save you enough euros to splurge on an extra glass of wine or two!

Now I know Italy is the home of Lamborghinis and Ferraris, and as tempting it may be to channel your inner James Bond and zoom around the Eternal City in style, let’s face it: unless you’ve got pockets deeper than the Trevi Fountain, that Italian sports car will drain your wallet faster than they drive! Instead, make the most of Italy’s trusty public transport system and join the ranks of savvy travellers who know that saving money is the ultimate Italian fashion statement.

After all, nothing screams “I’m living my best Italian life” quite like mastering the art of frugality. Bonus tip: download the app Citymapper! Simply type in where you’re going, and it will show the cheapest and quickest transport options to get you on your way!

Looking to do some longer day trips and travelling with others? Renting a car to explore can also be a savvy option. Just be prepared for those Italian drivers who seem to think speed limits are mere suggestions (especially in Naples!) And there’s no better way to experience the thrill of Italy than navigating the chaotic streets of Rome.

Venice in winter, Italy

Image source:Contiki

Accommodation: Sleeping in style on a shoestring

Looking to stay in the city centre? Forget it, unless you’re ready to shell out big bucks for a not-even-that fancy hotel. Budget travellers know that the real adventure begins when you opt for a cosy hostel or a charming AirBnb tucked away in a local neighbourhood! Not only will you save money, but by doing this you’ll also get a taste of authentic Italian life away from overcrowded tourism hotspots where the prices are inflated as high as the leaning tower of Pisa.

Booking accommodations outside of big cities like Rome or Venice gets more bang for your buck, and so does staying for longer periods of time! While you may be itching to see and do as much as possible, slow travel can sometimes be more budget-friendly as some accommodations offer discounts when you stay over a certain number of nights.

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Visiting attractions: See the sights without spending a fortune

Who says you have to break the bank to soak up Italy’s rich history and culture? First things first, ditch the tourist traps and embrace your inner explorer! I am sure you’ve heard of the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps (Yes, that’s in Italy…) the Roman Forum, Pantheon, Rialto Bridge, Florence Cathedral, Ponte Vecchio, Piazzale Michelangelo, Vatican Museums and Cinque Terre Coastal Trail – ALL FREE!

And sure, the Colosseum may be calling your name, but have you heard about the lesser-known gems like the Baths of Caracalla or the quirky Cat Sanctuary of Rome? There’s plenty of free things to see and do, and trust me, your bank account and Instagram feed will thank you!

Once you’ve decided where to go, it’s time to strategically plan when to go. Many museums and attractions offer free or discounted entry on certain days, so plan your itinerary accordingly and watch those savings stack up faster than a tower of freshly made cannoli!

Don’t forget about those free walking tours, led by enthusiastic locals who are eager to show of their city’s history and other hidden gems – but be prepared to pay a tip at the end (which is still a fraction of the cost of a guided tour). Who needs expensive guided tours when you’ve got a picnic blanket and a sense of culinary adventure? Go forth and conquer Italy’s attractions like a pro – one discounted entry ticket and picnic spread at a time!

things to do in Italy

Image source:Contiki

Eating out: Italian bites on a budget

Channelling your inner foodie (a must when in Italy) can be a bit of a pricey endeavour, especially when your eyes are bigger than your wallet. Here are some saucy secrets to help you savour the flavours of Italy while saving your pennies.

Firstly, familiarise yourself with the art of the aperitivo – it’s like happy hour, Italian style! Head to a local bar around sunset and indulge in a refreshing spritz or two, accompanied by a generous spread of complimentary snacks. It’s the perfect pre-dinner ritual that’ll leave your stomach satisfied and your wallet intact.

Like with accommodation, skip the tourist traps in the city centre (half of which aren’t even Italian owned) and seek out local trattorias and pizzerias where you can enjoy true Italian-made, mouthwatering dishes without the hefty price tag! Sure, dining in Italy’s world-renowned restaurants would be a treat to the tastebuds, but who needs Michelin stars when you can follow the locals’ lead and experience authentic Italian dishes and culture all in one.

Another top tip: tap water in Italy is safe to drink, and free! Say arrivederci to overpriced bottled water, and fill up your reusable bottle at public fountains sprinkled around the cities instead – a gift to your wallet and the planet.

When it comes to traveling to Italy on a budget, a little creativity goes a long way. Keep an eye out for discounts and special offers, whether it’s for train tickets, museum entry, or even your morning espresso. Travelling in groups can help save your coin as many of the bigger expenses, like accommodation and transport, can be split between you! And don’t forget to notify your bank before you travel and inquire about any foreign transaction fees associated with your credit cards. The last thing you want is to return home to a hefty bill filled with unexpected charges!

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Choose a Contiki: Trips built for the thrifty traveller!

Travelling with Contiki is the best way to see Italy on a budget. Not only will we have the trip of a lifetime organised for you, but you get to do it all with like-minded people! On your travels, remember that the true essence of la dolce vita lies not in the size of your bank account, but in the richness of your experiences and the warmth of the people you meet along the way.

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