In the summer of 2016 I spent around three weeks in Italy. Combining my experience of that trip with other times I’ve visited Italy and considering the amount of time and money people will have to take a trip, I’ve cut my itinerary down to two weeks. In this post I’ll outline costs of food, commuting and excursions in Italy as well as giving a rough itinerary outline. Of course, everybody visits this incredible country for different reasons. I’m aware that some people may want to spend most of their time at the beach or shopping, but for me I wanted to cram as much as possible into my very short visit and at as low a cost as possible.
Whilst it/s often thought of as being one of the most expensive places on the continent, there are countless ways to travel Italy on a budget. I have already written posts on travelling Southern Italy on a budget – click here to read – as well as many posts on travelling around the country using their public transport systems, which you can read here.
- Florence, 3 nights: If you’re a history or art lover, Florence will be a dream come true for you to visit. Although most of Italy is deeply steeped in history, the postage stamp size of Florence and the proximity of so many masterworks and artifacts is an incredible thing to experience. You can visit Brunelleschi’s Duomo, the Ufizzi Gallery, Piazzale Michelangelo, Orsanmichele, the Piazza della Signora and so many other incredible landmarks. Personally, I feel if you pack two days of seeing the sights in Florence then you could use your third day to either go on a wine tasting in Tuscany or take the train out to Pisa, but it’s entirely up to you.
- Rome, 3 nights: You could spend weeks in Rome and not even begin to scratch the surface of the things to do and see. Of course, sights like the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum are must sees, but they are just a stones throw from lesser known landmarks like the Altare della Patria and Piazza Michelangelo. The Vatican Museums and St Peter’s are also must sees, which are a ten minute walk from the river and the countless things to see along that. If you have the luxury of being close to Rome, visiting in small spurts is favorable to spending weeks upon a time there purely because of the crowds and waiting times for every single excursion.
- Naples and the Amalfi Coast, 4 nights: Staying in Naples can cut your stay in this part of Italy in half if you don’t mind travelling to the different towns along the coast each day. From Naples you can easily reach Siena, Capri, Pompeii, Sorrento by train and take the bus to Positano and Amalfi. Whilst it’s not the most glamorous of the cities on this list, the food in Naples is beyond amazing and, in my opinion at least, is the best place to have pizza and pasta in the whole of Italy. Yeah I said it.
- Venice, 2 nights: Like Florence, Venice is tiny and it’s easier to cover the entirety of the city in a day or two. It’s almost like walking through a maze, and once you begin exploring the streets it is wildly enrapturing.
- Milan, 2 nights: If you’re a fan of fashion or modern art, Milan’s offerings will be of great interest to you. The immediate area around the Piazza del Duomo is a tourist haven and the flagship of some of the largest Italian luxury brands there are. Closer to the canal, there is a much younger that doesn’t seem as stifled as many of the other places I visited in Italy. Experimental restaurants, coffee bars and stores line the historical streets and the whole area made me feel like I was in Berlin rather than Milan.
Because of the time constraints I’ve placed on this post, there are many locations across the country that haven’t made this list. If you have the luxury of additional budget or time to spend, then I would also recommend visiting Sicily and Siena whilst you’re in the South, seeing Bologna while you’re in Tuscany and stopping in Verona when travelling between Venice and Milan.
Depending on where in the world you’re travelling to Italy from, flights will vary drastically. From the UK and elsewhere on the continent you can reach all of the major airports for under £100 each way, but if you’re flying from the US or Canada flights can cost from £600 return when flying direct. If you’re looking to travel on a budget, I would recommend booking flights in the winter and autumn months, not only because it knocks off some money on flight prices but also on hotels once you arrive in Italy. If you’d like to learn more about using Skyscanner for flights, hotels and car hire, you can read my full guide here.
In the city center of popular tourist destinations – which, in Italy’s case, is pretty much everywhere – costs skyrocket. However, if you look even just a mile or two further out you can find the same quality of hotel for a fraction of the price. The extensive transport links between different cities also means that you can base yourself in a less expensive location and commute to others, for example staying in Naples and using it as a base to visit the Amalfi Coast, and. I wrote a full post on doing so which you can read here.
Food can be as expensive or inexpensive as you desire. Around have of the days on our trips we shopped at supermarkets, whether it be buying pasta and sauces to cook on the stove or the fixings for sandwiches. When you’re travelling long-term, eating out for every meal every day is simply not feasible for many, but if you’ve saved and have the budget there are copious options in all price brackets. Realistically, I would recommend budgeting around £30 per meal (lunch and dinner) per person if you’d like to eat out at reasonably priced restaurants, however if you’re on a really tight budget you can eat ramen and buy cokes and water and easily survive on £7-10 per day.
For getting around the country, you can either use private transfers, hire a car yourself or use public transportation. In all the times I’ve visited Italy, I used a taxi once to take me from my hotel in Florence to a train station slightly further outside of the city center, and otherwise I exclusively used public transport. The infrastructure of the system is easy to use, extremely well priced and can take you to and from the city or town centers of the majority of places in the whole country.
I’ve flown into both Rome and Milan, on both occasions I took coaches organized by companies on the other end to take you from the airport to the main train stations in each city. Tickets with Terravision start at €8 for adults or €5 for kids and can be purchased on the day instead of booking in advance for the same cost whilst axis from the airport in Rome to hotels in the city center center have a flat fee of €48.
I used Trenitalia to travel between Milan, Naples, Florence, Rome, Pisa and Venice and always booked my journeys in advance to save money. The best time to book trains is between 8-12 weeks before you take it, and be sure to take advantage of deals such as buy one ticket get one free if you’re travelling in a pair or group. A journey from Florence to Rome cost me around €25 one way, but the shorter trip from Milan to Florence was closer to €40. Around the Amalfi Coast you can hire a private transfer to take you to the smaller towns, but to get to Capri you’ll need to pay the €17 ferry fare each way. You can also take the Circumvesuviana – local train that literally means ‘around Vesuvius’ – to Sorrento and Pompeii, which costs €3 each way.