How to Save Money while Traveling in Italy - Italy on a Budget (plus hotel recommendations!)

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Cheaper than Tour Guides

Traveling in Italy is not cheap. In fact, you’ll likely end up with many more charges than you are expecting.  Especially if you’re on a budget, you’ll want to know how to save money while visiting Italy. We planned our trip out day-by-day and still ended up spending about $1,000 more in the first 2 weeks than we had intended.  But, you can (mostly) avoid this problem by learning from our mistakes.

The culture and customs in Italy probably have some sharp differences - they might not be BIG differences, but they will be sharp, as in “ouch, I didn’t expect that” - so some of the surprises may end up costing you quite a lot. We recommend preparing yourself by learning more about the culture, etiquette, and customs of Italy, using the Italy - Culture Smart book, before you go, so you don’t need a tour guide. It’s worth it.

Additionally, a super affordable way to avoid paying for so many tour guides and still having all the intricate details of each location is to get a Lonely Planet: Italy guide book. It’s packed with in-depth information on just about every place that we can think of - so it’s like having a tour guide in your pocket at all times - plus the information has been checked and vetted many times over.

Those books - coupled with our first hand experiences - should come in quite handy! (Pro Tip: Wait until Lonely Planet has their 3 for 2 deals - which happens a couple times per year - to save extra money!)

Other Guidebooks:

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Shuttles & Taxis

While it may sound like a simple solution, finding a hotel that has a shuttle does not necessarily mean that the shuttle is free (it is almost NEVER free in Italy). One of our hotels recommended that we get a taxi instead because they would have to charge us €45 per person to use their shuttle! A second hotel that we had that was near the airport said they could bring us to/from the airport for €2.50 each. 

So, if you have luggage, make sure you are planning to have a hotel near your arrival destination or within walking distance (check google maps for the walking route because long fences may prevent you from walking to a hotel that seems like it is only 50 meters away but actually requires going on a walking detour of 3,000 meters (this is the main reason we had to pay for a taxi on our first hotel in Rome). If not, keep in mind that Uber is only slightly cheaper than Taxis here. You could pay $30 for short trips (we went 9.4 km) or $80 for longer trips (34.4 km, like we did for the first hotel mentioned here). 

Our Recommendation: Take the Metro lines instead. It's actually better than it appears and you can get single-use tickets for €1.50 that allow you to transfer for up to 100 minutes after first use (we could have paid a total of €6 over the two taxis instead of $110!).

That being said, do not forget to validate your bus/metro tickets. A member of the “Visit Italy Community” on Facebook stated: “… in Venice we took a water taxi [and] paid for our ‘go and return ticket’ and we were fined 60 dollars for not scanning the ticket before going on the ferry [but] we didn’t know we had to!!! Omg must u pay this we feel we didn’t do anything wrong [as] we paid for [our] tickets just had no idea…”

This traveler boarded the Vaporetto in Venice, Italy - and their story is almost as crazy as Vaporetto 13. If you aren’t sure what a Vaporetto is, it’s actually a water bus, not a ferry. As it is a bus, it does require validating your ticket and the fine is legitimate. If you don’t validate the ticket you could technically still use the ticket in the future, so that is why the fine exists. Lesson learned the hard way, please avoid this one by validating your tickets as soon as you are ready to get on a train (on the platform), in some cases before you get on a bus or metro (like the Vaporetto), and in other cases as soon as you get on the bus or metro. This is VERY important!

Food in Italy

Saving money on food is quite easy if you have a kitchen available to you. This is likely not an option for you if you have a hotel, but if you’re staying at an Airbnb then a kitchen and the necessary cooking supplies will more than likely be available to you (we recommend the luxury Airbnb Plus offerings that are like renting out a condominium/resort-style room at the cost of a regular hotel room, but “Superhost” listings are also quite nice and roughly 33-50% cheaper). 

Pasta can be around €0.39 per pack (the equivalent size of the $1.00 boxes you find in the U.S.A.) and the tomato sauce base is around €0.60. However, most places don’t sell the ready-made pasta sauces in a jar like you see in other countries around the world. If you don’t like plain tomato sauce for your pasta, you’ll have to add some spices, onions, peppers, mushrooms - or anything else that you’d like - to the sauce base. Sauce packets can be found in the tourist areas for €3-€4 each, but we didn’t find any in the grocery stores. You could mix up some spices yourself and bring them with you in a jar or plastic bag before you head to Italy as well. Here is a site that has a number of recipes

Cereal and milk aren’t terribly expensive either – actually, you can find quite a lot of affordable food and snacks at the grocery store, including water (€0.17 for 2L versus €2.50 for 1.5L at Roma Termini Train Station). 

In addition to grocery shopping, small pastry shops sell baked goods such as pizza squares, breads, pastries, and other food and dessert type items for quite a bit less than you’d pay at the restaurants. We bought €5 worth of delicious food (5 different things) and had to save some of it for later because we couldn’t eat all of it. 

Of course you have to have some fancy pasta that tastes super amazing - like Julia Roberts enjoyed in her movie Eat, Pray, Love. But, when we went out to restaurants on the shores of Positano and Capri we ended up spending €34 one time and €46 another time (we didn’t even order beverages) and were unfortunately still hungry after our meals were finished! While the pasta is excellent, you might not end up getting enough to fill you up unless you make your own ravioli! If you want some dine-out pasta at a fair price, try walking around the neighborhood of Trastevere in Rome instead (it’s beautiful and you won’t regret it!)

Recommendation: Frequent the small pastry shops!

Pizza in Italy

Pizza in touristy areas versus off the path areas have quite a different cost as well. Even in Naples we were able to find some higher end Margherita pizza for only €4 while it seemed to be at least twice as expensive in more of the touristy areas. In Torre Annunziata, near Pompeii, we found a great place where the pizza costs only €4.50. Just outside of the Pompeii entrance we found a place that was selling them for €6, which included a regular beverage (also inclusive of the €2 cover charge – so if 2 people are sharing the pizza it would end up being €8). When we were at the dock in Capri, the pizza was selling for €7 (inclusive of the €2 cover charge, so €9 for two people).  However, a fluffier pan-style square of pizza may only cost you €1-€2 in the local bakeries, so it depends on what you are interested in eating.

Note: Cover charges for a seat in a restaurant are normal in Italy. Your meal might include the price of the cover charge, but not always. Plus, if you just sit down to have a beverage, a cover charge will be added as you didn’t eat a meal. This also applies if you share a single meal, like a pizza - the pizza only includes 1 cover charge, if any at all.

Train Travel Across Italy

As for transportation, Eurail is not a deal in Italy. A 2-country 2nd class Eurail pass including Austria and Italy for 6 days (plus 1 “free”, total of 7 days) ended up costing us $355 each (inclusive of the Eurail fee, but after the 15% “always traveling together” discount was applied). That equates to roughly $51 per day of travel. As we were only really using the pass to travel from one major city to the next (i.e. from Sorrento to Rome, Rome to Florence etc.) it really wasn’t worth the price we paid. 

Here’s why: A standard 1-way ticket at the station to do the same thing, for 2nd class, would have been €45 (~$53, only a couple dollars more). Additionally, the non-stop bullet trains to/from the major cities typically have an additional charge of €10 for “seat reservation” that aren’t included with your Eurail pass, so you’ll have to pay the extra fee before getting on the train. Taking a slower city train can save you the €10 seat reservation charge if you plan correctly, but it does take more time and you are limited on when you can use those trains. 

Here’s the kicker though, had we planned these trips 60 days out (like we actually did - but didn’t know about this deal), then we could have purchased the one-leg tickets for €19.95 (as described on “The Man in Seat 61”, only about $23.50) and saved over half of the cost!!! 

Compounding Costs at Attractions

Watch out for compounding costs. When we took a day trip to Capri we spent $109 total for 2 round-trip ferry tickets from Sorrento ($27.25 per person each way). Once we arrived we had to go see the Blue Grotto so we bought “Island Tour + Blue Grotto” tickets for €18 each from a boat operator near the pier when we arrived at Capri. Read the fine print: “Rowboat service and entrance fees not included, to be paid at the entrance of Blue Grotto”.  How much is the Rowboat service and entrance fee combined? Another €14 each. 

Additionally, the rowboat skippers expect a tip of €2-€5 each on top of that. The costs kept compounding.  If you’d like to save some money on this, you could first make your way to the city of Anacapri and then walk down to the Rowboat service and skip the €18 “Island Tour + Blue Grotto” cost – unless you’re set on seeing the whole island by boat first. Even the €15 “Blu Grotto” line doesn’t get you into the Blue Grotto. Read our “How to Enter the Blue Grotto” article if you’re interested in this adventure. Alternatively, you could probably put on some Virtual Reality goggles, spray some “Blue Grotto” scented spray, and play our 360 clip of the Blue Grotto (Italian singing included) for a similar experience.

Other Shuttles

In most of the cities there may be taxis or shuttles that will bring you from one point to the other. In Capri, there is a funicular train that will bring you from the shore to the Capri city center that will run you €2 (one way only tickets here).  However, as everyone from the ferry arrives at the same time, the lines can get EXTREMELY LONG and the funicular cars are PACKED! This applies to the public buses as well! 

Additionally, we noticed that some people stay overnight in Capri. If you’re doing this don’t bring your luggage; or, if you need to bring your luggage you shouldn’t stay in Capri (see our post: “The Perfect Capri Itinerary on a Budget (Day Trip)”). Most of the hotels don’t seem to transport your luggage for you from the ferry stop. We saw many people lugging their luggage up the stairs (and sweating profusely) while others were trying to add theirs to the funicular train (€1.80 extra each way). However, you are only allowed one piece of luggage per person on the funicular train and it has to be under 10 kg and fit within a space of 23cm x 30cm x 50cm (roughly the size of a carry-on bag). Bags larger than this can only be transported by porter service or taxi which will run you €22-€45 (Capri city vs. Anacapri, see fare schedule for specifics). 

We noticed that even after people who brought their luggage made it to the top (Capri is up the hill), they were still rolling it up and down the long narrow and winding walkways of Capri before making it to their hotels. We felt bad for them because we knew most of them would be doing the same exact thing in reverse the following day.

You can save that money - and hassle - by forgetting your luggage and walking up the stairs if you are physically fit. It is a bit of a workout, but you’ll get to Capri in roughly 10-20 minutes or Anacapri in 30-45 minutes, and it won’t break the bank - plus, you’ll likely get there sooner than if you waited in the lines. Alternatively, you could just wait out the lines by having a meal - but make sure you jump in line if you see another ferry coming into port! 

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Rental Cars, Buses, and Scooters

Even though we decided to stay near Pompeii and rent a car for 3 days to explore the Amalfi Coast, it may have been more affordable to stay in Sorrento. Rentals could end up costing around $40-$50 per day if you book for 4-7 days, but for some reason it was only $23 per day when we looked for a 3-day rental instead.  Additionally, opting for 9AM pickup and drop off made the vehicle rental cheaper than choosing 10AM or 2PM times.

The trains to and from Pompeii from Sorrento are cheap (€2 each way per person) while our parking in Sorrento for 12 hours was €22 when we went to Capri. Thus, we may have been able to stay in Sorrento and take the train to Pompeii for a few days to save a few Euro. 

Additionally, parking on the Amalfi Coast (including Ravello, Amalfi, Positano and Sorrento) is not cheap. We paid €10 for 3 hours parking in Ravello, another €10 for 2 hours of parking in Amalfi, and then another €18 for 3 hours of parking in Positano. 

Some people, who were likely staying in one of the coastal cities, opted to take the public buses from one city to the next to save money while others opted to use the ferries or motor-scooters. According to Rome2Rio, ferries from Sorrento to Amalfi are roughly $18-$27. The public bus would cost only about $6 per person each way; However, the buses get extraordinarily packed as we noted after driving behind one for a while from Amalfi to Positano and people were visibly surprised that more people were even able to make it onto the bus at each subsequent stop – literally packed in like sardines (see picture above)! 

Parking was easier to find for scooters and less expensive or free in most situations (if you're comfortable driving them and not worried about rain).

Hiking Fees

As an additional note, hiking is not always free either. You are required to purchase a “Cinque Terre Pass” when you try to hike between the 5 cities - available for purchase at the train stations. We noticed that there are a few “ticket validation booths” around the main cities that would check to see if you had a ticket. If you don’t, you are generally not permitted to continue and must return the way you came.

We hope our financial missteps around Rome, Naples, Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Venice will help you save money on your adventures in Italy!  Additionally, click on the links for each place to see some of our other articles for more helpful information.

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Extra Research on Quality to Save you Money on Accommodations

We did a bit of research to help you find some decent hotels, condos, bnb’s, and hostels in the main tourist areas of Italy. Please don’t feel compelled to use any of these places. Our attempt was to find the BEST QUALITY places for the CHEAPEST PRICE. In other words, these are places where you’ll likely get the most value for your money. They are at least worth checking out.

Additionally, we have recently been approved for a travel agent program - allowing us to save you from 10-30% more on most hotels and resorts. We’ll pass the savings on to you if you’d like. To do this, simply have a messenger chat with us (we NEVER try to sell you anything. We will only give you things that you ask for at the lower rates). Sign up for a time for free on our free travel consultation page. All we ask for is a tiny review if you’re satisfied!

Best Value Hotels on the Amalfi Coast

If you’re absolutely set on a hotel and you don’t want to try our free travel consultation, these are some of the best value-for-your-money locations: our favorite Villa, Resort, Bed & Breakfast, and Hostel. We honestly don’t think you’ll be able to find better quality and location for these prices - but let us know if you do!

Our pick for the best luxury hotel in the area for the price - plus, an amazing experience in a fantastic location is the Luxury Villas & Romantic Apt’s.

If you’re planning to do the Path of the Gods Hike, the Mamaral Resort in Agerola is in the prime spot for your morning trek - plus it is an excellent value for the quality and location (better, in or opinion, than any of the other ones at as low as $72 USD per night!)

The Oasi Madre della Pace is an amazing value Bed and Breakfast in the best location for an Amalfi Coast trip (Sorrento). Plus, it is priced as low as $69 USD per night!

While there are cheaper hostels on the Amalfi Coast, most of them are severely needing of upkeep - However, the Ostello Beata Solitudo in Agerola provides the best quality for the price that we could find - Plus, it’s also near the Path of the Gods for as low as $21 USD per night!

BEST VALUE HOTELS AROUND VENICE

Best Value Luxury Hotel, Experience & Location: Hilton Molino Stucky Venice, Venice

Best Value Hotel & Location: Hotel Ca' Dogaressa, Venice (from $74 USD per night)

Best Value Condos & Location : Apartments and Condos (from $28 USD per night)

Cheapest Decent Hostel & Location: Camping Village Jolly, Mestre (from $31 USD per night)

BEST VALUE HOTELS AROUND CINQUE TERRE

Best Value Luxury Hotel, Experience & Location: Grand Hotel Portovenere, Portovenere

Best Value Villa & Location: Sandra Villa Rooms, Vernazza (from $103 USD per night)

Best Value Guest House & Location : Ari Guest house, La Spezia (from $74 USD per night)

Cheapest Decent Hotel & Location: Antica Locanda Luigina, Carrodano (from $43 USD per night)

BEST VALUE HOTELS AROUND PISA

Best Value Luxury Hotel, Experience & Location: Resort Dei Lemoni, Lucca

Best Value Villas & Location: Amazing Tuscan Villas & Apts (from $79 USD per night)

Best Value Hotel & Location : B&B Hotel Pisa, Pisa (from $64 USD per night)

Cheapest Decent Guest House & Location: La Coccinella Guest House, Pisa (from $42 USD per night)

Best Places to Stay in Florence (Firenze)

A famous investor named Warren Buffet once said, “Price is what you pay, Value is what you get.” It would make sense that he is the type of investor that is always looking for the best value for his money, and when it comes to a luxury hotel in Florence, Villa La Vedetta is the one he would pick. It is definitely luxury and in a great location, but the price you’ll pay here compared to other similar hotels is significantly less. Here’s the hotel that you’re looking for, Mr. Buffet!

Sometimes we prefer to stay in a villa, instead of a hotel, especially while traveling through Florence. After all, part of the appeal are the Tuscan Villas in all those movies, right? Well, we found some Amazing Tuscan Villas that we want to share with everyone as well. Plus, some of them are as cheap as $79 USD per night! What a bargain!

Our favorite regular hotel in the area is Hotel Cosmopolitan. When it comes to hotels at an affordable price, this is the best quality for value that we could find for a standard hotel. Plus, it’s within walking distance to most of the best sights in Florence.

Hostels can get pretty cheap, but you may be slumming it unless you do your homework. Our pick for the best quality hostel is the L'Aranceto Guest House. It is a bit pricier for a hostel, but the alternatives in this area require a certain ability to be comfortable anywhere you go that most people simply aren’t suited for.

When it comes to affordability, however, it might make more sense to try one of these amazing Airbnb places in Florence. The ones we recommend always give you the full place to yourself and include Air Conditioning, Washer, Dryer, a Kitchen, and WiFi. How could you go wrong with one of those?

BEST VALUE HOTELS IN ROME

Best Value Luxury Hotel, Experience & Location: Roma Luxus Hotel

Best Value B&B & Location: Made in Rome B&B (as low as $87 USD per night)

Best Value Bed & Breakfast : Residenza il Magnifico (as low as $38 USD per night)

Cheapest Decent Hostel & Location: Backpackers Piramide - Hostel (as low as $19 USD per night)

Best Value Hotels in Naples

The best value for a luxury hotel in the Naples area that we could find is the Grand Hotel Excelsior Terme. It’s in a great location and offers an amazing experience for all of their guest. Best part, it’s above average quality for below average price in it’s category, so win-win!

The Il Tesoro Smart Suite & Spa is an amazing hotel that we are surprised is better priced than its competitors (from $83 USD per night). It’s in a great location and even has a spa available!

If you’re looking for a great quality Hostel at an affordable price - it’s not going to be easy in Naples. However, we’ve found that the Naples Experience Backpackers Hostel is not only in a great location, but of better quality than the other hostels in the area (it runs about $46 USD per night).

The cheapest place that we could find in this area that still offered a decent quality is a Bed and Breakfast called the Carbonara Napoli. This one can be as cheap as $36 USD per night and is in a decent location.