People say Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go. But why stop only there? Don’t just stay and imagine how the rest of the country looks like. The birthplace of Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, the fashion capital of Europe, the country of amazing cuisine and friendly people… I could go on and on. One thing is for sure, Italy is an inevitable stop for every tourist. However, compared to some other European countries, Italian prices can be a bit spicy, so we decided to make the cheapest guide possible for you, with which you can travel around the country without worrying about exceeding your budget.
The main factor for travelling through Italy on a Budget is when you travel. Accommodation prices in the lowest season are only a fraction of the cost in the main season July and August, also the best deal for transportation, e.g. with long-distance buses can be found in the off-season. If you still have to travel when everybody else does, we have put together some great saving tips when visiting the most popular cities in Italy.
1) Day 1 – Milan
As one of the most important fashion centres in the world, Milan justifies its high prices, which is still not a comfort for tourists eager to see the Duomo (cathedral) or the Galleria Vittorio, which are only a drop in the ocean of reasons why visit this spectacular city of a rich historical background.
Public transport: You can reach Milan in plane (3 airports) or bus from all parts of the Europe. The centre of Milan is best to explore on foot, since everything is within walking distance (also the cheapest way to go). But if you’re not keen on walking, don’t worry, Milan has a really versatile public transport system, so you can choose among buses, trams, subways and trains. One ticket costs 1.50€ and is valid for 90min. Keep in mind you can’t buy them from the driver, only at newstands and vending machines.
What to Do: Well, one does not leave Milan without seeing the Duomo. The entrance to the cathedral is free, but you can have a tour of both the cathedral and the museum for only 2€ (if you start from the museum, you’ll skip the line as well). After that, you can relax in Parco Semione and see the Acquario nearby from the outside. We recommend you to board on Milan vintage trains, the oldest-running public transport vehicles in the world in service since 1928. You can have a tour of the city for only 1.50€. Don’t miss out on the Cimitero Monumentale, the city’s cemetery with more than 15 000 statues and 3 buildings.
Where to Eat: There are few good places with nice staff and delicious food at acceptable prices. Street food stands are the cheapest option, you can have a kebab or a burger and a drink for 5€, but if you want to try something more local, we recommend Verace with great pizza burger and other Italian delicacies which you can even have to go. Other great places are Mr Panozzo with great pizzas for only 5€, sometimes you even get a free shot or dessert. For delicious spaghetti carbonara or milanese, go to Cibario, one portion is only 6.50€.
Accommodation: This is definitely the hardest, but not impossible thing to find in Milan. Choose one of the following hostels and you’ll stay under your budget: Hostel California, only 3km from the city centre, one dorm or private room with a private bathroom costs 8 – 12€ per night, depending on the time and date of reservation, Minas 0.8km away from the centre costs only 10€ per night, or Hotel Medea, a bit further (1.7km) for the same price. Approximately the same prices have also hotels Poma and Brasil.
2) Day 2 – Florence
As the capital of Tuscany, probably the most beloved Italian region, Florence is the craddle of Italian culture, from the origins of the language to the magnificent architecture, delicious Tuscan cuisine and some of the best artistic masterpieces in the world.
Public transport: To reach Florence from Milan takes 5 hours in bus (10-15€). Florence’s central station is called Santa Maria Novella and is situated in the northwest of the city centre. There is another station Campo di Marte 10min from the centre, used mainly for long-haul trains. The best way to explore the city is by hopping on a local bus, you can buy a ticket at every newsstand and costs 1.20€. It’s valid for 90min.
What to Do: The admission to one of the city’s top landmarks is free, so you can admire the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Duomo) at no charge. After the tour, don’t forget to buy something at one of the local outdoor markets, which are a huge part of Italian culture. Plus, you can always negotiate about the price. For one of the best panoramic views of the city, we recommend you to go to the Piazzale Michelangelo or the Rose Garden, right below (less crowded than the stairs leading to the Piazzale). If you happen to be in the city on the first Sunday of the month, the entrance to all the museums like Pitti Palace or Medici Chapels is free. Also, don’t forget to take a selfie from Ponte Vecchio.
Where to Eat: The number one place is Panini Toscani, which actually allows you to try meat and cheese samples before you decide for your kind of sandwich, which is usually not more than 5€ (it’s also on a great location, right next to the Duomo). Other similar places are SandwiChic, situated close to the main market and All’Antico Vinaio, you’ll recognise it by the long waiting line close to the Uffizi Gallery.
Accommodation: The favourite place among tourists is the Young Meeting Home, only a 5 minute walk from the Duomo. The room costs 15€ per night and you get free wine, pasta and you can join the pubcrawl organized by the hostel. Florence Experience offers a free dinner, friendly staff and a great location for 10€ if you book it on time. Also check out Bigallo and Santa Monaca hostels, they too have affordable prices.
3) Day 3 – Rome
It’s time for the most exciting part of our tour! All roads lead to the capital of Italy, the eternal city of Rome, definitely one of the most beautiful cities in the world and world’s leading tourist destinations.
Public transport: The journey from Florence to Rome takes 3.5h and costs 14-25€, depending on the bus company. Rome has two stations, Termini and Tiburtina, both well-connected to the rest of the city. You can buy tickets for public transport, including buses, metro and trains, at most of the newsstands. One standard ticket costs 1.50€ and is valid for 100 minutes. Public transportation is free for the childer under 10.
What to Do: Where to start… we will just give you a list of free landmarks to visit since there are too many of them to describe them each in one small caption. Check out the iconic Roman building of Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica, Piazza Navona with numerous street performers, throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, explore Villa Borghese plenty of museums, make a picture in front of the Colloseo and don’t forget to chill on the Spanish steps.
Where to Eat: Likeat is the favourite place among tourists when it comes to sandwiches, from the most ordinary ones to the weirdest combinations, you can try them all at reasonable prices. You can also try Panino Divino outside the Vatican, offering a wide range of delicious sandwiches ideal for a quick lunch. For yummy pizzas, go to Pinsere, a take-away or stand-and-eat restaurant. But if you’re more of a pasta guy, we recommend you E.G.G. with great selection of food, near Piazza Navona.
Accommodation: Funny Palace Rome, located near the main central station Termini and a few minutes away from attractions like the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, etc. From 15€ up, you get a comfortable bed in a mixed dorm and a free breakfast. Mosaic Hostel near Villa Borghese provides a full service starting from 18€ per night. We also recommend Four Seasons Hostel, Alessandro Downtown or Freedom Traveler where you can get a bed for even 10€.
4) Day 4 – Naples
Naples, the largest city in southern Italy is a home to some of the world’s best opera and theater houses, as well as to many historic monuments and statues, which is why is often called an ‘Open-air Museum’.
Public transport: Naples is less than 3h away from Rome and you can reach it for 10-12€. Regarding moving around Naples, you can choose among bus, tram, metro and funicular railway. You can buy tickets from the ticket machines, in bars or from tobacconists. One ticket costs 1.50€ and is valid for 90 minutes.
What to Do: The Historic Centre is the most beautiful part of the city and it’s completely free including the most important part of the historic centre, the Christmas Alley (Via San Gregorio Armeno), full of locals recreating nativity scenes so you can experience Christmas anytime. Castel dell’Uovo, one of the two castles in the city and is partly admission-free (Ethno-Prehistory Museum), is one of the most famous landmarks of the city. You can also visit (for free, of course) the Museum of the Sea, Museum of Human Anatomy or Museum of Musical History.
Where to Eat: Naples, the hometown of pizza, is not an expensive city to visit, so you’ll come across many food stands with cheap prices or even restaurants where you can eat much for little money. Check out La Masardona with great fried pizzas, only 10min away from the main station. Decumano 31 with delicious street food, Pescheria di Napoli with the best seafood in the city and Friggitoria Vomero are also worth paying a visit to.
Accommodation: B&B Firenze 32 is situated near the Historic Centre and costs 12€ per bed in a dorm. YHA Ostello Mergellina is a perfect place to stay if you’re a fan of nightlife because it’s situated right in the centre of that district. A place in the dorm costs 14€ per night. For few euros extra, you can stay in Pizza Hostel or in La Controra. Hostel Mancini is ideal for you if you’re planning to continue your journey to Pompei since it’s right across the train station.
5) Day 5 – Bologna
Our next stop is the educational centre of the country, Bologna, known as the city with the first university in Europe. This medieval town is a great place to spend some time exploring the great student nightlife and the local cuisine, the heart of Italian food.
Public transport: Continue your tour with a 7 hour journey from Naples to Bologna, for 26€. Bologna has an efficient bus transport system which is connecting well all parts of the city. One ticket costs 1,30€ and is valid for 90 minutes.
What to Do: One cannot visit Bologna without walking for a while on Piazza Maggiore admiring the city’s medieval buildings and houses, or sitting on the steps of the Basilica of San Petronio. Don’t miss out on the Quadrilatero, the medieval market with tons of stands selling various delicacies. We also recommend hiking to the top of San Luca under the longest portico in the world 3.8km long (one of the city’s 53 arcades dating to the 11th century, unique to Bologna. We have to mention Piccola Venezia as well, visible through a little hole in the wall looking down the stream that runs under the city surrounded by houses.
Where to Eat: It’s difficult to choose in this centre of Italian cuisine, but some of the places favourite among both locals and tourists are Pizzeria La Brace, where you can get the whole menu for 12€ or only pizza for around 5€. Osteria dell’Orsa is a great place to meet the locals and try some amazing pasta like artichoke lasagna or gnocchi with courgettes for only 6€. Caffè Zamboni as the hotspot among students with the prices around 7€ and many other places are just waiting to serve you their delicious food.
Accommodation: The accommodation in Bologna is actually the most expensive part of the journey, since the rooms cost from 17€ u, as in Castello Room and Breakfast Boutique. Similar price is in We_Bologna Hostel and for few euros extra you can check in at Dopa Hostel or Albergo Pallone. However, most of them have breakfast and Wi-Fi included in the price.
6) Day 6 – Venice
The final stop is Venice, with stunning canals, mysterious passages and breathtaking architecture. Venice is a real piece of heaven on Earth, but also, together with Rome, one of the most expensive places in Italy.
Public transport: It takes 3 hours to reach Venice from Bologna. As far as the city tour is concerned, if it’s possible, explore the city on foot walking through the narrow alleys across many little squares. Keep in mind that there are private chauffers which will offer to take you across the water for 6-7 € from the Tronchetto bus station, but you can take the public automatic ‘train’ which will do the same in shorter time for only 1.50€. Standard bus, tram, or People Mover ticket costs also 1.50€ (3€ if purchased on board).
What to Do: Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore is definitely a must-see, there is no fee to the church and there is a lift which takes you up to the bell for 5€ and gives you the most spectacular view of Venice over the Doges Palace. Scala Contarini del Bovolo, known as the Snail Staircase, is one of the best hidden sights to track down in Venice, but it’s definitely worth takig your time, especially if you’re fan of Gothic period. One of the favourite churches of Venetians, Santa Maria della Salute, is also one of the top landmarks, as well as Basilica di San Marco on the same named square. If you have time, check out Orsoni Colour Library and Sala San Marco Biblioteca, too.
Where to Eat: Venetian food is expensive, especially in restaurants, which are a big no-no considering your budget. For pasta lovers, we recommend Bigoi, offering only one thing on menu – a homemade pasta with tons of sauce options. Osteria Al Squero is a typical Italian place with excellent tapas and spritz, with a great location to watch gondonals on the canal. Cocaeta and Dal Moro’s Fresh Pasta (To Go) are also amazing places worth paying a visit.
Accommodation: Considering how expensive Venice is, book as far ahead as possible. Try with the hostel Generator for 10€ per night on a great location, La Peschiera, a guesthouse in the heart of the city or Star Apartments for 18€ per night 1km from the city centre. For 15€ per night you can stay in the Al Gallo guesthouse or Bella Venexia apartment.
I’m sure you want this tour never to end because Italy is one of the few countries in the world whose every part feels like a completely different, unique kind of world. If you want to continue your journey for a few more days, see the popular routes from Venice and have fun!