1. Walk Walk Walk
Want to save money in Italy?? Walk! Italy has such beautiful corners that only by walking can you explore the extraordinary. And it saves a ton of money too.
And be prepared to walk a lot when in Italy. Make the most of exploring by walking because it is therapeutic. Stop for a picture, sit in a cafe, enjoy the little things. And unless you want to get sore feet from walking on cobbled streets, buy a comfortable pair of shoes before you head to Italy! Honestly, I can count the number of times I’ve taken the taxi (luggage woes) but walking is so much easier when you have practical luggage. The taxi should be ditched unless really required!
2. Use the Train More
Don’t rent a car because someone said that’s the only way to see Italy. If you are on a budget, take regional trains for your city travel. Train journeys are picturesque, fun and fast and there are a fair number of options for discounts on Trenitalia or Treno.
In Italy, train tickets can be booked 120 days in advance! Remember that a journey from Milan to Rome or Verona to Florence can easily be done via train because these cities are not on the opposite ends of the country. However a journey from the Northern most part of the country to the Southern most part is impossible and tiring with several train changes at time. In that case opt for the plane and fly from one side to another!!
Use Regional trains (Regionale) for your journey because they are cheaper! Frecciarossa and Treno are fast but costlier! Many towns in Italy (especially those pretty hill top towns) do not have a train station in the city centre. So there is usually a long walk or a bus service that takes you to the centre of the town. Choose your towns wisely when you travel, lest you regret.
DON’T FORGET TO…. VALIDATE!!
If you have bought tickets online, carry a copy of your ticket in your phone or take a print out. However, if you buy from the vending machines at the station, “validate” at the green colored machine on the platform. Not doing so can lead to a fine of over EUR 100 or more.
Additionally, use the Trenit app like I do. This helps to know train schedules from the phone and is quick and easy to use. For instance, down below I’ve used the Trenit website to find options of train from Roma to Milano and it gives details as per time, price and duration. Neat, isn’t it??
3. Visit the Farmer’s Market and Supermarket
I always buy wine, cheese and pasta from the outdoor markets or supermarkets such as Carrefour or Conad. In the big cities you won’t be far from a Conad or a Carrefour. Even in the busiest streets of Rome you will find a supermarket waiting for you. Apart from the supermarkets, the local farmer’s markets have the best produce.
Supermarkets in Rome: Carrefour: Via del Governo Vecchio, 119 (close to Piazza Navona) Carrefour: Via Vittoria 32 (near the Spanish Steps). Conad: Via del Boschetto, 52/55 (near the Colosseum)
Supermarkets in Venice: Coop: Campo S. Giacomo Dell’Orio 1491A Conad: Sestiere Santa Croce 892
Supermarkets in Milan: Carrefour: Via S. Senatore 16
Supermarkets in Turin: Conad: Via Luigi Tarino 10
4. Avoid the Tourist Menu
if it’s an authentic restaurant you won’t see any waiter standing outside and asking you to come to eat. Unfortunately there are many places in Italy with a tourist menu and that visit should be a big NO NO. The food will be average and the place sub standard. Instead, go to a place where you would probably spot locals or simply a Pizzeria where pizza ranges from EUR 5-10! If you have a doubt, simply ask a local.
You can also go for Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) and combine it with a bottle of beer from the supermarket. Other than that, there is the option of cooking in your apartment too! Don’t forget to try the tasty treats from the Bar! This is a great way to save money and travel in Italy on a budget!
5. Save on Tours
I get it, history and Art isn’t for everyone. In Italy though as much as you think you are surrounded by it, you also have the choice of skipping to see the museums and tours. They can be expensive. I’d suggest don’t do what everyone is doing. Instead, focus on the food, churches, free parks and piazze.
Most of the churches are free, unless specifically stated, and they not only provide shade from the sun but are a haven for Italian art. Everything is a personal choice! I’ve noticed “follow the herd mentality” in travel but I would implore you to do what you want.Travel as it suits you. If you want to see Italy in 5 days, do it- IT IS YOUR TRIP!!
6. Use the Free Water
Water is not free in any restaurant in Italy (unlike India) so prepare to add a charge of €2 for a bottle of water. In bigger cities such as Rome, water is in abundance and free because of the many fountains in the city. This helps you save the money for that extra bottle(s) of water. Just remember to keep an empty bottled water and make use of the free fountain water. The tap water in Italy is safe to drink too but don’t rely on it!
7. Order Coffee at the Bar
If you want to save money in Italy, don’t sit outside a Bar to have your coffee. If you are budget conscious, go to the counter and pay for the coffee you want. Once paid, show the receipt to the Barista and have your coffee standing there itself.
If you sit outside, you will be charged. I always do a mix of sitting outside and inside because sometimes you also want a view on your vacation with your coffee. After all it’s ITALY! Carry coins and cash when you buy your coffee because it is uncommon to pay for coffee via cards in Italy.