Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world, and with a such a rich mix of culture, history, art, fashion, breathtaking countryside, and internationally-renowned gastronomy, it’s not hard to see why. But visiting Italy doesn’t mean you have to break the bank on expensive meals or pricey tickets for attractions.
With such a wealth of free natural spaces, excellent beaches, and ancient architecture to fill up your time, it is actually quite easy to visit Italy on a budget. However, in order to stay within your limits, it’s a good idea to first know when to visit Italy for the cheapest prices and best deals, and to learn about some of the more expensive tourist traps to avoid.
Before planning your trip, you may first need to apply for a visa or obtain an ETIAS for Italy visa waiver to visit the country. The latter will be available through the simple ETIAS application online and will allow multiple entries to Italy for short stays during its validity, meaning you only have to pay a fee once and will save even more for your budget if you decide to return to Italy next year!
When to Visit Italy on a Budget
If you’ve ever visited Italy in the summer, you may have left with the opinion that it is a rather expensive country. Prices reach their peak from June to early September and airfare and accommodation bookings can be costly. If you have a small budget to travel to Italy, you might, therefore, want to avoid the summer months, even more so because the major cities and tourist attractions can be incredibly crowded, and temperatures can reach extreme heights.
However, these conditions do not apply during the rest of the year, and prices begin to drop after the peak of the high season in August. The best time to visit Italy for those traveling on a budget is the tourist off-season from November 1st to December 14th, and from December 24th to March 31st.
In addition to cheaper flights and rooms, you will be able to find plenty of discount rates for guided tours – a highly recommended activity, especially for cities rich in Italian art history such as Florence. During the off-season, you can find the best deals at companies that sell tour packages from street booths or local offices, so avoid the temptation to book online in advance.
Overall, November is the cheapest time to visit Italy, but if you choose to visit in the winter, make sure you pack at least some warm clothes and wet weather gear, as the country can see its fair share of rainy days and cold temperatures during the late Fall as well. However, if you’re planning to spend most of your time in the countless museums, galleries, and historic churches the country has to offer, this may not be too much of a problem.
Tips for an Affordable Stay in Italy
Just because you’re traveling on a budget, it doesn’t mean you have to avoid the most beautiful places to visit in Italy, as there are plenty of wallet-friendly attractions and accommodation and transport options in all of the country’s major cities. If you’re traveling with the ETIAS for Italy, you could also plan to focus on visiting one region with each entry to the country, and save money on inter-city transportation costs.
If you are set on experiencing a full tour of the country, try to narrow down the attractions in each city you really want to visit before you go, so you can save time and money when you get there. To further cut down on costs, try to mix in some lesser known attractions with the bigger ones, for example:
- Rome – Although it will cost you a little to visit the world-famous Colosseum and breathtaking Basilica of San Clemente, the impressive attractions really are worth it. Besides, there are plenty of other must-see attractions you can visit in the city for free, such as the iconic Trevi fountain and the ancient Pantheon.
- Venice– Although you have to pay to experience some of the city’s highlights, such as the museums in the Doge’s Place and St Mark’s Basilica, there are plenty of things to enjoy in Venice without paying. Take a stroll around St Mark’s Square and over the famous Rialto Bridge and explore the famous canals at sunset on a vaporetto or waterbus instead of the more expensive gondolas to save money.
- Florence – The Duomo of Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is of course the biggest attraction in Florence, and you will have to pay to see it. However, there is a wealth of of smaller and equally worthwhile attractions to visit in the city, such as the the Uffizi Gallery, or the impressive Fra Angelico frescoes at the Convent of San Marco.
Some further tips to help you keep your budget to travel to Italy under control:
- Book flights well in advance, and make early morning airplane reservations if you want to save even more for your budget in the country.
- Make direct bookings for major attractions, and avoid third parties who may charge an extra service cost.
- Stay in an Airbnb or hostel with a kitchen and save money on eating out. Italian produce is generally very cheap, fresh and of excellent quality, so you won’t really be sacrificing much.
- Make use of the excellent Italian public transport system, as it is relatively cheap. To save extra money, make sure you take the local intercity trains instead of the more expensive high-speed options.
- Enjoy picnics in the piazzas. Italian towns and cities are full of charming local squares where it’s perfectly acceptable to crack out a bottle of wine and save money in a bar, so feel free to join in!
- Explore the countryside. One of the best ways to avoid the temptation to spend lots of money in the cities is to leave them behind for a day trip to explore some of the many charming towns in the surrounding areas. Not only are accommodation and meal prices significantly lower, but you’ll be able to explore some of the unique local traditions preserved in the more rural parts of the country.