How to travel cheaply to Italy – 11 secrets

How to travel cheaply to Italy – 11 secrets

I am Alexey Sinitsyn, Federico Fellini of the world of low-cost travel. Today I will tell you how you can travel cheaply to one of the most wonderful places on earth – Italy. I share the secrets of how to save money wisely in this expensive country. Learn when to fly on vacation, where to eat and where not to eat, how to rent cheap accommodation, so that you won’t end up in the middle of the emigrant quarter. Read about this and much more in my review!

Italy welcomes tourists from Russia. There is no direct flight connection, but you can take a connecting flight. The issuance of new visas for Russians has been suspended. This article may not include up-to-date information about prices for tours and flights. See list of open countries.

1. Do not fly in August.

This is the most important rule for those who want to have an inexpensive vacation in Italy. August is the most expensive month to travel. Prices soar to their heights, resorts are crowded, and museums and restaurants are cracking at the seams. I was in Italy in August (by the way, it was my first trip abroad) and I know what I’m talking about.

If your main goal – beach vacation, I advise to come in September or October (ideal weather), or at least in June-July (it will be hot). If you’re flying to Italy for museums, architecture, food and just a holiday of life, you can safely come in any other month.

I went to Italy three times: in August, July and November. The end of autumn was especially good with an almost total absence of tourists, even in such world tourist centers as Cinque Terre and Pisa. In fact, my dream was to go to winter Venice, as Brodsky had bequeathed us to do.

Twelve years ago I went to Italy for the first time. I went in August, and it was crowded! I remember how in Venice I barely managed to win a moment for a photo with no strangers in the frame. But the city is amazing and now I dream of going there in winter, like the man in the photo below. Brodsky is definitely on point.

2. Find an inexpensive flight.

Since March 2022 it has become impossible to get a cheap flight to Italy from Russia. There are no direct flights, no charters, and Pobeda doesn’t fly to any Italian airport anymore. Previously, in the low season you could buy round trip tickets for just 5,000 to 10,000 rubles. Now it is difficult to find tickets even for 30-40 thousand.

Look for tickets on the Aviasails search engine – it will show the most convenient and inexpensive options for your dates. The service will warn you about flights that are not available to Russian citizens. Check the price of tickets from your city, from nearby and from Moscow – the difference can be significant. Also read my tips for buying cheap airline tickets.

Also check how much tickets cost for different segments of the flight separately. For example, separately purchased tickets Moscow-Istanbul and Istanbul-Milan may be cheaper and more convenient than a single ticket Moscow-Milan with connections.

The cost of flights to Italy from Tbilisi, Kutaisi and Yerevan is considerably lower. In Armenia you can get cheap flights from various Russian cities, and you can get to Georgia cheaply by land.

Cheap tickets to Italy are available from Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Serbia, Turkey and Israel. Slightly more expensive – from Azerbaijan, UAE, Kazakhstan. You may be able to build a route through these countries.

3. Buy a last minute tour

UPD: In 2022, you will not be able to buy a last minute tour to Italy. The tours are on sale, but they are very expensive, because they include a flight on regular flights with a connection.

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Sometimes I fly abroad on last minute deals. If you catch the right moment and be ready to break away at any time, you can save a lot of money. I look for and buy bargain tours on Level.Travel and Travellata. Check out my 7 rules for buying cheap trips.

Italy is no exception: inexpensive last minute tours often appear there too. The cheapest trips are usually to Rimini, but there are also other resorts. From Moscow you can fly on a tour for 20-40 thousand rubles for two. The lowest prices for tours usually occur at the turn of the season: in May and June and in the fall, which again encourages us to abandon our trips to Italy in July and August.

Cheap vacations in Italy

One of the most enchanting places in Italy, and indeed in the world! The island of Favignana near Sicily. I fell in love with this place at first sight. Consider this a recommendation :)

4. Travel by bus, lowcosters or car.

Italy is not an all-inclusive hotel somewhere in the Dominican Republic where you can sit your ass in one place for two weeks straight. Italy requires and, I would even say, obliges to constantly travel and explore its beauty, which it has so much that even for the life of you can’t see. So every self-respecting traveler is faced with the question of getting around the country or at least the nearest surroundings.

Trains in Europe – expensive transport, bus tickets are much cheaper. Advice is logical, but here, of course, you need to look at the situation: whether the savings justify the cost in time and convenience, which option suits you better in terms of schedule, where the departure and arrival, and so on. Even 5-10 years ago I had to manually scour the websites of all bus and rail carriers to compare schedules and prices. But now life became easier – there are handy services like 12GO which compare all (or nearly all) ways of getting from one town to another. I recommend it – it’s a great help, and saves money. You can also look for train tickets in Italy at Trip.com. Keep in mind that we will need a card that works abroad to pay.

Our guide to Rome will tell you how to get from the Eternal City to Venice, Naples, Milan, Florence and other Italian cities or vice versa.

Between cities that are far away, it is best to travel by air . Italy is a country with healthy competition, unlike ours, so you can fly around the country for cheap. More precisely – for a few euros. You can fly from virtually any major city to another for a mere 10-30 €. For the same or a little more money you can fly to other European countries, which I also always use. The Aviaseils search engine finds all these super-cheap tickets at once, and you can buy them from agents who accept any Russian card.

In order not to puzzle with the schedule of public transport and be free to move around, I advise to rent a car. In Italy you can rent a car even for 1-2 € (on special offer), or at least for 8-15 € per day (almost always). Look for a rental car on the site Rentalcars.com (Note: you need a card that works abroad to pay). Renting a car can be even cheaper than taking buses and trains, especially if there are two or more of you. There is only one pitfall – expensive paid parking lots. We almost always rent a car abroad. Learn more about car rental in Italy and all the important nuances of renting a car abroad.

Rifugio Montecristo

Do not be afraid to rent a car – it’s inexpensive and convenient. You can take a ride in a very scenic places. Rifugio Montecristo, L’Aquila. Photo: Lorenzo Lamonica / unsplash.com.

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5. Eat in trattorias

First of all I advise to pay attention to trattorias . They are a special type of restaurant with simple service and a small selection of traditional dishes. The food there is delicious, hearty and inexpensive. You can fill your belly with fine examples of delicious Italian cuisine for just 10-12€. And they don’t try to charge you any coperto or other fees, and they don’t insist on tips.

It should be understood that the trattoria is not some McDuck, but the most authentic Italian or local regional cuisine, just without the pathos and trinkets. Healthy food at decent prices, and you will also get acquainted with Italian manners – trattorias have a regular clientele, who go there from year to year for generations, everyone knows each other and communicates. It’s fun and authentic.

Well, avoid all the tourist restaurants. If you really want to have a nice dinner, then find a good place away from the beach and touristy streets, the same level in a less “hot” area you get a lot cheaper. Read restaurant reviews of the right city on TripAdvisor or on blogs.

Trattoria in Italy

Our delicious regional dinner at a trattoria in Genoa. First, second, dessert, wine – the whole belly feast cost us 12€ per person.

6. Book lodging very early

Italy is one of the most touristy countries in the world, and the demand for hotels there is very high. I advise to book accommodation as early as possible: in the summer – at least 3-4 months, but better six months, and for the less hot season – at least 1-2 months. Of course, you can find an apartment a day before the trip, but the best and cheapest options will already be occupied. If you follow my advice, you can find a great hotel or apartment for a reasonable price, and there are a lot of gems in housing in Italy.

I, for example, once lived in Sicily like a real Russian prince in a luxurious mansion for only 40 €. Just look at this beauty in the photo below! The first few hours of my Italian vacation, I spent just looking at the decor and interior of this fabulous apartment.

And in Genoa, we lived in a large three-story apartment with its own terrace and just a roof-top view of the city. We paid only 80€ for this miracle, which is quite inexpensive for Northern Italy.

So gather your willpower in your fist and force yourself to plan a trip as early as possible. To search for hotels in Italy, the best way is to use Yandex.Travel or Ostrovok.ru, because they accept any Russian card to pay for reservations. I also advise to compare prices on Hotelluk – it often finds a lower price for the same hotel on other booking services.

Gorgeous interiors of my hotel in Sicily. Bedroom in a hotel room in Sicily. View from our terrace in Genoa.

7. Choose an inexpensive neighborhood

Every city has cheaper and more expensive neighborhoods. Lodging near the main attractions or a stone’s throw from the beach will be much more expensive than a similar one a little away. Be brave and do not be afraid to spend an extra 10-20 minutes for walking – walking in Italy will be just for fun. In addition, in inexpensive neighborhoods you will be close to supermarkets and inexpensive restaurants. Convenient and profitable!

But first make sure you carefully read the reviews of housing, so as not to accidentally find yourself in the heart of the immigrant ghetto, and they are in Italy in almost every city. Take into account that the unfavorable area in Italian cities can be not on the outskirts, and in the center. For example, this is the old town of Genoa – in its dark narrow alleys, where from every street you can hear the sighs and groans of old-school toilers, some of the most sensitive people will feel uncomfortable. It’s a safe neighborhood, however, just not combed. We lived there quite calmly, and the landlord confirmed that there is no need to worry. So read the reviews and make your own decision.

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Reviews of holidays in Rome in Italy

Living near the main attractions is nice, but expensive. Colosseum in Rome (Photo: unsplash.com / @dinges)

8. Book an apartment with a kitchen instead of a hotel

How nice it is to sit in a restaurant every night long with a glass of wine, shoveling mussels or devouring insane amounts of great pasta! How nice to start the morning in a cozy cafe with a cup of coffee and my favorite cannoli! How good, how wonderful! One bad thing: such delights are expensive, especially if the vacation lasts not a couple of days, but a week, two weeks or a month, as I usually have. Good luck with the cuisine: the food in Italian stores is about the same as in our country, but the quality and taste is ten times higher. Believe me, in Italy you can enjoy not only food in restaurants, but also more affordable things: wine, cheese, fruit, vegetables, sausages – in general, our favorite sanctioned foods. We don’t eat cheese in Russia for a long time already – why should we poison ourselves with our surrogates, when in Europe a real work of art for 1-2 € is waiting for you on the shelves in any supermarket?

The kitchen in our cozy apartment in La Spezia.

9. Think financially

From March 2022 Russian Visa and Mastercard cards do not work in Italy, and the country does not work with the “MIR” system. Therefore, you need to go on vacation with cash euros (if available), a card of another payment system or a foreign bank.

Read my review of the credit card All Airlines, the most profitable card for travelers.

10. Look for free beaches.

Italy flirted with communism a lot in the last century, but it was in vain – the beaches there are nothing but fees! And even more and crowded: and tourists from all over Europe, and the Italians just love beach leisure. Well, and you-know-which-month it is a living hell!

Many resorts have free beaches: I found them in Rimini and Sicily. It’s true that they’re quite small, but there’s nothing to complain about. Find these municipal beaches and swim there if you want to save money.

Leisure in Italy inexpensive

Free beach in Tropea, Calabria. Photo: @metapolitica / unsplash.com.

11. save money on attractions

The main museums, amusement parks, viewpoints and other very popular tourist attractions in Italy are very expensive. For a short trip only on them you can spend many hundreds of euros. If you want to rest cheap, then reject the expensive attractions, visit only free and inexpensive or try to get into major museums on free days. Walk around more, because Rome, Milan, Venice, Florence and any other famous city in Italy is an open-air museum. None of these cities even a week or two to see the whole – so if you want you can completely avoid the museums, or at least see just a couple of the most important. In Italy you will not get bored!

If you want to learn as much as possible and walk with a tour, then book them on Tripster – there are good prices and, most importantly, there are real reviews of tourists about the quality of excursions. So it’s better than looking for a guide on the spot or a tour operator.

It would be willingness, and you can visit many cool sights in Italy for free and without a tour. Even such as the volcano Etna in Sicily. I climbed Etna volcano on my own and walked its slopes practically alone. That’s how I spent my birthday. It was great!

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How to travel cheaply to Italy – 11 secrets

Piazzas and duomas, signorinas and senoras, pizzas, pastas, gelato, wine, cheeses. There are a lot of plans and limited budget, especially with the current exchange rate. But it’s not all so bad! We tell you how to save money on an Italian trip.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS

Photo: Italy

Bring cash and use a multi-currency card.

Universal advice for everyone going to Europe – bring euros. Withdrawing money from a card is not the best option: you may have to pay a fee for using an ATM of another bank. And it’s better to travel with a multicurrency card, in which case there will be no interest for the conversion into euros.

Do not forget about the tax on sleep

“You owe more tax,” they declare at the reception. Wait, how? After all, you paid everything. And no, in Italy there is a city tax for tourist accommodation. And it differs not only in different cities, but also in hotels, depending on the stardom. For example, in hostels you pay from 1.5 to 3 euros per night, in three-star – 3-4, in five-star hotels – from 5 to 7 euros. Before you book, check on the website if the tax is included and what it is.

FOOD

Photo: Italy

Shopping is for locals.

As in Italy, supermarkets can be expensive and more budget. The latter have their own brands of goods for which prices are even lower. If you want to save money, look for Lidl, Coop and Penny Market signs. Tiny mini-markets are usually found in the city center but if you want a bigger choice, you need to go to a supermarket somewhere closer to the outskirts.

Your own cook

If you have an apartment with a kitchen or a hostel, cook for yourself. This is a great way to not only save money but also to get a taste of the local produce and the excellent quality. Buy homemade pasta, artichokes, make a light tomato sauce, slice tomatoes and mozzarella, melon and prosciutto, take a bottle of Prosecco – dinner is ready. And it costs much cheaper than in a restaurant.

Water balance

Italians drink water from the tap, and it’s enough to take a bottle, which you can fill in the hotel or drinking fountains. The latter are many on the tourist streets and near the attractions. If the fountain has no extra signs, you can drink the water. But if you see the sign “Non potabile”, pass by: these fountains technical water.

A healthy snack

Go to the local market, mercato (just type it into Google Maps or find it on the city map). Each vendor is happy to offer his product: cheese, prosciutto, fruit, vegetables, nuts. It’s free to sample, and the quality of the food at the markets is usually very high.

Secret places

Photo: Italy

No matter how much you want to eat a pizza with a view of the Pantheon or pasta in front of the Duomo, you should not do it. 99% that it won’t taste good and 100% that it will be expensive. And never go to a place where the waiter is beckoning you to go. And if they offer you a Russian menu, run for sure!

All the best things are hidden in courtyards and alleys. Go for the conversations in Italian and laughter. Better yet, ask the locals where to eat.

Priceless Service.

Many restaurants, especially in touristy areas, have a service and service charge, the coperto, which can be as high as 12%. It depends on the popularity of the restaurant and even on the time of day (usually higher in the evening). If you do not like surprises, ask the waiter in advance about additional charges. But keep in mind that for the coperto, you’re likely to get a basket of fresh bread and local olive oil.

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Nice perks.

There’s always a line at popular cafes and restaurants beloved by locals. Tables in such places are better to book in advance. And here’s a secret: Sometimes, when you book a table through the portal or TripAdvisor app, you can get a discount of up to 30% or a compliment from the restaurant.

Coffee in a hurry

If an Italian wants coffee, he enters the institution, drinks a cup of espresso or cappuccino right behind the bar. Otherwise you will have to pay, and coffee will cost many times more.

Don’t forget to have an appetizer

An aperitif isn’t just about coming in and having a drink before dinner. In many cafes and bars in Italy, it’s a mystery. You get different appetizers or even access to a buffet with your drink. Usually aperitifs are announced on the stands in front of the cafe or you can check with the waiter. In Rome, Florence and Milan, you can find an aperitif + buffet for 9-11 euros, in Genoa for 8 euros, and in Naples and for 6-7 euros. This menu usually includes nuts, bruschetta, mini pizzas, olives, cheese slices, prosciutto or vegetables.

Italian Morning

Eat breakfast like an Italian – nourishing, budget-friendly and aesthetically pleasing. No scrambled eggs, frankfurters, or jerk sandwiches. Instead, a cornetto is the Italian equivalent of a croissant, but sweeter. Also, when people talk about cornetto, they mean breakfast. In many places you will see: coffee and “croissant” with fillings. It will cost up to 3 euros, and in local places even up to a euro.

TRANSPORT

Photo: Italy

Return ticket

If you fly in and out of the same airport, then buy a round trip ticket online. For example, a bus to Rome is 5.80 euros, and round trip is 9 euros (by Terravision). With the saved money you can buy a gelato.

Walking tour

Walk around the city on foot. Italian cities are not so big, you can easily move around on your own. As a last resort, use public transport. One trip is about 1.5 euros, and you can make changes within 100 minutes. Or buy a pass for 1 day at 7, 2 days – 12.5 and 3 days – 18 euros per person. Cabs and even Uber will hit you hard.

Adventures on the bus

If you decide to travel around Italy, do not rush to buy tickets for the trains. Yes, they are fast enough, the views from the windows are breathtaking, but the prices bite. There is a wonderful company Flixbus, the buses will take you anywhere, cheap and no less comfortable. Or you can take a Blablacar and ride with the locals.

SIGHTSEEING

Photo: Italy

Free guide

Want to learn more about the city? No tents with “Excursions” written in Russian! Every city has free guided walks every day, search the internet for things like “Roma free tour” or “Napoli on foot”.

A Real Tourist

If you have big tourist plans with visiting all the sights in a short period of time, we recommend immediately thinking about saving time and money. Buy tickets online at websites. You have no idea how much time and nerves queues at popular museums will cost you.

You can also buy a 1/2/3 day tourist card, which will allow you to pass virtually no queues at the main museums of the city. And in some museums you can buy a single ticket. For example, a ticket to Rome’s most popular Colosseum also entitles you to enter the Forum and the Palatine Hill. Ticket office of the latter is located literally a hundred meters from the Colosseum, and there is usually no queue.

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