Head off the beaten track
Sure, Italy is known for the likes of Florence, Venice and Rome – but a great way to avoid paying hiked up tourist prices is to explore some of the country’s equally as beautiful smaller cities, towns and villages.
Did you know that Perugia is home to one of the oldest universities in Italy? Situated in central Italy and capital of the Umbria region – the bustling streets of this medieval city are packed with atmosphere and culture. With breath-taking architecture, free cathedrals and Piazzas at every turn, you can spend the money you’ve saved indulging on the good stuff. Our recommendation? Perugia is renowned for its chocolate – so treat yourself (and your taste buds) to a factory tour.
With great rail connections between Rome and Florence, Perugia is a perfect stopover between the two. You can reach Perugia from Rome in around 2h 30m on Trenitalia's regional trains, then when you’re ready for your next journey, Florence is just 1h 30m away.
If you’re dreaming of relaxing on a beach by day and a vibrant social scene by night, Rimini may be the place for you. Nestled on the Adriatic coast close to Bologna, it’s popular with locals and budget tourists alike for its 15 km of golden beaches, unmissable entertainment and exciting atmosphere. This city isn’t just for the sun-seekers though – you’ll find plenty of Roman architectural wonders and bustling markets as you wander around. When the sun goes down, head to the historic quarter for an evening of cool cocktails and lively music.
Get to know the locals
It may seem slightly daunting at times, but chatting to friendly faces in cafés, bars or even a knowledgeable soul on the train is a great way to learn about what to see and do in the area.
Don’t be shy! Whether you’re fluent in Italian or only know a sprinkling of the main phrases – by asking a local, you’re sure to have an authentic experience. You’ll often discover places to eat and drink away from the tourist traps, meaning you’ll get cheaper prices. They may even suggest sights that haven’t made it into the guidebook, making your trip to Italy extra special.
Don’t miss a bargain
Although the major cities in Italy can be pricey at times, we’re always looking for ways to help make your trip to Italy a little bit cheaper. The major cities often offer discount cards that reduce entrance fees for world-famous sights. In Florence, the Firenzecard allows you access to almost every museum in the city – including the famous Duomo. If you’re going to see the sites in Rome, the three-day Roma Pass includes entry to two museums of your choice (the Colosseum is included in this) as well as travel on the Metro, buses and trams.
If you’re lucky enough to have one – make sure you take your student card with you. Many European cities offer discounts or free entry for students, so take advantage of it!
The best way to see the sights and stick to your budget? We’ve got three words for you – Free. Walking. Tours. Always a great choice for seeing the best that the big cities have to offer and gaining insider knowledge, check online or ask at your hostel or hotel for information on where to meet.
Eat like an Italian
If there’s something Italy is known for above anything else – it’s their food. Italians love to eat, so start by watching to see where the locals are heading – students especially will know where the cheapest and tastiest bites can be found. If you’re in a city with lots of students, head to the university’s surrounding areas – you’ll often find cheap drinks and delicious snacks waiting for you.
For a true taste of Italy for less, why not try the street food? Order the familiar arancini for fried balls of risotto, panino con porchetta for a sandwich filled with roast pork or pesce fritto al cono at the seaside to enjoy fried fish served in a cone. Don’t forget about the classic bread focaccia either – which everyone knows and loves.
There’s so much more to Italian cuisine than just pizza and gelato (although we recommend trying plenty of these too!) – and lots of ways to not fork out on your food!
It’s just a bed
One of the priciest parts of travel is usually accommodation, but there are clever ways to cut down on the amount you spend while you sleep each night.
Hostels are a great way to keep costs low, and they often offer discounts on tours or entry to major sights. If you’re feeling daring, you could consider Couch Surfing: stay in the spare room of a friendly local and learn about their home – you may even make a lifelong friend. If you like your privacy, it’s easy to find some very affordable B&Bs throughout Italy or perhaps a family-run boutique hotel.
One of our favourite options though is taking overnight trains. Especially useful if you’re travelling from Italy to elsewhere, just hop on board as you’re ready to bed down and awake in a brand-new place. What could be more adventurous?
These were just a few of our top tips for travelling around Italy on a budget – but the list is endless! Why not take a look at the where else the trains in Italy can take you?