Italy Travel Guide
If you’re on the hunt for life-changing food, breathtaking views, and the chance to walk in the footsteps of history; Italy is the place for you. If you’re not looking for these things, what exactly have you been doing this whole time anyway? Italy is one of my favorite stops in Europe, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to enjoy all that is has to offer.
City Specific Guides
Tips to Save Money
In many of my other destination guides, I have advised you to skip eating out, and instead, cook for yourself. Well I’m not a monster. I would never suggest you do that in Italy. Hell, my blood runs thick with tomato sauce and cheese every time I visit.
What you can do instead, however, is carefully choose when you eat.
Many restaurants will offer special lunchtime pricing, allowing you to choose from the standard dinner selection at a fraction of the cost. For even cheaper options, grab a slice of pizza or a panini to go from one of the seemingly endless amount of restaurants you will pass.
Take Your Coffee at the Bar
Many restaurants and cafes will charge you a “coperta” (a sitting fee that usually costs a few euros) or require a minimum purchase if you are going to be seated at a table. If you’d rather not pay close to €10 for a espresso, you can skip the seating charge by simply not sitting. Stand at the bar and you can avoid those pesky fees and minimums.
Skip the Bread
Yes, I realize what I just said, and no, this isn’t dieting advice. I love bread just as much as anyone, but unfortunately, many restaurants will use your weakness for carbs against you.
If you’re from the US, you are probably used to restaurants bringing out bread once you have placed your order. Well the same thing happens in Italy, but what they don’t tell you is that the bread isn’t free. If you take so much as one slice, be prepared to find a €5-6 charge added onto your bill. If you’d rather not pay for it, just send it back when it arrives at the table.
Plan Your Bathroom Breaks
Italy, like much of western Europe, has a severe lack of public restrooms. When you can find them, oftentimes there is an attendant waiting to charge you a €1-2 entrance fee. While it may not seem like much, it does add up over time and my thrifty nature refuses to support it.
With that in mind, be sure to plan your bathroom breaks accordingly to avoid paying unnecessary charges. Stop to eat lunch at a cafe? Use the bathroom. Exploring an art museum? Use the bathroom. Another one of my favorite tricks is to keep your eyes peeled for a busy bar. If there are enough people inside, they’ll never notice one person making a beeline for the toilet.
Taxis tend to be expensive as is, but this is especially true in Italy. Not only do the fares tend to be higher in general, drivers have been known to take advantage of tourists who don’t know any better. If possible, stick to public transportation (though it’s not always reliable in Italy), or enjoy the sights on a scenic walk. Renting a bike is also an option, though this can get a little pricey.
If you absolutely must take a taxi, make sure you get one from a taxi stand to ensure it’s an actual registered cab, and always check to make sure the meter is running once the ride starts.
Eat Until You Can’t Eat Anymore
I seriously can’t stress this enough. Food in Italy is amazing. It’s easily my top foodie destination. With so many amazing restaurants around, you really can’t go wrong. My only advice is to avoid the touristy areas. More often than not, the food is overpriced and the quality is substandard.
Explore the surrounding neighborhoods and go where the locals go. Do that and you’re guaranteed to leave fat and happy without breaking your budget.
Alternatively, visit some of the local shops and put together a small picnic. There are few better ways to watch the sunset than with a bottle of red wine and a face full of prosciutto.
Visit the Museums and Churches
This one is a given, but Italy is home to some of the greatest artwork and architecture mankind has ever created. Don’t miss your chance to see it firsthand. Just be sure to plan your day in advance and get there early. Lines tend to form quickly, and the last thing you want to do is waste an entire afternoon waiting to see something.
Shop the Weekend Markets
Many cities around Italy host massive open-air flea markets on the weekends. Vendors stretch on for several city blocks and sell just about everything you can imagine. If you’re buying anything other than food, try to haggle down the price like the locals do. You might not get much wiggle room without speaking a little Italian, but at the very least, you could save a few euros.
Hike Through Cinque Terre
Set along the coastline of the Italian Riveria, Cinque Terre is a series of five connected fishing villages that look as though they were ripped directly out of the pages of a fairytale.
The area is famous for its brightly colored houses and sprawling seas-side views. If you’re in no particular rush, a walking path connects all five villages and is a great way to see some of the stunning countryside. But just a heads up, accommodations here are limited and pricey, so it’s best to plan a trip here in advance.