I see your posts in the Shut up and Go Facebook group. I know you all are out there trying to live la bella vita while simultaneously trying to maintain a budget. Luckily, I’ve got the solution for you. Yup, that’s right – I’m gonna teach you cut corners and save money in Italy so you can spend your extra €€€ to come back again!
Ball on a Budget in Italy
After a long day, a nice cold *alcoholic* drink is well deserved, am I right? Well what if that drink came with a rotating buffet of delicious Italian food that you could devour to your heart’s content? Welcome to Aperitivo!
Ok I’m not going to lie, the vast majority of restaurants and bars only offer a very small selection of food for aperitivo (like nuts and potato chips) so don’t expect to find what I described earlier EVERYWHERE. However, every city has at least a couple of places with a mouthwatering non-stop buffet of food for the price of just a simple drink. (Oh and for drinks I recommend Aperol Spritz, this is what you’ll see all of the Italians drinking).
In Bologna, I recommend Lab 16 This locale is located smack in the middle of the university quarter of the city and boasts two-stories of seating on the inside as well as tables sprawling across the neighboring piazza. Prices start at 8€ and on any given night you’ll find at least 30 platters to take from ranging from cut meats, to vegetables, to pasta, to even nutella crepes!
Are you in Florence instead? No problem, check out Moyo right near the banks of the Arno River. Just like Lab 16, the price is 8€ for a drink and endless food. My friend and I stayed for 2 hours to make our euros (and stomachs) stretch as far as possible!
Lastly, my recommendations for Rome include Bar del Fico and 8 Millimetri. Bar del Fico is a bit more hip and stylish, located right by Piazza Navona, while 8 Millimetri attracts more of a young university crowd and can be found in Trastevere.
Drink water from the fountains
We all need water, especially when the infernal summer Italian heat kicks in. However, don’t be one of those tourists constantly buying 3€ bottles of water throughout the day at the kiosks. Please.
First of all, if you really want a bottle of water, run into a grocery store. You can get any size bottle for 20 cents or less. Then, if you need to refill your bottle, go to one of the gazillion water fountains you find every day along the cobblestone streets of Italy (check out the photo at the bottom of this list). The water in these fountains has been running for centuries and it is extremely clean!
In regard to restaurants, my American brethren are likely used to free water being served at every meal. Yeah, not a reality here in Italy. Water costs money at restaurants. I recommend either sharing a large bottle with everyone or just taking a sip of your own water when nobody else is looking.
Free museum admission
When you travel around and visit all of the museums and attractions Italy has to offer, prices start to add up very quickly. However, did you know that there are certain days of the year when admission to museums is completely free? In the past, this used to be every first Sunday of the month. However, the Italian government has changed up the rules as of 2019. There are now Cultural Weeks all over Italy which grant free entrance for all publicly-owned museums in each respective city when they take place. Additionally, the first Sunday rule will continue to apply in October-March when the tourist volume is a bit lower. New rules also state that if you’re 18-25, you will receive €2 admission, whereas if you are 18 or younger and from the EU, admission is free. Lastly, if you study the humanities, you will also receive free admission! How cool is that?
Pay less for Coffee
This tip isn’t really a way to save money but rather a forewarning to avoid being ripped off. In most of Italy, the price of a coffee at a bar does not change whether you drink it at the bar or sit at a table. However, in the center of touristy cities, a 1.40€ cappuccino can immediately transform into 5€ the second you tell the barista you plan on sitting down and sipping it.
All coffee shops should have a posted menu on the wall with the price of every type of coffee offered and if there is a distinction between ordering al banco (at the counter) or al tavolo (at the table). Usually what I do, if in doubt, is order the coffee at the counter, pay immediately, then move to the table and see if the barista says anything. However, just be warned that in most touristy city centers you will have to pay extra to sit down with your coffee.
Put on Your Walking Shoes
This one is a bit self-explanatory, but I’m going to mention it anyways. The absolute best way to save money is to walk as much as you can! I can’t think of one Italian city that is not walkable. Taxis in Italy are quite expensive (and constantly go on strike) and Uber is illegal. If you’re willing to get some exercise, seeing everything on foot is completely doable.
Now you’re ready to economize like a pro when you head to Italy! Oh, and I have one last bonus tip. If you want guarantee a trip to come back to Italy, but not spend a lot of money, throw a Euro into the Trevi Fountain! It’s a Roman legend that whoever throws a coin into the fountain will soon be back (and so far it’s worked for me). However, now I have a question for you.
How do you save money in your travels? Answer in the comments below!