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Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer

Visiting Italy in peak season can be a strain on your wallet. But if you plan to travel at this time of year, here are our tips for enjoying 'bella Italia' without breaking the bank.

Ten ways to save money on your trip to Italy this summer
How to reign in your spending on your Italian holiday this year. Photo by Erwin Doorn on Unsplash

Summer is fast approaching – and with the heatwaves we’re already experiencing in Italy it feels like it’s already here.

Tourism is expected to soar back to pre-pandemic levels this holiday season after taking a serious economic hit the past two years, with travellers once again looking to Italy as their summer destination for 2022.

READ ALSO: OPINION: Mass tourism is back in Italy – but the way we travel is changing

Prices always shoot up during the summer months, but there are ways to visit and see the country without blowing the budget.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your Italian travel fund.

1. Book now if you haven’t already

Last minute package deals aside, waiting to book flights and accommodation nearer to the date is likely to cost more.

It pays to start your research as soon as possible and lock in a price while there’s still reasonable availability. When spots get filled, demand is driven up and they’ll charge a premium instead.

As well as ending up paying more, your options for where to stay narrow as popular holiday hotspots sell out weeks in advance.

2. Look for alternative accommodation

There are more places to stay than hotels, B&Bs or rentals on Air BnB. While it’s worth doing an initial search on these types of accommodation, you may be pleasantly surprised by how affordable an Italian holiday can be if you stay in a campsite.

Don’t worry if putting up tents and walking to communal showers is not your thing.

Outdoor tourism is on the rise this summer in Italy. Photo by Isaiah Ransom on Unsplash

There are plenty of camping parks in Italy that offer bungalows or other permanent structures, complete with independent kitchens and bathrooms, and plenty of facilities on site, such as swimming pools, restaurants and entertainment – some even have their own private beach in front.

It’s an idea many international travellers are catching on to, with up to 48 million tourists booked for this type of holiday in Italy this summer.

For a family-friendly, back-to-nature holiday, this just might be the ticket.

3. Use a different booking platform

There’s an abundance of choice on the market when it comes to getting good accommodation prices. The popular accommodation booking site Booking.com might be your go-to due to its wide range of options, but check out its competitors such as Snap Travel, which can offer huge discounts and also has free cancellation options too.

If you enjoy the exclusive feel of an Air BnB stay and are looking to book group accommodation, take a look at Plum Guide for the cream pickings of privately rented apartments instead. It whittles down the overwhelming choice of Air BnB, even if this option can be more suited to bigger budgets.

An alternative to Air BnB, but often a better value platform, is Vrbo, which has a broad range of rental options suitable for lower budgets.

It’s also worth keeping an eye on the prices directly on the accommodation’s own website, as this is sometimes lower than on booking platforms, which charge the hotels a fee.

Budget airline sites aside, when it comes to flights, you can find trip deals across most airlines on Skyscanner. It has an alert function too, which will send you the latest price drops.

4. Travel by public transport or bike

If you plan to stick to well-known routes, going by public transport can save you considerable wedges of cash compared to renting a car, fuelling up at inflated costs, and paying for parking.

The websites of national rail companies Trenitalia and Italo are your first port of call for travelling by train.

If you intend to move around a lot while in Italy, you could give the Omio app a try – it’s an integrated platform where you can book plane, bus and train tickets and keep them all in one space.

Travelling Italy by train. (Photo by Piero CRUCIATTI / AFP)

Unlike some other sites, the English is good and has not been confusingly translated. Plus it allows you to compare travel times and prices across many carriers.

READ ALSO: Weekend wanderlust: Exploring Bologna’s hidden countryside by bike

Once you’re settled into a place, it’s easier to get around by bike or scooter rather than driving to busy tourist spots or the beach – and saves you fighting for limited parking spaces too. Plus, going on two wheels is also a pleasant way to see your local surroundings and does you good.

5. Use parking apps if you drive

Sometimes, renting a car is the only way to go to reach those remote, medieval hilltop villages and other attractions where the public transport network thins out, particularly in rural areas and on the islands.

To help save a few euros, make sure you park smart. You can download parking apps ahead of time, like EasyPark, which is one of the most useful in Italy as it covers hundreds of Italian cities – and other European countries beyond.

You can also try Phonzie, which has the option to buy bus tickets. Alternatively, look on the metre itself for different ways to pay, as some cities have their own parking app.

Stay out the red in your bank account – and out of trouble while driving in Italy. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

They calculate how much time you’ve used to the minute, so you don’t lose money on rounding up to the next hour of parking fees.

Parking apps also let you add on more time, no matter where you are, which is useful if you’re far away and realise you have five minutes left on your ticket.

6. Know the local laws and regulations

Speaking of driving in Italy, this is one part of your holiday that can catch you out and destroy your careful budgeting by landing you with a fine.

Take care to abide by Italy’s local road laws and avoid unknowingly breaking rules at your cost with this guide on driving penalties.

READ ALSO: How do you dispute a parking ticket in Italy?

7. Avoid August if you can

August is the peak holiday month in Italy, when many businesses shut down and most Italians take some or all of the month off to escape the heat and cool off in the mountains or by the sea.

Due to this intense tourist pressure internally, it goes without saying that holiday costs for international tourists spike too.

READ ALSO: Everything you need to know about Ferragosto, Italy’s national summer holiday

Not only will you fork out more for your trip, it’s not much fun trying to battle through the crowds and swathes of selfie sticks at popular tourist spots.

8. Search out Italy’s free beaches

Businesses have taken advantage of Italy’s coastline, with it becoming increasingly difficult to find a free beach.

report by environmental association Legambiente last year confirmed this, warning that it’s getting harder to find a spot to sunbathe for free, as nearly 43 percent of Italy’s sandy beaches are now occupied by private lidos, campsites, resorts or other businesses.

Find a free – of people and cost – beach in Italy. (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP)

Plus, with some beach services reported to have been charging up to €50 per day to rent two sun loungers and an umbrella last summer, finding your own little space on the sand is a good way to save cash.

READ ALSO: Is Italy’s west or east coast the best place for a holiday?

Pack a towel, a parasol and some refreshments and you can make considerable savings on beach days.

To find Italy’s best beaches based on the global standard Blue Flag beach award, check our map here.

9. Eat away from the seafront and main attractions

A sea view comes at a premium when dining out, so set aside some evenings to eat further inland if you’re holidaying by the coast.

On the busy Riviera Romagnola on Italy’s eastern Adriatic shore, for example, you can expect a main course – either a pasta primo or fish secondo – to cost you around €20, with antipasti (starters) not much below that.

READ ALSO: How to spot the Italian restaurants to avoid

If you’re staying on the coast anywhere in Italy, there are sure to be some local specialities off the sandy strip that can bring down those eating out costs.

Along this mentioned stretch of coastline, the piadina is famous – and cheap. This Italian flatbread filled with meats, cheeses and/or vegetables will cost around just €6 instead.

If you’re heading to Italy’s cities on your trip, the same rule applies when sitting down for a drink or bite to eat on the main squares, or close to major tourist attractions. The view might be incredible – but that coffee could take an unexpectedly large chunk out of your budget.

10. Speak some Italian

You’re not expected to be fluent when you go to Italy for a holiday, but knowing some basics certainly goes a long way with the locals – and can save you getting fleeced.

Tourist traps notoriously hike up the prices for non-Italians, so if you don’t want to get overcharged for your espresso at the local bar, ask for it in Italian instead.

Four tourists in Venice hit the headlines after being charged over €1,000 for their meal – for which the eatery subsequently got slapped with a €10,000 fine.

Being aware by showing some Italian skills – and a grazie delivered with a smile – never hurts.

Have you gathered some money-saving tips while on holiday in Italy? Let us know in the comments or contact us here. Visit our travel section for the latest updates.

Member comments

  1. The biggest single huge cost this year is car hire, now reaching £100 a day or more. So good to avoid but sadly essential for many holidays.

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VENICE

EXPLAINED: Why Venice has delayed its ‘tourist tax’ – again

After the city of Venice announced yet another delay to its long-discussed plan to impose an entry fee, we look at why the project has run aground and what this means for visitors in 2023.

EXPLAINED: Why Venice has delayed its ‘tourist tax’ - again

For an island surrounded by shoals and shallow waters, it seems oddly fitting that Venice’s long-discussed ‘tourist tax’ system remains hopelessly stranded. 

The idea to impose an entry fee on all day-trippers, intended to regulate the number of visitors and supposedly solve the city’s overcrowding problems, was first mooted in 2019.

OPINION: Why more of Italy’s top destinations must limit tourist numbers

It has been repeatedly delayed – first after historic floods, and then amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

All the pieces seemed to have finally fallen into place earlier this year, and Venice was expected to get its much-touted ‘tourist tax’ system up and running by January 16th, 2023. 

However, to the surprise of no-one who’s even remotely familiar with the project’s troubled history, the city has now announced another delay – meaning the entry-fee saga will now continue well into the new year.

Why all the delays?

While Venice’s comune (town hall) vaguely attributed the latest deferral to the need to “change and improve” the project, a number of specific longstanding issues seem to have bogged down the city’s plans once more.

Confusion still lingers over who exactly will be exempted from paying the entry fee (contributo d’accesso), which will range from three to ten euros based on the day and time of the year. 

A gondola right in front of Venice's Doge Palace

Under Venice’s new tourism regulation system, day-trippers will have to pay an entry fee of three to ten euros to access the city centre. Photo by Laurent EMMANUEL / AFP

While tourists staying in the city overnight, residents, second-home owners and those studying or working in Venice have long been identified as exempt categories, local authorities have never quite clarified what their plans were in relation to people living in other Veneto provinces. 

READ ALSO: How will Venice’s tourist tax affect second-home owners? 

And, according to the latest Italian media reports, a squabble between Venice’s administration and regional authorities over the status of Veneto residents – the region is reportedly pushing for a full exemption, which Venice seems to oppose for now – may have been the main reason behind the latest stand-off. 

But a clearer definition of exemptions isn’t the only outstanding item in the city’s to-do list, not by a long shot. 

The administration’s failure to reach an agreement with local transport operators and port authorities over the enforcement of the new rules has largely contributed to the latest delay, and so have issues related to the planned online booking platform.

In particular, the comune pledged earlier this year that the website allowing day-trippers to book and pay for their visit to the city would be ready by the end of 2022 – but with less than a month to go until the new year there’s no sign of it.

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Venice?

Tourist sitting in a cafè by Rialto Bridge in Venice

Due to a number of structural issues, the introduction of Venice’s entry fee system is now expected to happen over the course of next year’s summer. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

It is perhaps telling in this sense that the city is still in the process of asking residents for comments and suggestions on the entry fee plan: the website created to collect feedback on the project went live on Tuesday, December 6th and will remain available until January 7th.

So when might visitors have to pay an entry fee?

Any changes made to the project now will have to be approved by the city’s council (Consiglio Comunale), after which it’ll take months – perhaps as many as six – to get the system ready to go. 

This means that, even if the council somehow managed to approve the new plan by the end of the year, the project’s trial stages could only start next summer at the earliest, with the local Feast of the Redeemer (Festa del Redentore) on July 15th potentially being the first real test for the system. 

But, given the project’s history, we doubt many people will bank on it.

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