Yes, it’s possible to enjoy the famed dolche vita on a budget. With a little planning and know-how, you can travel cheaply in Italy without skimping on all the pleasures that Italy has to offer, especially the eating and drinking part.
Catch the train – Italy has a cheap and excellent train system, which leaves Australian cities for dead. The Frecciarossa and its glamourous sister Frecciabianca are the last word in ergonomic design and efficiency and run frequently. To get the most out of your euro, book ahead if you can.
Happy hour – as a response to the ongoing economic crisis, on the weekend many bars offer “happy hour”, with free bar-style food with a drink. The price of a drink is a euro or two more but it is worth it as servings are usually abundant. Good happy hour offerings will include a buffet of antipasto style foods where you can pick and choose from cheese, hams, bread, olives and pickled vegetables. You won’t need dinner afterwards.
Lunch – the big cities offer department style self-service nosheries, where for very little outlay, you can chow down on classic Italian staples of bread, salad, pasta, meat and dessert. Of course being Italian at lunchtime, there’s wide choice of wine too. It’s sit-down with toilets (important) and although it can feel rushed, serves are large.
Art galleries – take time out and chillax in a church. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate some beautiful artwork and watch the parade of Italian life in a quieter form. No-one will hassle you and you feel the serenity as you check out the art.
Accommodation – Italy offers LOADS of cheap accommodation options. If you are sticking around somewhere for more than four days, consider an apartment hire – it’s cheaper than hotels and you have the further benefit of being able to prepare a few meals if you want. Monasteries are also very price-effective as are agriturismo’s (although that can depend). Off-season is also much much cheaper in the big cities.
Go off the beaten track – the big touristy cities are always expensive (except in the off-season) but the “B” cities are very cost-effective. Consider Arezzo instead of Florence, Mantua instead of Milan or Vicenzia instead of Venice. I promise you won’t be disappointed and you can still “do” the big cities as a day trip from your so-called “B” city.