Traveling on a budget throughout Italy can be tough, and I know this from experience.
When I was 18, my best friend and I embarked on a two month journey from north to south of the great Italian peninsula. We certainly had a blast, but could have had a lot more fun if we had budgeted better and booked hotels and tickets online beforehand. I share with you my four top tips that I learned from my experience:
Start in the south, then work your way north
This is something we did backwards, but I am convinced it is the way to go. Start in Sicily, which is definitely the cheapest region in Italy. This is partly because the southern economy is weaker, but also because the Sicilians are honest about their services and prices.
However, finding accommodation upon arrival can be difficult and I recommend you reserve your holidays in Sicily through online websites will be forehand. Sicilians enjoy the slow rhythm of life, hanging out at the beach, eating well, and not stressing too much about work. For this reason, it can be hard to get ahold of hotel managers immediately when you arrive. Booking beforehand avoids this stress, gets you discounts, and gets you to the beach quicker, too!
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Be relaxed about travel times
The Italian train system is cheap and very expansive, but it doesn’t always run on time. I promise you will see some of the most beautiful sights you’ve ever laid eyes on out the windows of Trenitalia carriages. You can ckeck out offers and services easily on trenitalia.com. However, you will mostly likely encounter delays. So go with the flow! Take a good book, a diary, a sketchpad, a deck of cards, and do as the Italians do — no stress, you will get there when you’re meant to.
Don’t be afraid to get a little lost
In a city like Venice, check out the famous monuments first and then accept the fact that you will get lost on her narrow streets and mysterious canals. But getting lost in Venice is a gift, and keep your eyes open for hidden finds. Honestly, you can try to follow the map but my advice is to put it down. You will get around easier without it, as the whole city plan is so confusing that a map won’t really help you. Get yourself oriented by looking at your surroundings.
I found the tiniest little glass shop on a late evening stroll while I was heading back to my hostel. It was on a dark, dirty side-street which had no name at all. Inside were the most gorgeous hand-blown glass animals. They were tiny yet intricate, and I walked out with a pair of wine glasses for my mother. Inside the stems are a perfect miniature swan and flamingo. These kind of treasures aren’t in any guidebook, but I promise you’ll find them if you just wander.
Eat the local food, from a local vendor
Both your stomach and your wallet will thank you. The best way to avoid tourist trap restaurants is get away from the famous monuments, then ask a local. The locals in the neighborhoods far from the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Duomo in Florence and the Piazza of the Palio in Sienna are much more willing to help tourists out.
They see less of them, and don’t get sick of them! Italian people are very proud of their culture, which includes their food. Every town will have a very special dish that has been eaten and perfected over centuries. So get friendly, ask about it, and let your tummy thank you! You will also spend less money the further away you get from the tourist attractions.