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Here’s Why Italy Should Be Your Next Budget Travel Destination – Forbes

From the Roman Forum to the watery canals of Venice, Italy is one of the most iconic places for travelers to visit. Lovers throw coins into the Trevi fountain and backpackers hike Cinque Terra. Boasting Etruscan antiquities, Renaissance architecture, great techno clubs, a vibrant graffiti scene and some of the best wines in the world, the country truly offers something for every traveler.

Alexandra Talty.

The Santa Maria del Fiore, or The Duomo, is one of the Renaissance city’s most impressive landmarks. Whether its your first trip to Italy or you are traveling on a budget, learning about the engineering behind Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome is worth the tour.

And yet Italy is viewed as an expensive country for many Americans, a bucket-list destination that is seemingly out of reach. But it doesn’t have to be. I lived there for a year when I was 18, spending my weekends exploring the country on a shoestring with fellow college students. Thanks to an extensive public transportation system that puts the United States to shame, a plethora of inexpensive cultural activities and an unabashed admiration for food, Italy is in fact a great budget destination if you know where to go and how to get around.

Here’s how you can travel to the land of pizza and pasta on a budget.

Be selective with your itinerary.

Italy can be overwhelming. From ancient Roman ruins to Renaissance art, there is a lot to do. In order to save your sanity, pick a few of the sites that matter the most to you. Don’t try to do Rome-Florence-Venice in a week, because all you’ll see is large crowds and overpriced food. The magic of the country is enjoying the place as Italians do…which means you should explore the meandering alleyways, spend time in a piazza and embrace the three-to-four hour dinners. By focusing on one region, you’ll also save money.

Come up with a hit list of must-see items. For every greatest hit site like Florence’s Duomo, pick another, lesser known place as well.

History buff? In Rome, visit the Colosseum  and then stop by the uber-impressive, three-tiered Basilica of San Clemente.

Obsessed with art? In Florence, check out the Uffizi Gallery and then scope the stunning Fra Angelico frescos at the Convent of San Marco. By mixing the extremely famous sites with some quieter ones, you’ll be able to see grasp the depth and breadth of Italy’s cultural history.

Alexandra Talty.

The author on a recent visit to her old stopping grounds in Florence, taking the obligatory selfie off the Ponte Vecchio.

Go for the off-season.

Skip Italy in the summer. Experts recommend traveling to the boot anytime between October through June. Otherwise, you’ll catch the crowds and vacation prices, not to mention higher-than-average airfare.

Or the winter.

YouTubestar and adventress Nadine Sykora has one Italy-on-a-budget tip: consider the winter!

She says, “Traveling during the winter time is beautiful, and things are way less busy, you just have to wear a bit warmer of a coat.”

Alexandra Talty.

The market in Turin offers great options for traveling to Italy on a budget.

Find a hostel or airbnb with a kitchen. 

The cornerstone of Italian cooking is fresh, simple ingredients. Take advantage of their fine culinary traditions and spend a morning browsing the local market. Similar to American farmers’ markets, vendors specialize in specific goods. Regional specialities – like cheese soaked in wine – will feature prominently, so do some research beforehand to know what to scoop up.

“The best thing about Italy is that you can treat yourself to restaurants and then cook at a hostel,” says Romina Diaz, a Florentine who manages Tasso Hostel in the city. She lives on the equivalent of $13 a day, thanks to her thrifty cooking habit.

If cooking isn’t your style, make a picnic for lunch. There is a multitude of high-quality, low cost food in Italy and if you’re only eating at trattorias, you’ll miss some of the simple elegance of Italian cuisine.

Alexandra Talty.

Interested in a pro-tip for traveling to Italy? Order your espresso and pastry at the counter to save some moolah.

Drink your coffee standing up.

Last month at the Santa Maria Novella train station in downtown Florence I was able to get breakfast of coffee and a small sfogliatelle at a swanky cafe for $2.37. The trick? Order your coffee and pastry at the bar, as there is a surcharge for seats at most restaurants.

Pro tip: don’t order a cappuccino after lunch time, unless you want some funny looks. Italians consider the frothy drink to be a breakfast-only affair, similar to cereal.

Alexandra Talty.

Aperitivo is a great option for budget travelers and good tip for those traveling to Italy for the first time.

Adopt aperitivo as your best friend.

All over Italy, bars offer nightly spreads of small bites like prosciutto, hunks of Parmesan, or buratta crostini. Customers usually pay around $10 for their first drink which includes all the food. Called aperitivo, it is a great way to enjoy the nightlife culture without blowing $30 at a bar.

Do a little research to find the best ones as some can feature lots of bread items and feel repetitive, while others will offer a more robust spread. Americans: take note. Let’s bring this tradition stateside!

Here’s Why Italy Should Be Your Next Budget Travel Destination – Forbes

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