Italian currency: euros
Currency code: EUR
Italy is one of the cheaper European countries to visit. Transport and food are more affordable than in neighbouring countries like Switzerland and Austria, but accommodation can become expensive in the peak season.
It’s easy to get caught up with the sights and spend a lot of money in Rome, Venice and Florence, but lesser known places can be really affordable. Search out small cafes full of locals, and avoid restaurant menus with pictures on them and you will save cash and probably eat a lot better too.
In general, the north is more expensive to travel in than the south of Italy. Places like Naples, Matera, and Sicily offer low prices and warm weather almost year round. But with a few simple tips, it’s easy to travel anywhere in Italy on a budget.
The euro is the official currency of Italy and the country has a cash-based economy, although there has been an increase in the use of cards since the pandemic. MasterCard and Visa are widely accepted, but other cards like American Express are less common. Contactless and digital payments are more prevalent in the cities.
Try to always have some cash with you for tipping, public bathrooms, street food and small cafes. ATMs are widespread and easy to use, often having options available in English. Make sure to check the rates with your provider, or get a travel card like Wise to avoid bank exchange fees.
Many restaurants in tourist areas will include a service charge (servizio) of around 10%. The coperto is different, as it’s a charge to sit at a table or have bread included - usually at higher-end restaurants or tourist traps. Check the menu or the bill for these as it should always be listed by law.
Tipping isn’t compulsory in Italy but rounding up to the nearest euro for things like drinks, taxis, and light meals is common practice. Leaving a few euros in cash after a nice meal at a restaurant will usually benefit the waiter directly.
One of the best ways to save money on travelling in Italy is by travelling in the shoulder season. Summer can be expensive, and the prices of accommodation and attractions are inflated due to the high demand.
Public transport is another great way to save. Take regional trains instead of the high-speed ones, they are slower, but they can cost less than half of the price.
Buses are cheaper still, travelling from Rome to Florence could cost you as little as €7 on a Flixbus. The same journey would set you back €45 on the high speed train.
Coffee comes in the form of an espresso in Italy. Its best drunk standing at the bar like the locals do. If you sit down, you will often be charged a service fee. Most cafes will have bathrooms too, so make sure to make use of them instead of paying €2+ for a public restroom.
Most Italian cities have fantastic fresh water systems that were built by the Romans. There is no need to buy water as you can refill a reusable bottle from free water fountains in cities like Florence and Rome.
Eating out can become expensive when it’s every meal. Consider takeaway lunches to save on the costs of a seated table. If you want to rest during the day, there are many trattorias and osterias that offer a menù del giorno (menu of the day) for under €15.
Italy is notoriously bad for premium prices in prime locations. Eat in St Mark's Square in Venice and you can be sure to get a surprise when you see the bill is charged at a rate of per kilo (meat/fish).
That said there are countless restaurants that offer great value and delicious food, just head a few streets back from the main attractions. Always check for things like service fees and coperto to avoid nasty surprises at the end of your meal.
Mancia - tip
Servizio - service charge
Coperto - cover charge
Banconote - banknotes
Spiccioli - coins
Cameriere - waiter/waitress
Posso avere il conto, per favore? - Can I have the bill please?
Tenga il resto - Keep the change.
Mi può cambiare i venti euro per cortesia? - Can you please change this €20 banknote?
Although costs can vary greatly by season and region, you can expect to budget between €100 - €150 per day when travelling in Italy. The main costs will be on accommodation, but it’s possible to save on food and transport in Italy.
Espresso - €1.20
1 litre of milk - €1.20
Dinner for two - €50
Pizza - €6 to €8
Aperol Spritz - €5 to €10
Sandwich - €5
Museum tickets - €10 to €20
Planning a trip to Italy? Read our Italy travel guides.