Italy by no means is a cheap getaway. But like the old adage goes, a penny saved is a penny earned.
With extensive research time I clocked before my travels and my first-hand experiences, I’ve put together some things that cover the most likely tipping points where tourists get trapped in to extra charges or buying things at premium prices. I hope these help!
Check the restaurant cover charge
Most restaurants in Italy charge a “coperto” or cover charge which is usually a few Euros per person. Sometimes this includes bread and/or water. It’s a good idea to check what the cover charge is before you sit down in case you’re not having a full meal and just stopping for a coffee or a snack – which is mostly not entertained by the Italians. If it’s meal time, you’re expected to have a full course!
Eat at restaurants away from the tourist attractions
Eating at restaurants that are a little away from the centre of the attractions have many benefits. They will be 10-20 percent cheaper, the service will be superior and you could chance upon better food that’s more local. In Italy, each region has its own speciality. You aren’t supposed to eat pizza everywhere! You definitely don’t want to eat pizza when you’re in Venice as wood-fired ovens aren’t allowed. The touristy spots there are the only ones that would serve pizza! Instead look for local specialities or something peculiar to a community that thrives only there. I stayed in the Jewish ghetto neighbourhood in Venice which has so much character and is away from the tourist hustle. It was an incredible experience to try the local food specific to this community.
Check your bills
It’s not uncommon to be “tricked” in to certain purchases when you’re in the heart of a tourist hub. I bought my phone sim card as soon I landed at Milan airport without bothering to check the receipt. Many days later when I was going through my stack of receipts I noticed that I had also been billed for a guide to speaking Italian and a map of Milan! – things I did not ask for! That was an additional eleven Euros to my bill! Even though the guide was interesting, I felt cheated and foolish!
Pay for taking pictures of street artists
Italy’s picturesque cobbled streets are dotted with many street artists. I love the character they add and enjoy admiring their art, be it music, sand sculptures or paintings. I believe it’s a good gesture to leave a couple of Euros in their hat and did do so whenever I passed by an artist I liked. While that’s totally up to you, don’t expect to take pictures of the artists without dropping some cash. And don’t be surprised if some of them ask you for it if you don’t oblige!
Don’t buy too much from street markets
While I enjoy strolling through street markets more than anything, I don’t do any major shopping there. I found that most of the markets in Italy were crafty tourist traps. Expect to pay a premium price for anything you buy. If you’re looking to buy things like limoncello, truffles and pasta – they will be far cheaper in a supermarket and of a better quality! Eataly has a great selection of gourmet foods at prices that offer good value.
Invest in a good travel insurance policy
While I had a magical summer in Italy this year, it was a trip that was heavily dotted with adventures, or shall I say misadventures. In spite of being a regular and avid traveller, drama caught me like the common cold. From minor injuries to food poisoning and the airline losing my luggage to me missing my connecting flight back home, I feel blessed to just be alive! I’m glad I had issued myself a travel insurance policy which I’m hoping should help cover most of my losses. It will definitely help me look back and laugh at these moments!
And finally, let loose and once in a way loosen the purse strings! You’re on vacation. Relish each moment!