Traveling is one of the bravest things one could do in life, I applaud you and commend your efforts in advance. It takes a lot of energy to throw yourself across the ocean (or across countries if you are already on this side of the pond) and into a foreign culture to have some of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. Most of those unforgettable experiences will undoubtedly include food. ESPECIALLY if you are coming to Italy! Another brave part about traveling is pouring your hard earned dough into a plane ticket, accommodations, tours, museums, entertainment and food. You can’t quite control some costs but with food, there are definitely ways to be a smart traveler and in Italy you can really spend more than necessary if you are not careful. Here are some tips we have for you to make your money go further, satisfy your appetite, create good food memories and avoid overpriced, tourist traps.
Italian brioche and cappuccino: a typical breakfast!
1. If you are in Italy, try to be flexible and adapt to the local eating culture. If at home you are used to a certain kind of breakfast, try to abandon your habits just a little bit. For example, American and British style breakfasts served in Italy are very expensive. Italians generally eat a pastry and a cappuccino for breakfast (at the bar standing, not sitting) which costs no more than 3 euros. It usually costs 2.20EU. It may seem like a small breakfast, but perhaps pick up a piece of fruit from the local food markets and fruit/veg stands that brim most Italian cities for an extra bit of satiating fiber and sugar. Or alternatively, buy breakfast foods from the nearby grocery store and store it at your apartment or hotel if there is a mini-fridge (I’m thinking cereal and milk, etc).
2. Lunch should be a very inexpensive pleasure in Italy. If you are paying more than 13-15 euros, you are having a pretty luxury meal in my opinion. If you are going to authentic trattorias, delis (alimentari), street carts or sandwich shops, you should expect to pay 3-10 euros depending on what you get. On the smaller scale would be a panino and the higher end would be meat and potatoes or a pasta. Our food tours in Rome, Florence and Milan are a great way to get to know local establishments that serve reasonably priced, authentic food. Plus, your tour guide will be a pandora’s box of restaurant recommendations!
Traditional porchetta panino- a very filling and cheap lunch option
3. Speaking of lunch, try as much as possible to go to alimentari (which are like deli shops) and order panini there to save money and have the freshest, traditional ingredients. Keep it simple! Ask for a panino with just roasted pork (porchetta) or prosciutto and pecorino, for example or a panino caprese (mozzarella and tomato.) Italians tend to have simple panini with a meat and/or cheese and perhaps fresh rocket (rucola) or tomatoes but don’t expect mayo, mustard, grilled vegetables, etc. You can have grilled veggies but each ingredient gets weighed so you have to pay for each addition. Keep it simple and enjoy the flavorful ingredients by themselves (i.e. mortadella on fresh focaccia is simple, cheap and out of this world delicious!)
Group wine tasting in Florence
4. When in restaurants, unless you really know about Italian wine or are curious to learn more (and trust the usually more expensive suggestions by the staff) it is best to stick with house wine. House wine is generally 6-10 euros a liter while getting a bottle is significantly higher and can sometimes be comparable in quality to the house wine if you don’t know what you are picking. Italy is saturated with wine and therefore it is important to learn the producers who make a great Chianti Classico for example in order to increase your chances of making a good investment on a bottle served at a restaurant. Or you can take a wine tasting with us to learn more so that you can make smart decisions when ordering wine in a restaurant other than of the house.
5. Do your research ahead of time for a city, learn about the neighborhoods woven through and bordering the mainland historical center. Eating in a neighborhood like Sant’Ambrogio in Florence, for example will be a lot more cost effective (and higher in quality) than say eating in Piazza Santa Croce in Florence where there are yes, beautiful seating areas with a gorgeous view of the basilica, but cut corners in terms of cuisine quality and blend in the cost of the location into the menu.
6. When doing restaurant and food research, check out yelp reviews and not only tripadvisor. For example, yelp in Florence is overseen by a local community manager who contributes to the reviews and has a somewhat more informed opinion as they are a local, rather than a tripadvisor review which can be very subjective to their personal tastes.
7. Try to make picnics as often as possible to save money. Food in the markets or grocery stores are dirt cheap and if you are visiting Italy in the summer, it is a wonderful place to have dinner in a nearby park or a large piazza (just bring/wear mosquito repellent if you are visiting in the summer!)
8. Skip the dessert menu at the restaurant and instead find a local gelateria for an affordable dessert option: gelato! Gelato shops (gelaterie) tend to stay open till about 10pm or 1am in some cases especially during the summer. A gelato can be as cheap as ONE euro (I’m talking baby cones here) but generally a normal sized serving will run you 2.50. Gelato is a cheap way to have a real Italian dessert unless you want a massive cup or waffle cone but keep in mind that will be going in your stomach so don’t let your eyes fool you! You might even be able to find novelty flavors like tiramisu gelato- win win!
9. Try aperitivo! Aperitivo is the art of having a aperitif cocktail with a spread of snacks. An aperitif-style cocktail such as a spritz or a negroni are the most common and authentic aperitifs in Italian drink culture. The most an aperitivo should cost is 10 euros (but averages 7EU) and with that you get a drink and some food so that you don’t arrive at dinner ravaging and ordering everything on the menu. Most bars and cafes in Italy offer some sort of aperitivo between the hours of 6-9pm. Conveniently before dinnertime:)
Pizza at a trattoria in Rome
10. Pick trattorias over osterias. Generally trattorias are more casual and less costly than osterias and have more of a rustic, local feel with very traditional, seasonal fare. Having pizza for dinner is also not a bad idea and it will be under 10eu! For suggestions for the best trattorias in the city you will be traveling to in Italy, consult your tour guide on your next food tour with us in Milan, Rome and/or Florence
Planning a trip to Italy? Interested in tours? Contact us or visit our homepage to discover all the tours we offer in Italy.