Budgeting

My husband and I would like to travel Italy for two weeks next early September. We would like to fly into Venice or Rome and out of the other. What we are hoping to do is drive through Italy stopping in Venice for 2, Cinque Terre for 1-2 days, Bologna for 1 day, Florence for 2-3, Pisa for .5 or 1, Tuscany for 2-3 and Rome for 3-4. (We would likely drive to Florence, drop off the car, rent again, drive to Rome and drop off again in Rome.) We don't necessarily want to pre-plan and pre-pay for everything so we have some flexibility while touring around. We found a B&B in Tuscany for $115 CAD a night which we are pleased with but otherwise we are open to B&Bs, hostels and smaller hotels that aren't completely posh (though I do want private ensuites). As for food, I want to eat where the locals do and the idea of picnicking for lunches pleases me immensely. I eat a lot but more like little meals throughout the day, and neither of us are heavy drinkers--maybe 2 drinks for him, 1 for me, and not every dinner. We really want to see/do some touristy things like a Venetian gondola, the Colisseum, the Vatican, Michaelangelo, Sistine Chapel, etc. but we also want to experience authentic Italy--see what locals see, eat what they eat, stay off the beaten track. How much should we budget in CAD/USD, excluding flight? For food/hotel/car and gas/frivolity/touristy things? Thank you!

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
5737 posts

Do you have the Rick Steves Italy book yet? If not, you need to pick one up. It answers all your questions including the one about how much to budget. Happy travels.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Hang around. A guidebook is only one person's opinion. You'll get a lot more, then you can pick and choose. Keep in mind that you're looking for non-touristy, but going to the most touristy part of the country. Probably most of the locals you'll come across in that short amount of time will be those working in the tourist industry. When you work out your schedule a bit more you might do something a bit different with the car/s business. You might want to keep it in Florence and do day trips into the rest of Tuscany from there. Or, you might want to hold onto it and choke the parkings fees - - do the math, two shorter term rentals can be a lot more than just one of a greater length.

Posted by Frank
Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA
10854 posts

For what you suggest, 100 to 150 US dollars per person/day. And the 100 is on the tight side.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2258 posts

Skip the gondola ride and save $100 right there! Yes, $150 per day per person would be comfortable.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3314 posts

Actually I'd like to correct Ed from Pensacola. The people working in the tourist industry you'll be in contact with may actually not be Italians either. Most of the people working in bars, restaurants, shops and hotels, at least in Florence where I go often, are immigrants. Unless you know Italian very well to detect their very slight foreign accent though, you won't be able to tell. They may look Italian and speak Italian, but chances are they are from Eastern Europe, especially the Balkans. In terms of expenses you should budget the following: LODGING: At least an average of about 100 Euro a night for hotels/B&B (double occupancy). You might go under in small towns and country, but probably not enough for Venice, Florence or Rome. Small towns are cheaper than these major tourist cities. FOOD: That depends. If you sit down at a restaurant (lunch or dinner doesn't matter), you'll have a hard time getting out for less than 30 Euro per person. If you do lunch on the go or in low budget osterie, plus one sit down dinner in the evening you might be able to get away with under 50 euro a day per person, including the inevitable snack or drink while you're out and about throughout the day. Do research on budget restaurants though, because that's low. RENTAL CAR: If you buy full insurance expect to pay 40 to 45 Euro a day or more. If you skip insurance you might save up to 20 Euro a day, but consider your risk appetite. GAS & TOLLS: For the distance you'll be traveling about 200 euro. Less if you avoid toll freeways. Buon viaggio!

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7820 posts

I would book a place in Cinque Terra, you are going in high tourist season and these are small towns with only so much accomadation. You will waste many hours trying to find a vacant room and you are only there for 2 days.. yikes.
September is not "quiet dead time" in Italy, so although having a car helps, you can find places on outskirts for instance you are wasting some time doing so. Personally I would rethink your car rental idea, it seems you really want to see the big places anyways.. if you want to avoid Venice ,Rome and Florence, then a car makes more sense. As for rental cars and Italy, READ alot more about it, get ALL the insurance, and learn about the areas in Rome you can't drive .. people get tickets months after their holidays,, camera takes photos, contacts rental agency, they send you the bill.

Posted by Susan and Monte
Granite Bay, CA
677 posts

Hi Whitney, I really don't see the need for you to rent a car, other than in the Tuscany region for a day or too. It is not easy driving in Italy! We have driven in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France with no problems. But Italy...oh my! Just feels constantly like an accident waiting to happen. It is crazy with people, zespa's, cars, bikes, parked cars...all over going every which direction. Nuts! I was so glad we did not kill someone or have an accident! It just brings more stress, while on a train you can relax.
Just my opinion.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
3314 posts

Just some clarifications on something written by other comments. September is no longer very high season at the Cinque Terre, especially after schools have started, which in Italy is about the 10th of September (varies from Region to Region). If you do go to the Cinque Terre on a weekend in early September, you might have some challenges finding accommodations, but not so much on weekdays. Going to the Cinque terre on Sunday and Monday would be ideal. There might be some crowds during the day on Sunday, but not for the night, when everybody goes back home. Monday is an ideal day to be there, because most museums in Florence and elsewhere are closed on Mondays, therefore it is a perfect occasion to spend the day at the beach, which is always open. Many Americans find it challenging to drive in Italian cities, except those who regularly drive in or around Manhattan. Driving in any Italian city requires more or less the skills required to drive downtown and midtown Manhattan. In fact when I go to NYC I find myself at home behind the wheel. My (American) wife after 22 years together still has never dared driving the car when we go to Florence every year. That job is exclusively mine. Having said this, considering your trip plan, I would suggest that you rent the car as follows: fly to Venice (no car needed in VE) train to Bologna, (no car needed in BO)
train to Florence (no car needed in FI) After you are done with Florence, DO RENT A CAR in Florence (from the city rental offices, airport is pricier) for a few days to visit TUSCANY, (countryside and smaller towns), Cinque Terre and Umbria on the way to Rome. You'll be able to see more in less time. Drive to Rome with that car BUT RETURN THE CAR IN ROME as soon as you arrive. No car needed while visiting the city of Rome. Driving in Italy outside of big cities is not that difficult.

Posted by Zoe
Toledo, Ohio, US
2457 posts

If you rent a car and drive within any city, be careful of ZTLs (limited traffic zones), which have photo surveillance (well-marked, by the way) and can surprise you with a traffic ticket months after you return home.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17738 posts

whitney, One more comment regarding accommodations in the Cinque Terre...... I've found that many Hotels still consider September to be "high season" and for the past two years I've had problems finding a room there at that time of year. I usually start booking in about March for travel in September, and I've had some challenges even starting that early. Last year I had to alter my Itinerary to "fit" the availability dates of the Hotel. This year I had to "split" my stay between two Hotels, as the one I wanted wasn't able to provide a room for the full stay. Just to clarify, I really wanted to stay in Monterosso so that's the only place I was looking for accommodations. During my trip planning, I tried a number of different Hotels and none had availability for the dates I wanted. To summarize, arranging my visits in the C.T. are usually a lot more work than other places in Italy, so I'd suggest booking early! One other point to mention. Not all of the five C.T. towns are "car friendly" so parking and access could be an issue. You might consider leaving the car at the new car park in La Spezia and using the local trains. Cheers!