Italy on a budget: gorgeous cities to visit

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Italy is a beautiful country to visit, but it can often be expensive if you stick to typical destinations. The cost of your stay will also depend on the time of the year and your lifestyle. You will find out how to visit Italy on a budget while still getting to discover wonderful places.

The history-filled Naples

This city is a great choice if you want to go on vacation but not feel isolated. Indeed, there are nearly one million people living in Naples now. It is situated towards the south of the country and benefits from a warm climate. It goes from an average low of 6°C in the winter months to an average high of 31°C in summer. Naples should absolutely be on the list of every history fan to visit Italy on a budget! It is one of the oldest urban areas in the world. Greek people settled there in the 2nd Millenium BC (from 2000 BC to 1001 BC). It was later a key place for multiple wars that took place during the Roman era. This rich history created so many beautiful things to see in Naples.

On average, a tourist spends 77 euros per day visiting Naples. It is rather reasonable for a city of this size. Some of the best affordable things to do include visiting the underground Naples. Indeed, these tunnels and caves form a city that may be as impressive as the one above ground. You can also go visit the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. This Archeological Museum houses numerous items from Pompeii and Herculaneum, two cities that were buried under several layers of lava after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD. There are also countless free things that you can do in Naples. You can of course go to the beach; Gaiola Beach is actually one of the most beautiful in the country according to a lot of people. There are also some monuments that you can visit for free, such as the Castel dell’Ovo.

Italy on a budget : An example of a monument with free entry in Naples; Castel dell'Ovo
An example of a monument with free entry in Naples; Castel dell’Ovo

The breathtaking Catania

Catania is the second-largest city in Sicily after Palermo with more than 300,000 inhabitants. It is at the far East of the island. The average temperatures are comparable to those of Naples. Originally, native people lived on the territory but Greek colons came and settled there, an example of Hellenization. Catania played an important role in the Peloponnesian War as it became the Athenian army’s headquarters during their expedition to Sicily.

For a day spent in Catania, every tourist spends 71 euros on average. During your trip to Italy on a budget, you should take every opportunity to support private owners. Their revenues from the visits allow them to restore the buildings, which is very expensive. For example, the Palazzo Biscari is a private palace and its owner himself takes you on a tour of the place, for a very reasonable price. Free activities that are available to you include the beach, beautiful parks such as the Giardino Bellini. Here you will be able to admire the fountains and vegetation, as well as some statues, mainly busts. If you are a skilled hiker you can attempt to climb to the top of Mount Etna. It is the tallest active volcano in Europe. However, you can also rent a car or join a guided trip if you are hesitant.

Italy on a budget : Catania countryside with Mount Etna in the background
Catania countryside with Mount Etna in the background

The mystical Agrigento

Agrigento is also in Sicily, this time on the south coast, and around 60,000 people live there. Even in winter, it is rarely colder than 8°C and in summer the temperature is usually between 21 and 29°C. During the golden age of Ancient Greece, Agrigento was an important city. At the time, between 200,000 and 800,000 people lived there. The city was one of the richest of the Greek colonies. Nowadays the city is mostly known for its archeological treasures. But from Minoan times (from 3000 BC to 1450 BC) until the 1970s, it was a mining city, exporting sulfur and potash.

For a day in Agrigento, you can expect to spend around 64 euros. In Agrigento, you will find what is probably the must-see of Sicily. The Valley of the Temples or Valle dei Templi in Italian will amaze you. You will have to pay to enter the site, but the fee is very affordable and once you are there you can walk around and observe the monuments at your own pace. There are seven Greek temples to admire, so you will most likely spend a few hours in the Valley. The temples were constructed during the 6th and 5th centuries BC and are listed as World Heritage Site. Even if this site is the main reason why someone would go to Agrigento, you will also be able to enjoy the beautiful beaches. The region around the city is perfect to go for a stroll or a hike while admiring the beautiful landscapes.

Italy on a budget : The captivating Valley of the Temples in Agrigento
The captivating Valley of the Temples in Agrigento

The unmissable Bari

Bari is on the East coast of southern Italy and its urban area has 750,000 inhabitants. The coldest months are January and February with an average low of 5°C. In summer, the average high is 30°C. Bari has strong Greek influences like a lot of Italian cities. Once the Romans took over the city which they called Barium, it became an important port. Bari was then a crucial place for Eastward trade and fishing. The city is the biggest one on the Adriatic sea in terms of population.

A tourist is expected to spend an average of 91€ per day in Bari. The best thing you can do for free in Bari is enjoying the numerous beautiful sights and the atmosphere in the city. For example, you can take pictures of the stunning old port or of the impressive St. Nicholas basilica. The basilica was built between 1087 and 1197 and is still nowadays an important pilgrimage destination for Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians of Europe. The Bari Cathedral is in itself a very beautiful monument, but what makes it a must-see is its underground area. Indeed, you will be able to see ancient structures and mosaics for a very affordable price.

The old port of Bari
The old port of Bari

The powerful Milan

Milan is a global city or “power city”. It is the second-largest economy in the European Union after Paris. It is situated in northern Italy and the urban area has more than 5 million inhabitants. As it is in the North of the country, it is the coldest city of this selection with an average low of 2°C in winter. However, the temperature still reaches 30°C in July. The first population of Milan settled on the territory in 600 BC.

Milan is the city that will require the biggest budget, an average of 114€ per day. Bigger cities are always more expensive to visit, mainly because of the high cost of hotels or rental homes. However, you can absolutely find cheap and free things to do in order to maintain a reasonable budget for your trip to Italy. For example, you can take a stroll in the shopping mall Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II even if you don’t plan on buying anything. The architecture is impressive, particularly the ceiling. You also should not miss I Navigli. You will be able to walk along canals and even sit outside sipping a drink that you will have ordered at one of the bars there. The lights reflecting on the water create a stunning view. The ultimate must-see is the Duomo. It is known all over the world and is one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. It is truly a magnificent building and not something you forget easily.

Italy on a budget : the ceiling in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan
The ceiling in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan

Italy on a budget: a few pieces of advice

First of all, you have to be aware that even if it is tempting to go visit these places in the summer months, it might not be the best strategy. Indeed, everything is more expensive when you visit a city from June to September. There are also a lot more tourists which can make the vacation a little irritating at times. So instead, for your trip to Italy on a budget, choose to go in May or October, when prices go down and the cities are not crowded. Also, if you choose sporty activities, you will be glad for the cooler temperatures. You can also save money if you get around on a rented bike or if you use public transportations rather than taxis.

All these places are very tempting, but if you would rather go to Spain for your vacation, check out this article on things you can do or see for free in Malaga. But before you think about traveling around the world, remember to be careful about the pandemic and do some research on travel restrictions. To read about how to travel after COVID-19, click here.