Who doesn’t love Italy? This European gem is known all over the world as a hub of fashion, art, history, and, carbs, and it’s no wonder why 91 million people visited Italy in 2018! If you haven’t added Italy’s rolling hills, fantastic wine, and cosmopolitan culture to your list of visited cities yet, you probably want to. Unfortunately, however, with great popularity can come great expenses. While it’s always possible to explore a new country on a limited budget, some areas make it easier than others.
So what’s a budget-conscious traveller dying to visit Italy to do? Thankfully, while some of Italy’s bigger cities come with a heftier price tag, there are plenty of hidden-gem spots all over the country. Today, we’re breaking down some of the cheapest cities in Italy to visit.
Travel to: Italy
- Location: Emilia-Romangna
- Best time to visit: April-October
Located in Italy’s north, Bologna is a lively capital city of the Emilia-Romagna region. Perfect for those who dream of Florence’s arts and culture scene but flinch at the crowds and costs of spending much time there, Bologna is one of those cities that truly offers something for everyone. On one side, you have the lifestyles of the rich and famous – think fine dining, opera, and glitzy tech companies. On the other, a student-friendly metropolis home to the world’s oldest university where travellers will find street art, cheap drinks, and a diverse population.
- Location: Sicily
- Best time to visit: March-June
Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful city centres in Italy, Noto, located 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Syracuse in Sicily, is a dream come true for history buffs, lovers of art and culture, and, of course, anyone looking to spend a holiday surrounded by Italian splendour without breaking the bank. Stuffed full of piazzas, cathedrals, incredible Sicilian food, and nature reserves, spend your days in Noto strolling alongside its jaw-dropping baroque architecture, posing for pictures on Palazzo Nicolaci, and relaxing on Calamosche Beach.
- Location: South Tyrol
- Best time to visit: March and April, December for skiing
Once a haven for the wealthy and the royal, Merano is an alpine town in northern Italy just begging to be explored and enjoyed. Unlike similar cities in the north, however, Merano enjoys a mild climate – temperatures reach highs of about 10°C (50°F) in the winter, and soar to 30°C (86°F) in the summer. Home to Christmas markets, jazz festivals, and even a wine festival celebrating the region’s well-known red and white varieties. Merano is also widely known for Meran 2000, a ski complex home to trails for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding, for travellers looking to add an extra hint of adventure to their trip.
Promontorio del Gargano
- Location: Puglia
- Best time to visit: late April through May
Are you dying to spend your next trip relaxing in style along a cliffside Italian town, surrounded by colourful houses and the soothing sound of ocean waves? While Cinque Terre may have been your first thought, many travellers can tell you the crowds and cost of visiting that particular picturesque region have made them rethink things. Gargano, the “spur” on Italy’s boot shape, juts out into the sea with white limestone cliffs below beautiful light pink houses. It’s all about the natural world in Gargano: here, you’ll find a museum and nature centre, a forest that dates back thousands of years, and a national park perfect for days spent getting back to nature.
- Location: Basilicata
- Best time to visit: early fall; September and October
Matera, located in the Basilicata region in Italy’s south, is considered to be the third-longest continuously inhabited human settlements in the world – the first residents are believed to have arrived more than 7000 years ago! Travellers are able to visit these original cave dwellings (known as the Sassi di Matera) to get a glimpse of this ancient history, but they may already be familiar – Matera has been used as a film set for many movies such as The Passion of the Christ (2004) and Wonder Woman (2017), because of its gorgeous views and ancient aesthetic. While the sassi was evacuated in 1952, several dwellings have been preserved for visitors to explore. Travellers interested in visiting Matera should move fast – while this destination may have been under the radar in the past, in 2019 it was chosen as the European Capital of Culture.
- Location: Marche
- Best time to visit: April through October
Art lovers, rejoyce: not only is the UNESCO World Heritage Site-city of Urbino the birthplace of Raphael, it was also home to a wealthy family in the 15th century who created what Lonely Planet calls “a sort of think tank” of artists, architects, and scholars. Understandably, the city quickly grew into a vibrant hub of culture housed in stunning buildings where people came to learn and create. The spirit of the Renaissance is alive and well in Urbino, which is home to a university and multiple wide piazzas perfect for people-watching and kicking back with some seriously good Italian coffee.
Between relaxing beach holidays, outdoor adventures, and cultural experiences, Italy has something to offer everyone. Before you decide that a visit to this country is out of your price range, remember that with a little research and planning, no destination is out of reach! It’s also important to remember that travellers looking to save money on accommodation and food should consider booking a group tour – these adventures allow you to see all the major sites and hidden-gem locations at once, while often providing plenty of opportunity to save big.
Have you been to any of these Italian gems? Let us know in the comments!