Paris, London, New York, Venice! You’ve seen the pictures, you’ve dreamt of the delights, but now that you’re planning your round-the-world trip your budget is not cooperating. Some of the most coveted destinations come with shocking price tags.
While the usual advice of cooking your own meals, using of public transport, and travelling at off-peak season can help you save plenty, without affordable lodgins, your all-star destination may still be out of the bounds of you typical round-the-world budget. Staying outside the city core is, of course, a well known strategy for major travel savings but it has to be done right or the travel frustrations may end up being worth more than the savings.
Italy is the art and history lover’s dream come true. It is full of delicious foods that you simply cannot resist as well as home to world famous Gelato. Throw in beautiful coastal towns, gorgeous countryside, some of the world’s most incredible art, stunning cathedrals and you have yourself one incredible destination. A lot of people associate Italy with expensive holidays but as you’ll see, you can do it for much less than you would expect.
We have a secret pleasure which I am somewhat ashamed of. It sneaks out most often on trains and sometimes busses. Here it is.
We like to sneak a peak at how much people pay for things.
On our train ride from Rome to Florence, we snuck a peak at our seat mate’s train ticket. Price: 78€. We paid 18€ for BOTH of us.
It happened again on the train with a couple of Canadians traveling from Florence to Venice. Their Expedia print out showed their hotel in Venice would be about 300$ a night. We paid 20€ to stay a 6 minute bus ride out of town at a cozy little camp ground.
We ate a shameful amount of gelato in Italy and after traveling the country, we concluded that Millennium Gelato in Rome was the best we had. So when we had a 12 wait till our flight took off, we knew what we had to do: get one last taste.
If you are heading to Rome, you really must try this stuff. Particularly the Profiteroles Mousse. It is to die for.
Naples is a city that keeps most of its treasure hidden just behind the surface. A church such as Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo looks, frankly, bizarre on the outside but is stunning on the inside, and the streets themselves are dirty and full of garbage but inside the buildings it’s ornate and beautiful. So when you arrive at Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco, don’t be surprised by its unassuming appearance. Just below the surface, a great story lurks.
Looking at Santa Maria delle Anime del Purgatorio ad Arco, with its beautiful art and airy space, you would hardly imagine its original purpose. Indeed, without taking the guided tour, only a very keen eye would be able to tell that there was anything odd about the church. But just below the surface, literally beneath your feet while standing in the church, is a second, much less splendid church with a fascinating background.
If I could offer you one piece of advice when visiting Venice, this would be it.
I’m serious. Lounge around, read the paper, make love to your spouse. Whatever. But just sleep in. Get up around 10am or so. Have a late breakfast. Pack a lunch and hit the town around noon.
Head out and take a stroll. Head for the public gardens. Or maybe a walk around the north in Cannaregio. But avoid, for the love of all things holly, Piazza San Marco before at least 3pm.
Since leaving Australia, our go to mode of accommodations has been Airbnb. European hotel rooms in cities like London, Rome and Florence are unforgiving on prices. Airbnb, however, has been very active in Rome and offers a very compelling alternative. Plus you get to meet some fantastic locals who can show you around and give the cities such a richer tapestry of experiences.
Our first room in Rome was just such a place. We stayed with Marco and Carolina at their wonderful flat just outside of the downtown core. The room was large, spacious and the price was great at a little over $50 for a night. But more importantly, it introduced us to Marco and Carolina, two of the nicest people you could hope to meet.
If there is a reason to bet that Italy can recover from its current economic difficulties, shrug off political and social corruption that spans generations and emerge anew, it’s because of people like Alessandro and Marco. To be sure, there’s a lot to be doubtful; Italy has a long history of corrupt politicians, very large public debt, massive pension obligations and a large unemployment problem. But if these young people keep pushing, they just might be able to change Italy, and it’s old stagnant culture a little bit for the better.
Rome is a wonderful city to visit. It’s full of incredibly important historical monuments, the vatican and some of the best eating you can imagine for surprisingly reasonable prices.
It also has its challenges of course. But those are easy to ignore given how beautiful and wonderful the place is. We spent 10 days visiting Rome and put together some notes on our favorite places to visit. A lot of this may be common to a lot of guide books but we also included our notes as well as a couple of places to grab something special to eat.
I drew this at our B&B. A lovely little affair near the Vatican. Rome is filled with little moments of beauty in addition to the overwhelming beauty of the classics. Small pleasures like drawing flowers in a quiet space have added a wonderful dimension to our travels. I recommend a sketch book for everyone that travels, even those like me that can’t draw.