A lot of people wish they could explore Italy to the fullest, but it’s not always a possibility since some of its activities are quite expensive. However, we’ve found a way for travellers to enjoy the best that Italy has to offer, even if they are on a limited budget, through several fun activities. Here are the top things to do in Italy on a budget.
1. Explore Tuscany by Vespa
One of the best ways to get around in Italy is via Vespa. You can use it to explore any city you wish, but we recommend Tuscany because of its large countryside, as well as its many vineyards and olive trees, making it an incredibly freeing experience unencumbered by the noise or traffic of city life, allowing you to move through its streets with ease.
2. Ferry Hopping in Lake Garda
Lake Garda is one of the most magical and beautiful locations in Italy. Surrounded by multiple villages and towns, the Lake has a ferry network to connect them, which makes it a great way to enjoy the great views of the lake while exploring its quaint towns on the way and spending a few hours in each town before moving on to the next. It also saves you from the stress of driving around the Lake.
We recommend that you visit the picturesque town of Sirmione, where you can stay at one of its hotels overlooking the lake. You can also explore Castello Scaligero in the old harbor. On the other hand, if you’re looking for shopping opportunities, then head to Bardolino on the eastern side of the lake for its excellent leather goods. Lastly, you can head southwest to Desenzano for its many restaurants to eat a hearty meal after a long day of ferry hopping.
3. A Walking Tour of Rome – Things to do in Italy
Rome is considered one of the best open-air museums in Europe. Walking around the city, you will come across many of its famous landmarks that you can enjoy from the outside without even having to go inside, such as the Colosseum, Saint Peter’s Square at the Vatican, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Villa Borghese, Circus Maximus, the Bocca della Verita, and many more.
4. Walk among the Ancient Greek Ruins in Agrigento
Over 2,000 years ago, the Greeks ruled Sicily and they left behind many landmarks to signal their time in this enchanting city. One of the most well-preserved Greek ruins in Europe lies near Agrigento in Sicily and is known as The Valley of the Temples. Once called the ancient city of Akragas, it was abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire. You can spend the day walking among the landmarks they erected during their reign, including buildings, temples, and bathhouses. We recommend you visit the amazing Temple of Concordia that was dedicated to the goddess of harmony.
5. Sample the Street Food in Milan
Since Italy is famous for its delicious cuisine, it would be a mistake to skip its street food as well, especially the street food in Milan. There, you’ll find many street food vendors offering a variety of Italian as well as international foods. In Navigli, you’ll find some of the best food trucks and restaurants selling takeaway food, or you can head to Chinatown for some Asian-inspired street food dishes.
6. Free Walking Tour around Verona
Verona’s narrow winding streets and a multitude of landmarks make it quite similar to Venice, but it is unique all on its own, if only for the fact that it inspired the great Shakespeare to write one of his greatest masterpieces: Romeo and Juliet, dubbing it the “city of Love”. Naturally, we recommend that you visit Juliet’s House, where tourists leave letters for Juliet asking her for advice on their personal romantic lives. The letters are all answered by the self-appointed members of Juliet’s Club. The building dates back to the 13th century and has the Capulet’s insignia on its façade.
In the centre of the city of Verona is Piazza Bra, where you’ll find the Verona Arena, the third-largest in Italy after Rome’s Coliseum and the arena at Capua. As you walk around the square, you’ll find many historical buildings, churches, and edifices to explore.
7. Hike around Naples
Naples, in the South of Italy, is the perfect choice for nature lovers, where they can hike to the top of the world-famous Mount Vesuvius, the dormant volcano to enjoy the views of the Gulf of Naples from above.
8. Enjoy the Panoramic Views in Florence
One of the best things to do while visiting Florence is to climb the many steps to the top of Piazzale Michelangelo to enjoy an unencumbered view of all of Florence, where you will surely enjoy your time.
While the steps are easy enough to navigate and quite wide, it might be a strenuous climb for some, so we recommend wearing sturdy and comfortable shoes and taking a rest now and again as you can also enjoy the view on either side of the staircase on your way to the top.
The hike may take around 30 minutes from the city or you can drive yourselves up there or take the bus for a 20-min ride. Once there, you can rest and take in what is surely one of the most beautiful views in Europe.
9. Visit the Colosseum
Since Rome is filled to the brim with enormous landmarks that can be enjoyed anywhere from the street as you pass by, we would be remiss not to mention one of the most well-known landmarks in Italy; the Colosseum. While many choose to enter the Colosseum to explore its inner structure, it is also quite magnificent to observe from the outside and take as many photos as you want with this wonder of the world. Another example of things to do in Italy.
10. Visit the Cave City of Matera
The cave city of Matera in Basilicata consists of caves with house facades because it used to be an underdeveloped town, where people would be living in caves with no electricity. When the inhabitants of the city were relocated, the homes/caves remained empty until the 1980s when the churches and cisterns were renovated, and new hotels and restaurants opened. Slowly, the city began to attract more and more tourists until it became of the trendiest places to visit.
You can walk around the city and explore some of its attractions, like Casa Noha, the Cathedral of Matera, and the underground cistern called Palombaro Lungo, or climb up to the top to admire the panoramic view and catch the sunset over the city.
11. Visit Monte Isola
Monte Isola is in the middle of Lake Iseo, and locals there only drive scooters, bus, walk, or cycle, but there are no cars on the island. You can reach Monte Isola by ferry as it’s quite close to both Venice and Milan, even though it is not as popular of a tourist destination, which makes it perfect for those seeking to escape the usual crowds.
You can do a lot at Monte Isola, like hike to the top of the 600-meter peak where you will find a sanctuary or you can cycle around the island to explore it at your own pace. Another enjoyable activity would be to go for a swim in the lake, especially during the hot summer months.
12. Take a Trip to Calcata
Another overlooked Italian gem is Calcata, located an hour outside of Rome, Calcata Vecchia (Old Calcata). Its narrow cobbled streets are filled with art galleries, bars, and old traditional restaurants.
In the 1930s, Calcata’s Italian authorities evacuated the village’s houses and caves for safety purposes because they feared the rock would crumble beneath the village. They moved the inhabitants to Calcata Nuova instead. In the 1970s, Italian and international artists began to flock to the village and many decided to make it their home. Gradually, they breathed new life into it by restoring their homes and opening new businesses, studios, and cafés. Now, the centuries-old buildings and streets are fascinating to explore.
13. Hike through Cinque Terre
One of the most stunning sceneries in Italy can be admired at the five villages of Cinque Terre National Park overlooking the Mediterranean. While some choose to move between the villages using the train, we recommend the hiking trails for a better experience of enjoying all that the villages have to offer.
Cinque Terre is known for the beautiful pastel-colored houses in the villages, especially in Manarola, Riomaggiore, and Vernazza. You can climb up to the outdoor Nessun Dorma bar in Manarola head to have an unencumbered view of the colorful houses rising from the cliff below. In Vernazza, you can follow the trail in the direction of Monterosso al Mare, and you will be rewarded with a wonderful viewpoint of Vernazza from above.
14. Learn the History of Syracuse, Sicily
You can learn so much about the history of many Italian cities, simply by walking through their streets and admiring their many landmarks. This can certainly be done in Syracuse where if you head to the Piazza del Duomo on the island of Ortigia in Syracuse, you can appreciate its Baroque style which incorporates Ancient Greek Doric columns intermingled with Arabic and Norman elements. There are also many medieval castles to explore on the island.
15. Relax In Thermal Baths in Ischia
One of the best activities to do in Ischia is to relax in one of its many thermal baths. Ischia is a volcanic island in the Tyrrhenian Sea, an hour’s boat ride from Naples and also close to Capri and the Amalfi Coast. There are over a hundred thermal springs in Ischia, and while this might seem like an expensive option, there are many thermal baths, suitable for every budget.
If you’re willing to spend a little extra, you can head to one of the hotels and try their thermal pools and wellness complexes, or for a more interesting experience, you can bathe as the ancient Romans did two thousand years ago at the Cavascura baths. For a very budget-friendly option, you can bathe for free at the hot springs on Sorgeto beach.
16. Cycling in the Alps – Things to do in Italy
The Alps are known for their ski slopes and resorts that attract many tourists in the winter, but what about the summer months when the snow has melted? The ski slopes then turn into bike routes and hiking trails where you can enjoy nature. If you prefer cycling, then we recommend Alpe Cimbra where you can also mountain bike or e-MTB.
Several cities in the region offer biking trails for all types of cyclists, either beginners or experienced. They also have themed rides, where you can go for a few hours of cycling and stop at local producers to try food and wine. It’s quite easy to plan your biking trip as many hotels offer special services for bikers and the trails are well marked. You can also book private tours or group tours or cycle on your own.
17. Exploring the Città Alta of Bergamo
The city of Bergamo in Northern Italy has a historic center encircled by a Venetian wall in the Upper Town (Città Alta), that you can walk around and explore to your heart’s content. To get there, you can take a bus or a funicular that will lead you to the outside of the Venetian wall, and then you can walk a few meters to the main street of the Città Alta. The main street will then lead you to the Piazza Vecchia, where you can visit the Duomo, the 18th century Cappella Colleoni, and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
To learn more about the city’s history, you can visit the Palace of the Podestà, one of Bergamo’s History Museums. Its ticket also includes entrance to the Civic Tower and its 53 meters high Big Bell, where you can get a fantastic panoramic view of Bergamo.
18. Bastione Saint Remy, Cagliari
Bastione Saint Remy in Cagliari, Sardinia, has the best views of the city, the sea, and the mountains of Sardinia. You can either take the elevator or climb the stairs so that to be able to catch other unique viewpoints on the way up. You can have dinner at the rooftop restaurant accompanied by live music.
19. Visit Bracciano
Bracciano is a medieval town close to Rome that is known for its famous Bracciano Lake and Odescalchi Castle that has a wonderful view of the lake. There is also the 15th-century Orsini-Odescalchi Castle in Piazza Mazzini, an important part of the town’s history.
20. Hike Stromboli – Things to do in Italy
One of three active volcanoes in Italy, the Stromboli volcano is in a state of almost-constant eruption. However, it is safe as evidenced by the many hotels and restaurants along its black-sand beaches. You can only hike the volcano with a professional guide, starting at dusk, so you may have a better chance of seeing the red lava sprays. Make sure that you’ve bought the right gear with you, which can be found at the local shops.
But have no worries, even if you’re not a hiker, you can still see the eruptions while sitting on the beach in complete safety and relaxation. Another great example of things to do in Italy.
21. Explore the Hiking Trails in the Dolomites
Another amazing location for hiking in the north of Italy is the Dolomites Mountains where you can go hiking, mountaineering, or climbing.
For an easy hike, try the Alpe di Siusi, but if you want to go for a more challenging hike, then visit the Catinaccio Mountain and you will also enjoy the amazing views from the mountaintop. Or you can try braving Via Ferrata, or “iron way,” the original World War I mountain routes made with iron cables, bridges, and ladders. You can ski, parasail, raft, cycle, snowboard, kayak, and mountain bike, among many other exciting activities.
Italy is full of cities and locations where you can spend days with a minimum budget, as long as you know where to go, you can have great adventures and do everything you like without spending a lot of money to do so. There are many more opportunities for adventure, but we’ve rounded up the best excursions for both history buffs and adventure-seeking visitors as well. Did we miss anything with our list of things to do in Italy? If so – please do let us know in the comments below!