Like the rest of Western Europe, Italy can be an expensive destination. But, you can cut down on airfare costs by booking well in advance and staying in small independently owned hotels. Visitors can also skip a rental car when visiting major cities, since Italy is covered by an extensive rail system with cheaper second-class seats.
When to book
Italy is popular year-round, particularly during its May-to-September peak travel season. Begin looking for airfare and accommodations from January through March for high-season travel. Off-peak travel generally doesn't require booking as far in advance, but last-minute deals for airfare can be hard to find.
Where to find deals and book
Alitalia is the national carrier, but don't expect it to be the only airline with Italy deals. Other carriers may have better prices, so you should always compare airfares before booking. If you plan to visit several regions, consider an open-jaw itinerary that allows you to fly into one city and out of another, thus cutting down on travel within Italy.
Rates for accommodations range from affordable to astronomical, and you'll find the cheapest prices from November to March. The best deals are often found at independent one-, two-, and three-star properties sometimes known as pensioni, rather than large chain hotels. The Italian Government Tourist Board's website features an accommodations search tool, but you'll have to enter the city name in Italian.
Italy also has several hotel alternatives. Convents offer simple rooms starting around $40 per night. Most convents have a strict evening curfew for guests. Other options include villas, agriturismo (farmhouse holidays), apartments, and hostels.
Bundling airfare and hotel in a vacation package can be an effective way to save. Providers offering Italy vacations include EuropeASAP, Gate 1 Travel, and go-today.com, and online travel agencies such as Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity offer customizable packages.
A few more sites for deals and booking
- Ryanair and easyJet: The two most popular low-fare airlines in Europe offer service to Italy from around the Continent.
- Eurail, RailEurope, and Railpass.com: These sites all sell Eurail passes, though prices and promotions can vary.
- The Church of Santa Susanna: The website of this Rome-based American Catholic church provides helpful information about convent stays in Rome and around Italy.
- Agriturismo Italy: Browse hundreds of farmhouses available for rent around Italy. The site is searchable by city and also has listings for handicap-accessible and animal-friendly properties.
- EuroCheapo: This website features budget travel tips, neighborhood overviews, and accommodations listings for Venice, Rome, and Florence.