When Steve and I had our first date almost six years ago, one of the things that stuck out the most from our first conversation was how much we both loved to travel. We also realized that ‘the way’ we loved to travel was the same, we both loved to see as much as we could and we would rather spend our money immersing ourselves in the culture of a country rather than spend money on an all inclusive trip to lie on a beach for seven days (not that theres anything bad about a little R&R.. and believe me, you offer me an all inclusive trip? ILL TAKE IT!). Since being together, we’ve had opportunities to travel here and there but one thing is for sure, we aren’t rolling in dough so we have to make sure we plan our trips accordingly and budget. And so begins the section of my blog dedicated to travelling the world (when you’re just the average joe who wants to see and do everything like us) called “Wanderlust”.
TIP: Always go to your local book store to buy a travel book for the country you plan on visiting before hand. These books will help you find your way around each city, assist with basic language of the area and show you how to save on food, hotels and travel etc. The Lonely Planet series is usually a good choice!
When we sat down to plan our trip we made sure we wrote down all the associated costs of the trip to budget accordingly. We sectioned our costs into five major categories: Flights, Accommodation, Travel, Attractions and Food. Of course there will be extra costs that slip in here and there (ie. souvenirs, a travel adapter getting lost mid trip or a rush fee on a new passport because your lost yours a week before your trip… yep) but as long as you give yourself a margin for extra costs you should be okay! I’ve divided these categories into this blog post to show you how we saved on food, beat lines at attractions, how we booked flights and hotels to save money, etc.
This is always the trickiest part of booking an overseas trip. Generally the flights are what run you the highest cost and there are so many variables that will affect the cost of the trip across the pond. Unfortunately, with the timing that needed to happen for our Honeymoon (AKA. Grandma babysitting availability) we didn’t have the ability to look at costs of flights at different times of the year. Trips to Italy in the Summer months will run highest. I also had to travel during the last two weeks of August which is the exact weeks that the Italians take their own vacations (both abroad and within their own country). This can cause some shops and restaurants to remain closed for the duration of your trip if you choose to travel on these dates but we lucked out and ended up in areas where this was not affected greatly.
When booking our flights we chose not to book directly from the airline this time, this will be where you find the highest costs for flights most of the time (although, there are opportunities to get onto flights last minute directly through airlines if you sign up for their mailing lists and watch for them). I usually shop around on different websites that will render cheaper flights but this time around I managed to find a great flight from Expedia.ca
TIP: sign up as a member for free and collect points for every flight, rental and hotel accomodation to use towards future trips. This may not add up quickly but it will certainly help in the future and as a member you also recieve emails alerting you of deals and last minute sales.
As expected, our flights ran us the highest costs, but we bit the bullet for our Honeymoon and went for it. If you’re looking for cheaper flights, I recommend flying in off season such as Fall and Winter. Not only will you find cheaper flights, but you will by pass the 36*C degree weather which can be a bit uncomfortable when walking around crowded streets in the summer months.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that accomodations can be fairly cheap in Italy if you plan correctly. We were even travelling during costly times in Italy so I would imagine that traveling in off seasons would run even cheaper than what we found. Again, I found expedia.ca to be the cheapest with the most options. As I said above, we were travelling during Italian vacation time and many places were booked up but we still managed to find great places to stay at very reasonable costs.
TIP: If you’re on your honeymoon, contact hotels beforehand to let them know as they may have free upgrades to better suites or complimentary amenities that you wouldnt otherwise benefit from. If you book with Expedia, you have the option to “message” the hotels and villas that you are staying with to inform them of any requests, etc.
– Salerno- Amalfi Coast –
We were able to find a 4 star hotel directly on the water in Salerno. We read in our travel book that when staying on the Amalfi coast, there are areas that will certainly cost much more.
TIP: Most areas along the Amalfi coast are close enough for day trips so you can travel to other areas relatively cheaper if you are comfortable using local bus companies or sharing a cab ride with other travellers within or near your hotel.
Originally I wanted to stay in Positano or the Island of Capri, but found out immediately that these are very costly areas to stay in and I could actually travel to each of these areas on day trips via bus, cab, or ferry (specifically to Capri). We opted to stay in Salerno which is a beautiful city along the coastline with beautiful scenery, many amenities, churches, castles and ruins to visit, and of course beautiful lengths of Medditeranean beaches to swim in the Ocean. Our hotel was directly along the water and we stayed here for 3 nights.
TIP: If you’re going to stay anywhere along the Amalfi coast, ensure that you find a place closest to the water. The further you are away from the ocean, the farther uphill/mountain you end up. The coastline is surrounded by mountains and most villages are built up into the hills. You may end up walking hundreds of flights of stairs everyday to get to the beach or attractions if you don’t want to pay a cab fare each time. Your other option would be to rent a vehicle, if you prefer that.
Here are some snaps of our time in Salerno:
– Pompei –
Steve and I were both ademant on walking through the ruins of Pompei as we both studied this in school. Steve had been to Italy before so he had seen these ruins but was correct in saying that it was so big that he would be able to enjoy it again and again. The city ruins are beautiful and are easily accessible from Downtown Pompei where many hotels are available. We found a privately owned hotel that had a view of the ruins entrance on one of the main streets in Pompei for a very reasonable price. This hotel was villa style and the rooms were beautiful with wooden shutters and gorgeous clay inspired colours. We stayed here for one night and were able to enjoy Pompei ruins during the first day and a wide selection of food and shopping at night.
Here are some snaps of our time in Pompei:
– Rome –
This city was another big bucket list item for myself and Steve who had been there previously while backpacking years ago but said he could spend forever in this city and never get to see it all. He was right! I would love to go back again because there is just so much to see and do in this city. What amazed me about this city was the ability to walk through cobble stone streets perusing shops and restaurants then around the corner you would walk right into Trevi Fountain or the Colleseum, or the Roman forum. Everything is built around these beautiful structures and the contrast of new and old is so interesting! We stayed in a hotel on the main shopping street (Via Del Corso) and it was a perfect location, central to all the different places we wanted to see. Our hotel was located in a beautiful historical apartment along the street directly across from one of Romes most stunning churches. The hotel was the perfect example of historical and modern colliding. As you take the stairs or old black iron adorned elevator up to your floor you immediately walk into a gorgeous modern hotel. The rooms were bright and clean with stunning views and fantastic service. We were able to reap the benefits of our honeymoon with this hotel and were upgraded for free to the best suite with a stunning view of the church across the road and the shopping streets below from our balcony.
** Heres a few quick snaps from our time in Rome (more of Rome in “Attractions” section below) **
Travel within Italy can be very cheap if you’re comfortable using public transit in a foreign country. We took trains (ItaliaRail) to travel between the cities we stayed in, coach buses for day trips to other locations (ie. within Amalfi coast), local buses to different locations within cities (ie. a bus in Salerno to visit a castle up in the mountains), and taxis within cities when time was of the essence (ie. within Rome to visit Catacombs on the outer city limits or to the airport to ensure we didn’t miss our flights home). All of which was very cost effective and relatively easy to figure out.
– Rome –
When travelling Italy there is just so much to see and do. You could spend months in this country and not even come close to doing everything you want to do. Its filled with so many historical ruins, museums, castles, churches, wineries and events that you will have no problem filling your time. We found that the area with the most attractions was most obviously Rome. So I will start with providing you with tips for seeing the sights in this beautiful city as it can be a bit overwhelming when you get there to see just how many things you want to do in a short time. Here is a list of the major attractions we were able to see in just 3 days while visiting Rome and some of the tips I have to save on time, cost, and lines.
TIP: Get a pass for one of the hop-on hop-off bus tours the second you get to Rome. These bus tours will take you around the city to all the large attractions while also offering information through the headphones provided. We used this to get around to the different attractions and went for night time rides to see the city at night and relax from all the walking we had done on our trip. These companies offer bus passes in 24 hour, 48 hour, 36 hour, and 72 hour amounts and are well worth every penny in my books. We used CitySightseeing Rome.
Catacombs There are three Catacombs you can visit while in Rome and all of them are on the outskirts of the city. This is because back when they were built, the Catholics were very superstitious and felt that spirits of the sea would haunt the city if they were buried too close.
TIP: To save on time for this trip, splurge on a cab ride rather than taking the city bus. We took a 15 minute taxi there and a city bus back and found the cost of the cab ride well worth the time savings as finding a place to buy bus tickets, waiting for a bus, and the actual bus travel took at least an hour.
We chose the Catacombes de Priscilla of the three in Rome as it is the oldest of them all, is the least busiest, and houses the oldest known painting of the madonna nursing baby Jesus. You are actually shown this painting while inside the catacombs and it is pretty amazing!
Vatican City + Museum + Sistine Chapel When visiting Vatican City there are times when it is less busy, particularly nearing the end of the day (just make sure you look up the times for last entry of the museum so you don’t miss it).
TIP: We went to Vatican museum first and went at the last entry time of the day and didn’t have to wait in any lines. If you go mid day there are certainly long lineups which waste your time in Rome and are quite boring to wait through.
The Museum is where you will find all of the art owned by the Vatican and it is such a large and beautiful collection within the decorated walls and ceilings of the museum that holds them. Certainly something you need to see with your own eyes as pictures will never do it justice. At the end of the museum you will be able to walk through the Sistine Chapel. As I said before, go at the latest entry of the day to the museum and you will not only bypass entry lines but the lines waiting to get into the Sistine chapel (it is small and only holds so many people).
Vatican city located right beside the Museum, and just being within the walls and walking around St. Peters square is a sight in itself. The basilica is the centre point of the square which you can wait in line to see and even walking through the large pillars within this square is an amazing view.
TIP: While I didn’t do this myself, if you want to see the Pope, go to St. Peters square at 11:00am on Sunday as he comes out on the balcony to do a reading at this time every week. You will certainly run into huge crowds and long lines to get through security but if this is on your bucket list then write down that time!
Pantheon The Pantheon is located within downtown Rome. There is no fee for entry and it takes very little time to visit. You can simply walk by from the outside or you can choose to walk into the circular shaped building to see inside. If you do want to go inside you must go there during the day as the doors close at night time.
Trevi Fountain Trevi Fountain is by far one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in all my travels. Photos or postcards will never do it justice as the sounds of the waterfalls, size of the structure and colours of the pristine turquoise waters and clean white statues are just something yours senses must experience firsthand to really appreciate.
TIP: Go see Trevi Fountain at night as it never closes and allows you more time during the day to see the attractions that DO close at night time. Not only will it save you this time but Trevi is remarkably more beautiful at night due to the lighting shone at the structure and water.
I saw Trevi at night as it never closes and was able to see other things during the day which do close. Trevi Fountain at night is stunning as they light up the structure. It is always busy so expect crowds and when you’re there it is said that if you throw a coin over your shoulder while facing away from Trevi, you will return to Rome again in the future. This worked for my husband as he threw a coin in Trevi years ago while backpacking only to return to Rome with me over ten years later.
Roman Forum & Palatine Hill The Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and Collesuem are all beside each other and share one entry fee. One ticket will get you into all three attractions. Palatine hill is the palace within the Roman forum. The size of the structures and advanced structural engineering by the Romans is so amazing to see.
TIP: Go to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill FIRST. The ticket is bought cheaper there (12 euro versus 16 euro at the colosseum), and because you bought the ticket ahead of time you will by pass the lines for ticket sales at the colosseum as most tourists go there first causing huge waits.
Colosseum This is certainly one of the most amazing structures worldwide. Its grandeur will shock you and then you will be even more in awe when you learn that it was actually an entire storey higher and an entire row wider but was knocked down in an earthquake many years ago. Once in the colosseum you can climb its levels to get different views and perspectives of both inside and outside of the building. The floors from the centre ring are stripped exposing the halls and cells that lions, gladiators and slaves walked through and were kept. As mentioned above, go to the Forum and Palatine Hill first to avoid ticket sale lines and higher ticket prices at this attraction.
Spanish Steps The Spanish Steps are another attraction that you can see at night as they dont close. They are exactly what they sound like, beautiful cascading steps that are said to bring good fortune in love when you sit on them and kiss your sweetheart. This attraction costs nothing and is something that doesn’t take much time from your trip.
– Pompei –
Pompei Ruins This is really the only attraction (of two) that I had the time to visit while in Pompei. It is actually quite a small city so its easy to see how the ruins would be the top attraction for tourists in this area. There really isn’t too many tips I can give when visiting these ruins beside, you HAVE TO go here! It is a huge town of ruins so expect to spend an entire day in this attraction alone. The only suggestion I have for you for this trip is that there is very little shade in the ruins so it becomes VERY hot mid day. You can decide to go first thing in the morning or a little later and miss some of the ruins due to time restriction, or you can visit during a month that isn’t so hot (avoid June till August if you want to beat the heat).
TIP: If you want the most amazing view of Mount Vesuvius, visit the courtyard (the square where there would have been markets and vendors) in the Ruins and you’ll get the perfect polaroid.
Mount Vesuvius The other attraction that I didn’t have the time to do but wish I had was to go on a tour bus up Mount Vesuvius and walk the perimeter of its mouth. This is also an entire days worth of trip so prepare to spend two nights in Pompei if you wish to visit both places. These tours can be found at some of the few Tourist Information Centres within the city (these offices are yellow and blue, very easy to spot as the employees will stand outside handing maps and information to passersby.)
TIP: When you get to the square in the ruins of Pompei to get a good view Mount Vesuvius, use your hands to create a triangle from each side of Vesuvius’ mouth. This will give you a good idea of how big this mountain really was before it exploded in 79AD. (Because No, that is not two mountains)
– Salerno Amalfi Coast –
Castello de Arechi When visiting Salerno we only went to one major attraction and that was the castle in the of the mountains. You can see it from anywhere in the city as its set up so high. You must take a city bus to this attraction. After many attempts to ask locals which bus number this was we found out it was Route # 19. This will take you up the hill to visit the castle so make sure you take this bus! There is also a nature trail that you can walk for free around the castle if you’d rather go for the views. This attraction is only open during the day and requires walking uphill, so bring your hiking shoes!
And last but not least, one of my favourite parts of Italy… The Food! Im sure youve heard everyone say this before, but the cliche is true! Italy’s food is to die for. Gelato, pizza, pasta, caprese salads, fresh limoncello and beautiful wines. This country knows what theyre doing when it comes to meal time. The best part about it, there are so many cost effective options within Italy as long as you’re not in a rush to walk into the closest resturant you can find. There are so many places to eat that your options are endless and almost all restaurants have menus and cost on boards outside so you can decide before walking in.
TIP: You also have the option to go even cheaper and buy food from grocery stores and make your own. There is nothing better than buying a cheap bottle of wine, stick of fresh bread and delicious cheese. We found this easier to do in Rome as there are an abundance of grocery stores within the city. Restaurants also tend to be more costly in this city versus others in Italy as its a Metropolis.
I will be writing more posts on travelling Italy, as well as other countries and cities I have been so fortunate to visit over the next while, so make sure you subscribe to my blog to get the posts directly to your inbox.
and lastly, a couple extra snaps of Steve and I being extra touristy on our Italian honeymoon
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