In fair Verona, where we lay our scene… sound familiar? Yep, Verona is the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet. Though it is a little busier than some of its neighbours, Verona is still a pretty epic city to explore. Make sure to visit the Roman Amphitheatre in Piazza Bra and watch the sunset over the city at Piazzale Castel San Pietro.
For a relatively cheap breakfast, head over to Gnam Gnam Buonissimissimo for some of the tastiest baked pastries in the city – in case you hadn’t guessed, it’s best to forget about your diet whilst you’re in Italy!
If you’re looking to experience the quieter side of Italian life, head to one of the small towns in the countryside like San Miniato. Cheaper than cities like Milan or Rome, San Miniato is the perfect place to spend a few days relaxing. Make sure to visit the the Tower of Frederick and the gorgeous Duomo that’s totally free to enter. For a whopping freshly cooked Napoli pizza, head over to La Smorfia who’ll cook you up a fresh one (that’s big enough to share) for less than €6.
Perched on the banks of Lake Garda, Sirmione is an old town jutting out of a spit of land onto the lake. This picturesque place gets very busy around weekends but don’t let that put you off, head over on a Monday or Tuesday (try to arrive in the morning) when visitor numbers are lower. Wander through Scaliger Castle, head inside the church of San Pietro in Mavino and enjoy a cheeky glass of wine at Enoteca delle antiche mura. They also serve some pretty tasty bruschetta boards that are budget friendly, too.
Yup, Cinque Terre again… we just can’t get enough of this region. This time, head to Vernazza (which is literally minutes on the train from Manarola). Keep costs lower by staying in one of the budget-friendly towns just outside the Cinque Terre region (like La Spezia or Levanto). Don’t forget to gorge on the cheap and freshly caught calamari that you can pick up on the streets, too. It’s an easy way to stay within a backpacker budget whilst still enjoying the stunning town.
The centre of Naples is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which might give you an idea of the importance of its archaeological history. Its churches, castles, and archaeological sites such as Oplotnis give an otherworldly feel to the city, and the food is amongst the best in Italy. Check out the Mercato di Porta Nolana, a busy market where you’ll find ridiculously fresh fish, and Museo Archeologico Nazionale which showcases spectacular Greco-Roman art.
This southern Italian city is famed for age-old association with the mafia – but thankfully, there’s little need to worry about that nowadays! Now, Palermo is filled with historic buildings and beautiful scenery to explore. Make the most of this gorgeous city by visiting Chiesa del Gesu, the Cattedrale di Palermo and the dark Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, where you’ll see a display of corpses ‘resting’ and ‘socialising’. These catacombs were once the reserved resting places for the noble residents of the town. For a cheap but delicious eatery, head over to I Cuochini that serves authentic Sicilian street food (savoury pastries) for around 70 cents.
Home to the rich and famous, Como can be a very expensive Italian city to explore – but there ARE ways to do it on the cheap. It’s really easy to get to Como by train from Milan (find some cheaper hostels here and head across). For some of the best views of Lake Como, hop on board the Como–Brunate funicular which is particularly beautiful around sunset. To sample the local craft beer, head over to Il Birrivico, who serve some of the region’s best at budget-friendly prices.
Bologna is known for its food, music and prestigious university institutions, and a visit here avoids the hordes of tourists who flock to Rome and Venice. Food culture is huge here – the town is literally known as ‘La Grassa’ (the Fat One). For a cheap eat head to Le Stanze in the student quarter of the city. You’re spoilt for choice if you’re looking for a music venue to enjoy a concert or night out, and miles of porticos (covered arcades) cover the streets, meaning strolling from museum to restaurant to nightclub is easy.
Montepulciano in the province of Siena is one of the region’s prettiest hilltop towns to visit. Head here on the last Sunday of August when the locals hold a huge barrel race through the city (Bravio delle botti) for a fun experience – but stay well out of the way to avoid being a human skittle! For some of the best coffee and focaccia in town, hop over to La Casa di Edel, where a quality coffee will set you back around €1.
Lecce, in the region of Puglia, is nicknamed “Florence of the South”. Beautiful and quaint, this is one of the best cities in Italy if you want to avoid the crowds – this is where Italians come to holiday. Don’t miss the outdoor fleamarket at Piazza Libertini; the grand Cattedrale di Lecce in the central square; and the Basilica di Santa Croce, a 17th-century Baroque church with intricate sculptures and a rose window. Thanks to its location on the ‘heel of Italy’, Lecce is surrounded by gorgeous beaches on every side.
The region is famous for burrata, a fresh mozzarella-like cheese best served with simple bread and olives. So be sure to try some while you’re here – washed down with an Espressino, a traditional Italian coffee halfway between a cappuccino and a macchiato.
Vicenza is a hidden gem just an hour from Venice, where you can get off the beaten track and explore the real Italy. This was renowned Italian Renaissance architect Palladio’s former home, so as you’d expect there are plenty of architectural wonders to see. Our favourite is his final work before his death: the Teatro Olimpico, a UNESCO-listed 16th century theatre with the oldest stage set in existence, featuring an amazing optical illusion. Today, you can visit the venue cheaply to catch a music festival or live orchestra.
For spectacular views, walk to Santuario di Monte Berico, an exquisite minor basilica at the very top of a step hill overlooking the city. After all that walking an Italian siesta is in order, so head to Parco Querini, a gorgeous park teeming with wildlife. For some very cheap grub, check out Righetti on the Piazza del Duomo, where you can get homemade risotto or pasta for around €5.
Picture a crystal clear, turquoise lake surrounded by dramatic mountains. Lago di Braies aka the Prager Wildsee is located in South Tyrol in the North of Italy, but it wouldn’t look out of place in a glossy tourist brochure for Switzerland, or maybe even Thailand. In short, this place is the stuff of Instagram dreams.
The lake is about a 2-hour drive into the Dolomites from Venice, but it’s worth it for the insane views, endless hiking opps and air so fresh you can actually taste it. Don’t miss the cute little church built in 1904 on the banks of the lake’s shores, and club together with your friends to rent a wooden rowing boat – or if you’re feeling brave, take a dip! As you can imagine, word has gotten out about this little piece of paradise, and whilst the crowds are not overwhelming, it’s still best to get there early if you want it all to yourself.