The Italian Job
writes Shaney Hudson
Find out how to mix history, culture and pizza on a tight Italian budget. By Shaney Hudson
Mixing culture, history and pizza on a budget was a challenge for Shaney Hudson whilst touring the Amalfi coast of Italy.
“You’ll need two things for your trip to Italy” my Italian friend smirked “your passport and your Visa.”
“But Australians don’t need a visa to get into Italy” I replied, puzzled.
“Yeah they do. A Visa card, a MasterCard and an American Express- it’s ridiculously expensive.”
He wasn’t joking. By the end of my first day in Rome, the temperature hit 40 degrees, and my Euros were perspiring like droplets of sweat. With wallet empty, it was time to strategise.
All roads may lead to Rome, but to really save money you have to get out of town. I headed south to the Campania region of Italy, with the city of Naples my first stop. Often considered a shifty place, Naples is a destination most Italians swear they won’t ever visit. But this city on the coast is a diamond in the rough. Its people are animated, its food is divine and, thankfully, prices seemed to halve once we left Rome.
Naples is famous for pizza, and it’s worth visiting just to try this fast food staple. In Naples, you eat your pizza one of two ways - with tomato, or with tomato and cheese. Some pizzerias in the centre of town have been operating for over 120 years.
Most people pass through Naples on their way to the world’s best preserved and biggest archaeological site, the city of Pompeii, which was frozen in time when Mt Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. This is one destination where it’s worth splurging on a guided tour. Wandering through the wide streets, you can see the grooves from the chariot wheels in the roads and the worn stone where people placed their hands to drink at the water fountains. Although the city seems quite grey in photos, getting inside the homes reveals frescos and murals splashed with bright primary colours.
Those in Pompeii believed in a life of pleasure, and just an hour down the coast in Sorrento, the tradition lives on. Sorrento is your typical Italian resort: aquamarine water, matching beach umbrellas, sheer sloping cliffs draped with grand villas and fruit orchards. And while this slice of paradise is expensive, there’s a reasonably priced HI hostel in the centre of town.
TRIED AND TESTED WAYS TO SAVE MONEY IN ITALY
1. Plan ahead: prebook your train tickets for a discount.
2. Stay out of the cities: cut costs in half by touring regional areas.
3. Turn water into wine: fill your water bottle at public drinking fountains around major cities
4. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and is provided free in most hostels.
5. Go Alfresco: delis and supermarkets are filled with amazing picnic food.
6. Cross your legs: you’ll pay to pee in most bathrooms.
7. Museum discount derby: students and EU passport holders often pay less for museum entry.
8. Travel slow: slower regional trains are cheaper, walking will save you lots of $$$ and public transport is efficient and dirt cheap - grab a 24 hour pass.
9. Get your timing right: Travel in the off-season where prices drop.