Italy is an enduring popular vacation destination. But if you’re looking for a luxurious getaway, it can also be pricey, according to Andrea Grisdale, the owner of IC Bellagio, a Lake Como-based travel company that sells trips to Italy. “Five-star hotels aren’t cheap,” Grisdale said. “And meals can also cost a lot.”
But wallet watchers dreaming of an upscale Italian holiday can have it, she said. Her tips are below.
Skip Peak Season: Italy’s high tourist season — when hotels are the most expensive — runs from mid-May through mid-September. In the spring and the fall, however, hotel rooms are about 30 percent cheaper. Even better deals await those who visit between mid-November and early March. While many beachside hotels are closed, city properties offer attractively priced extras like room upgrades and food and beverage credits.
Hit Lesser-Known Regions: Sure, there’s Tuscany, Rome and Capri. But Italy has plenty of other stunning regions that are not as well-known and more affordable. The Gargano region in Puglia, for instance, has a coastline that rivals the Amalfi Coast, and Bergamo, a city north of Milan, has a thriving culture scene. “When you visit unknown parts of Italy, luxury hotels, generally, cost 30 percent less than they do in more touristy regions, and the restaurants are more reasonably priced,” Grisdale said.
Hire a Guide Who’s Also a Driver: Luxury seekers often rely on a private driver and a guide. But paying for both is unnecessary, according to Grisdale. “Few travelers know that they can cut their cost in half by hiring one person, commonly referred to as a tour manager, who is a guide and a driver,” she said. Companies like IC Bellagio and Abercrombie & Kent can connect travelers with these tour managers. Your hotel can also help.
For Groups, Rent a Villa: It may sound out of reach, but if you’re going on a country or beachside vacation and traveling in a group of six or more, renting a luxury villa is far cheaper than booking several rooms at an upscale hotel. “You can stay at a villa with the works, including a pool and a staff, for almost half the price of what you would pay at a hotel,” Grisdale said. And, since you’ll be able to buy groceries to keep in the villa’s kitchen, you’ll save on food costs, too, even if a cook is preparing your meals.
Eat and Drink Like the Locals: Italians, said Grisdale, dine in Italy’s many Michelin-starred restaurants only on rare occasions. When eating out, they head to understated and inexpensive osterias and trattorias. Ask your cabdriver, hotel staff and others where they go to eat, and head there for authentic, wallet-friendly meals. And, stick to drinking local wine; you can enjoy delicious varieties for as little as 2 euros a glass.