Rome, then off to Tuscany
While in Rome we ate lots of pizza, drank pitchers of white wine, and saw all of the major attractions that we could cram into four days. We, of course, went to Vatican City, St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Villa Borghese, and many Piazza’s. It was honestly touching the edge of Joel’s cultural extremes and we both were exhausted after Rome.
For us, Rome was one of those places that four nights was enough, because of the crowds. You could probably spend months there at a slower pace exploring the city and still not see everything. Although it was amazing to see all of these ancient places and monuments, it was more difficult because we stayed further north of the city center so it took a long time to get to the main tourist attractions. The city is very crowded, and even if you take public transportation, it can sometimes take hours to go 10 km by bus or train (which is how far our hotel was from the center). We would suggest staying near the touristy area so you can walk to most of the attractions or take a short bus or train ride.
Road Trip To Tuscany
As I stated, we stayed in the northern section of Rome, which made it easy to rent a car and go north towards Tuscany, without having to drive through the busy city of Rome. We stayed in two different Airbnb’s in the Tuscany area so we could see as much of Tuscany as possible. We stayed in the midsection and the northern section of the Tuscany region. If you are interested in reading more about our road trip through Tuscany, click here.
After the busyness of Rome, we were excited to rent a car and take off towards Tuscany. We planned a leisurely drive from Rome to our first accommodation town called Gambassi Terme. We ventured through many cities, including Siena, on our way to Gambassi. I would recommend staying in Siena if you ever have the chance. It was a beautiful town, and we have more about it in our blog post detailing our drive through Tuscany and the wineries of Tuscany at the end of this article.
The only negative of our stay in Gambassi Terme was the Airbnb. It was a darling place, in a hundred-year-old building in a town where cars were few and far between. Unfortunately, this Airbnb turned out to be one of our most difficult Airbnb spots as of yet. Luckily we only stayed at this location for three nights; there was no internet (there was supposed to be, confirmed days before), no hot water and the shower was a dribble of water. If it weren’t for those things, we would have loved this place, as much as we loved the town of Gambassi Terme.
Chiesina Uzzanese is approximately 45 minutes north of Gambassi Terme; it’s in between Pisa and Florence (slightly north). I chose this town because it was reasonable cost wise to stay there, it was 45 minutes from Florence, 30 minutes from Pisa, and very close to the Montecarlo wineries. We stayed in Chiesina Uzzanesa before heading to the mountain area of Costello di Veppo. If you are looking for an inexpensive town to stay that is central to many other cities in Northern Tuscany, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest Chiesina Uzzanesa. We just used this place as a home base, as I said the town was nothing to speak of but it was proximate to many great towns we wanted to visit.
Tuscany was one of our favorite regions of Italy, and we would return in a heartbeat. The countryside was picturesque, and everywhere we looked resembled a tapestry painting of greenery and hillsides. The relaxing, slower vibe after hectic Rome was a welcome change!
Castello di Veppo
After our stay in Tuscany, we headed to the Liguria region, going through Pisa to see the leaning tower and a bit of the town. We then proceeded north into the mountains to a little village called Castello di Veppo in the Valdi Vara.
Castello di Veppo was like no place we had ever stayed before; the town consisted of 15 inhabitants. It was one of the most beautifully serene places we have ever been so far. The village is on a hillside with medieval-type buildings as homes. Our place was a two-story stone building, with a balcony upstairs off of the bedroom overlooking the countryside. The people of this town were some of the friendliest we have ever met and were so welcoming. There was one church, one restaurant which also served as the bar and grocery store. That should give you an idea of just how small this town was.
It’s approximately 30 minutes from La Spezia, which was one of the reasons we chose this out of the way (but not too far) place for our accommodation. One day we drove to La Spezia, bought a train pass and spent the day visiting each of the 5 towns in Cinque Terre. We have a video detailing our day in Cinque Terre with money-saving tips click here to watch.
Our Airbnb host at Castello di Veppo bottled his olive oil, made his wine, and grew most of his food. He has lived in Castello di Veppo for 40 years, he’s probably 80 years old, and ran around like he was in his early 60’s. He and his wife hugged us like we were family when we left, and they were some of the sweetest people we’ve ever met. If you’d like to see our video “What’s It Like Living In The Italian Mountains” click here.
One Of The Scariest Experiences Of Our Life – Castello di Veppo to Venice
We decided to drive from Castello di Veppo east across the country towards Venice. During this drive, we had the scariest experience of our adventures so far. We drove a different way down the mountain, after driving about an hour we came to a concrete barrier in the road, rather than turn around we went around the barrier only to find the road had split and fell into the cliffs below. It was a terrifying experience as we were by ourselves, and we were feet away from going off a cliff with a six-story drop. I guess they put that barrier there for a reason. LOL
After getting out of that situation we got on the road again, what should have taken us 4 to 5 hours to get across the country took us almost 7 hours. We stopped in a little town called Rovigo about a ½ hour before Venice to spend the night because we were exhausted.
The last city we visited in Italy was Venice, and it turned out to be one of our favorites in Italy. It’s funny because we had been told and read that Venice is extremely crowded, people are rude, and you won’t want to stay there very long. We loved Venice and we couldn’t have had a more different experience!!
It didn’t seem crowded to us, especially compared to Rome. We loved Venice because we could walk around everywhere and when we didn’t want to walk we took the water taxi. The architecture is beautiful, the canals are enchanting, there are numerous food options, and we loved exploring the history of Venice. We stayed for two nights, and it wasn’t long enough.
One thing I have to say is we stayed on the island. It was a little busier during the day, but when evening came it was as if everybody cleared off the island and we had it to ourselves or almost to ourselves. If you visit Venice and you can stay in the central part of Venice, that’s what we would suggest, being there at night was magical.
We accrued points on our credit cards, so that’s how we were able to stay directly on the island. We try to choose the credit cards with the most travel benefits and bang for our buck. If you’re interested in reading a post that I wrote on “The 3 Top Credit Cards For Travelers” click here.
Our Accommodations in Italy included Airbnb’s, booking.com hotels, and hotels using our credit card points. If you are interested in booking a hotel or checking prices, please use our link at no cost to you. Click here for Booking.com.
If you are interested in checking out Airbnb prices, click here. You will receive a $40 travel credit after your first booking and $15 off an experience of $50 or more.
Accommodations – $1,171 for the month
Our transportation included: train, taxi, bus, uber, car, ferry.
Initially, we flew into Rome, took a bus to Pompeii, and then a train to Sorrento. After Sorrento, we took a train to Naples, and then a bus to our Rome accommodations. We rented a car to drive from the outskirts of Rome through Tuscany then north towards Cinque Terre, in the mountains of the Liguria region, through the country east and later to Venice. While in Venice we bought a hop on and off ferry pass, and then took a bus to the airport to fly to Porto, Portugal.
We enjoyed driving the car throughout the countryside and in the non-busy areas of the country. We wouldn’t recommend renting a vehicle to operate in the city of Rome, Florence, or Venice because of the crowds and the narrow streets. Another place we would not recommend driving a car is along the Amalfi coastline. Another thing we did ahead of time that turned out to be quite helpful was downloading the Google Offline Maps for the country of Italy. This way we didn’t use our data which helped us with our phone plan.
It seemed the best way to get around in the bigger cities was using public transportation, such as buses and trains. There were taxis available; however, they were quite expensive in the bigger towns and hard to find in the small towns. Another thing to take into account if you are considering renting a car is the cost of parking, especially in the big cities. For example, to park in Florence costs $25 a day and parking in Venice will run you $30 a day.
When we visited Cinque Terre for the day, we parked in La Spezia in the morning and purchased the on-and-off day train pass for $20 at the train station. The train pass enabled us to jump on and off the train, so we were able to see the five towns of Cinque Terre. We found this to be the most economical way to see Cinque Terre if you only have a day. It is possible to hike from town to town; although, I wouldn’t suggest that unless you are staying in Cinque Terre, and you have more time. The other option is to take one of the boats from town to town.
TIP: If you decide to visit Cinque Terre the most economical way is to go to La Spezia and park your car in the free parking lot we found. The train station is a couple of blocks from this free parking lot. So all you have to do is park your car, walk to the station and buy your day pass, then head out to any of the Cinque Terre towns you want to visit and you have all day. Check out our video “Your Cinque Terre Travel Guide” to see a map of where to park and what to expect.
*** Note When Renting A Car:
One thing we are concerned about is the tickets we may have gotten when driving throughout Italy. We have heard about a few people who drove throughout Italy and after they returned home, they had up to $2,000 worth of tickets. Italy has cameras everywhere from what we’ve heard, and many people have received tickets in the mail after their vacation. So this could be make-or-break for us when it comes to renting a car in Italy. We will let you know what happens in the next few months, as to whether we receive any tickets or not.
One thing we found was it’s sketchy in regards to knowing where you can park. Either we couldn’t read the signs because they were in Italian or there were no signs at all. There was one time we wanted to park, and we asked a local person walking by, and they said the parking was only for homeowners who lived on the street. There were no signs so we would have parked there and boom we’ve probably gotten a ticket. We have our fingers crossed that we didn’t get any tickets. To be continued…..
Excursions & Food Costs
As far as excursions go, we took a few excursions/tours while in Italy. We visited the Pompeii ruins, which we highly recommend and thoroughly enjoyed. Our next trip was a boat tour of the Amalfi Coastline, along with stops in Positano and Amalfi.
We went to a cooking class in Rome and learned how to make pizza from scratch. We visited Vatican City, saw St Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Villa Borghese, and many Piazza’s.
After leaving Rome, we went on several wine tours and visited numerous wineries (most wine tastings are free by the way). We have a blog post and video at the end of this article depicting our road trip through Tuscany. Most of our excursions or tours we did on our own, although a few of them were a collaboration with other tour companies. All of the opinions are those of two traveling lovers.
Excursions/Tours – $380
We found the food and restaurant costs to be more expensive in Italy than in Greece, where we visited last month. We ate at home a lot, doing our own cooking in our Airbnb’s as much as possible. It was challenging and probably more costly because we stayed in nine different places during the month, so it was hard to stock up because we didn’t want to have to carry everything with us from place to place.
One food that seemed to be inexpensive everywhere was pizza, which we ate a lot! By the end of the month, I was sick of pizza, and I love pizza. Wine is less expensive in Italy than in California. We could buy decent wine at the grocery store for a few dollars. One of the wines I like is Santa Margherita Pinot Grigio, which at home is approximately $20 a bottle and in Italy, I could buy it for 7 euros or roughly $8 a bottle. If you like Prosecco, you will love Italy, it’s everywhere. Prosecco became a staple for us, and it was relatively inexpensive approximately $7 – $9 a bottle for a decent bottle, sometimes we could find it on sale for less.
One thing to note when eating out in Italy is they have a service charge at most establishments of approximately 2 euros per person if you want to sit at a table and eat. If you take the food to go or “take away” as they call it there is no charge. Some restaurants consider this as a tip and others told us tipping is separate from the service charge.
Restaurants – $525 & Grocery – $600
Shopping and Incidentals – $135
We didn’t do a lot of shopping in Italy, and luckily we didn’t have any significant expenses like in the past, so that was good. We had minor incidentals we are beginning to run out of so those were are purchases.
Currency/Conversion fees – $78
Cell Phone – $91
We have our cell phone bill which includes international calling. We go through T-Mobile, and our bill is around $100 a month. Since we are long-term travelers, we had to put our T-Mobile plan phone number on hold because we don’t spend enough time in the United States. From now on, we will be purchasing a SIM for each country. The SIM card will reduce our phone cost to approximately $40 per month, $30 for the SIM card and $10 to put Joel’s phone number on hold.
Storage unit back home – $100
TOTAL COST FOR A MONTH IN ITALY WAS $3,793.
We have many blog posts and videos of our time in Italy, and if you have any specific questions, feel free to contact us directly through our website as we would be happy to help or answer any questions. Here are a few posts and videos we have complete (more to follow):
We hope you found the “Cost Of Living For A Couple In Italy” both interesting and informative. We enjoy bringing all of this information to our subscribers in hopes that other couples follow our footsteps and find great places to travel while discovering the world.
Our goal while traveling the world is to help couples find the best cultural experiences in every country while keeping costs very reasonable. We have become experts in planning travel and not breaking the bank!!
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