The first time the ridiculous voice in my head got their way.
Step 1: I found my travel buddies
I swear, not a year goes by where I don't think about booking a trip to Italy. But this year, it just so happened that my crazy idea turned into a reality. About a couple months ago, I realized I still had two weeks of vacation left for the year, and I started to panic. There was no dreaming of spending a week on a beach since hurricane season was approaching, and I knew for sure I was not about to waste any money spending my trip in a hotel room. I wasn't willing to do a staycation, because those stopped being fun when you enter the real world, and everyone you know works full time. Then I thought, "where can I go that I'll still have decent weather and have the best value?" Well of course, the ridiculous voice in my head said "ITALY BABY!", and after I laughed about it for a moment, I wondered why I thought it was so ridiculous in the first place. Once that was settled, I had to think about who was coming with me. Everyone I could think of banked all of their vacation already, except two people. Who do I know that is always down for a vacation?- ZIA, and who is her partner in crime that will say yes with a bit of convincing?- MOM. Let's just say my phone rang the moment I sent "Hey Zia, wanna go to Italy?". *Tip: you can always count on family to back up your impulse travel choices.
Step 2: I picked my destination
Once I got mom on board, the rest was easy. My mom and my Zia have been to Italy a handful of times, which works out in my favour since I've been all over the boot. I have a good idea of what the weather is like throughout the different regions, and I know the places I would revisit if I had the chance. We decided on ten days in November, and I knew I could totally work with that. The weather in Italy that time of year is definitely warmer than Toronto, but cool enough that my dreams of visiting Southern Italy were going to be put on hold. Immediately my mind went straight to the north, which I've seen a decent portion of, and fallen in love with. My mom has a cousin who lives right next to the Swiss border, who I knew they would enjoy visiting, and they were putting all their faith in me as a tour guide. So then, I had to think of places I would revisit in a heartbeat, while being close enough to others that have been on my list. Finally after three drafts, we decided on Varese, Lugano (Switzerland), Milan, Turin, Siena, and Rome. Crazy? We'll find out soon! *Tip: If you're on a time crunch like this, and your destinations are more than three hours apart on a train, it's not worth it. You'll lose easily a full day travelling to and from.
Step 3: We booked our flight
Being a millennial has its perks, we know our way around travel websites and apps, and we know exactly where to find the best deals. I started scanning four different sources until I finally found the best deal- a direct flight from Toronto to Rome for $775 with Air Transat + $60 for extra leg room. Considering the time of year, it seemed pretty decent, and a with the three of us definitely not being ballsy enough for free cancellation, it was as good as we were gonna get. *Tip: Depending on the time of year, its almost impossible to find a direct flight to Northern Italy. If you don't mind a few hours on a scenic train ride, get a direct flight to Rome and take a non-stop Italo train to your final destination.
Step 4: Budgeting
I can tell you right now that budgeting for your meals in Italy can be very easy, if you're realistic. You can get away with about 50€ for three meals a day if you plan accordingly. The general guideline for true Italian eating is as follows:
Breakfast (Colazione): Italians eat very light for breakfast, so don't expect to see scrambled eggs at your local café because even that is too heavy. They get a cappuccino and pastry, and that's it. Here, you can get away with about 4-5€.
Lunch (Pranzo): I've seen both ends of the spectrum for this meal, from a plate of pasta, to a panino. The strategy here is to be careful not to fall into the tourist traps. Those places can charge about 12-15€ for a plate of pasta, and 10€ for a panino. If you find the right spot, you can spend up to 3€ for a panzerotto, 5€ for a panino, and about 10€ for a plate of good pasta.
Dinner (Cena): If you turn to the local next to you at a restaurant, you'll notice three main courses: primo (first), secondo (second), and dolce (dessert). There are two kinds of places you can enjoy this experience that'll give you the same amazing meal, but with a different price. Theres the Mom and Pop (M&P) spots that are small, family owned restaurants where you can experience true home cooking, and the more fancier spots. First courses are generally a plate of pasta, soup, or risotto, which can cost you 8€ at a M&P, or 22€ at a fancier spot. Second courses consist of a meat or fish item which is about 15€ at a M&P, and 25€ if you're feeling fancy. NOTE: Italian main courses generally come WITHOUT a side, so if you're looking to get a side of vegetables to go with your steak, it'll cost about 4-8€.
Dessert (Dolce): If you have any room left, you'll enjoy tiramisu, gelato made in house, or a local specialty cake. Dessert at almost any Italian restaurant usually ranges from 5-10€.
Now if you factor in a coffee in between shopping trips, or an afternoon gelato, you're looking at about 50-70€ a day. In terms of spending money, that area is always going to be grey when you go to Italy, and Europe in general. If you go all the way to the other side of the world and you don't buy leather in Italy, there's something wrong with you. I will personally always visit Italy with two leather items in mind that I would like to purchase, and be prepared to spend a small amount on souvenirs for each place I visit. Brace yourself, this trip is not going to be as cheap as an all inclusive, but you'll remember it forever.
Step 5: I GOT EXCITED, AND STARTED SAVING MY CARBS! I'M GOING TO ITALY BABY!!!!
If you enjoyed some of my travel tips, let me know down below! Stay tuned for part 2 to learn how I enjoyed my trip, and what I'd do differently on my next visit.
Fa la brava,