Italy Backpacking Guide

Ready to dive into the heart of Italy, where every corner is a postcard and every meal is a memory? For the backpackers out there looking to soak up Italy’s endless charm without blowing their budget, you’re in the right place, as I wrote a complete Italy Backpacking Guide.

I was living in Rome for almost a year as I fell in love (with the language) and while living there took the chance to discover many places. I have re-visited Rome many times, but also tried to find those hidden gems. From the rolling hills of Tuscany to the bustling streets of Rome. The serene canals of Venice, and the rugged coastline of the Amalfi Coast. Backpacking through Italy is like stepping into a living, breathing museum of art, history, and culinary excellence.

Here I will talk about how to zigzag across the country and hit all the must-see spots while also uncovering those off-the-beaten-path treasures. From sleeping in quaint hostels and historic cities to figuring out the train system and finding the best gelato spots that’ll make your taste buds dance – we’ve got you covered.

So, lace up your walking shoes, pack your appetite, and get ready for an adventure. Italy is calling, and trust me, you’ll want to answer.

What to Expect: A Simple Overview

Italy is a safe and backpacking-friendly country. It is a place where history is alive. You can see magnificent historical buildings like the Colosseum and ancient echoes of the Renaissance art of Florence. Not only the most famous buildings are stunning. I disovered many little churches with lots of charm.

Italian cuisine is a love language itself: Pizza in Naples, pasta in Bologna, gelato… everywhere. You can eat like a king on a backpacker’s budget.

Even though hostel culture in Italy is not on top of the game (like Portugal and Spain), some hostels in Italy are doing great. Look for those hostels that go beyond the basics, offering amenities like free Wi-Fi, communal kitchens, and sometimes even complimentary breakfasts. I collected the best hostels in Italy here. Some of these hostels also feature bars, rooftop terraces, and organized social events to help you dive deeper into the local scene.

Also, the Italians know how to live. Their warm hospitality, passion for life, and knack for making you feel at home add layers to your journey to “La Dolce Vitta”.

Travel Costs: Detailed Breakdown

These estimates include accommodation, meals, and basic daily expenses but can vary based on factors like location, seasonal changes, and personal preferences.

Suggested Budget per Person per Day

Low: €50 – €80
Middle: €120 – €200
High: €250+

Detailed Costs


Low: Hostel dorms can range from €20 to €35 per night.
Middle: Mid-range hotels or B&Bs often cost between €60 and €160 per night.
High: For luxury hotels or upscale apartments, prices start from €250 and can go up


Low: Budget eateries and daily menus can cost between €12 and €16.
Middle: Mid-range restaurants may charge €30 to €50 for a meal.
High: Dining at high-end restaurants starts from €60.

Tips for Enjoying Cheap Food in Italy:

Street Food & Markets: Italy is famous for its pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) shops, where you can get a piece of pizza for under 3€. They do also have panifici (bakeries) and salumerie (delicatessens), where you can enjoy delicious and affordable bites like pizza slices, sandwiches, and local specialties for €2 to €5.

Aperitivo Culture: Embrace the Italian tradition of aperitivo, where for the price of a drink (€8 to €25, depending on the place), you get access to a selection of snacks and appetizers. This can be a cost-effective way to enjoy a light dinner. It’s a tradition more common in cities and might not be as prevalent in smaller towns or rural areas.

Local Bars and Cafés: For coffee and drinks, opt for standing at a local bar where prices are lower (€1 to €1.50 for an espresso) compared to sitting in touristy areas. Similarly, asking for house wine in restaurants can be a budget-friendly choice.

Things to See and Do in Italy

While I was living in Rome, I got to visit many places around. I made lots of friends, so I got lucky enough to visit them in their homes. I moved around by train, bus, and plane, and on some trips, I drove a motorbike.  Afterward, I wanted to show Matt the beauty of the country and keep discovering it. We traveled for around 2 months from Rome to the very south (known as the tip of the tacco) with our camper van.

This country has it all. Rich history, culture, and natural beauty. It offers an endless array of experiences for every type of traveler.

Italy is a playground for the curious and the adventurous, a place where every turn brings something new to see, taste, and explore. Here’s your guide to the absolute must-sees and dos, from city highlights to natural wonders and everything in between.

Absolute Top Cities

Rome: The Eternal City (or the city of love as I keep calling it)  is a living museum. From the ancient ruins of the Roman Forum and the Colosseum to the bustling piazzas and mouthwatering trattorias, Rome is an essential start (or end) to any Italian adventure.

Florence: The cradle of the Renaissance, Florence is a dream for art lovers. Wander the Uffizi Gallery, gaze up at the Duomo, and watch the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.

Venice: Floating on its canals and threaded by narrow alleys, Venice is enchantingly unique. Get lost in its maze, ride a gondola at sunset, and discover hidden gems away from the crowds.

Historical Landmarks

The Colosseum and Roman Forum: No trip to Italy is complete without stepping back in time at these iconic symbols of ancient Rome’s power.

Leaning Tower of Pisa: More than just a photo op, the tower and its surrounding buildings are a marvel of medieval engineering.

Pompeii and Herculaneum: These ancient cities, frozen in time by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, offer a hauntingly vivid glimpse into Roman life.

Natural Wonders

Cinque Terre: Five colorful villages perched along the rugged Ligurian coast, offering breathtaking views, hiking trails, and delicious seafood.

The Dolomites: For outdoor enthusiasts, the Dolomites provide stunning landscapes for hiking, skiing, and simply soaking in nature’s beauty.

Amalfi Coast: Drive along the winding roads or hop on a ferry to explore the picturesque towns and crystal-clear waters of this iconic coastline.

Sardinia: Venture off the mainland to the island of Sardinia, a paradise of dazzling beaches. Among its many coastal treasures, Taithi Beach (Spiaggia di Cala Coticcio) stands out with its pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters, almost mirroring the idyllic shores of the Caribbean Sea.

Cultural Experiences

Carnival of Venice: Experience the magic of Venice’s carnival, with its elaborate masks and costumes, bringing the city’s history to life.

Attend a Cooking Class: Learn to make pasta, pizza, or gelato from the masters themselves in cooking classes offered throughout the country.

Opera in Verona: Catch an opera in the ancient Roman amphitheater of Verona for a truly unforgettable experience.

Italy is a mosaic of experiences, waiting for you to piece together your perfect adventure. Whether you’re standing in awe at the foot of a historical landmark, savoring the flavors of traditional cuisine, or finding tranquility in its natural wonders, Italy promises to fill your backpacking journey with moments of pure wonder. So, grab your map, and let Italy show you its many splendors.

Itinerary Ideas

Drawing from my love affair with Italy—having lived, worked, and journeyed through its heart and soul—I can’t help but return year after year, drawn in by the allure of its landscapes and the irresistible charm of Italian cuisine. With these curated suggestions, inspired by my personal experiences and adventures, you’re equipped to craft your own Italian itinerary. Whether you’re weaving through Italy for a week, stretching it out over two, or indulging in a month-long exploration, you’re on the cusp of designing a journey as multifaceted and enchanting as Italy itself.

1 Week – Highlights of Italy

  • Day 1-2, Rome: Start with the Eternal City’s classics—the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Vatican City. Don’t miss the Pantheon and make sure you stroll through Trastevere in the evening.
  • Day 3-4, Florence: Take a high-speed train to Florence. Explore the Uffizi Gallery, Duomo, and Ponte Vecchio. Consider a quick trip to Pisa if time allows.
  • Day 5, Venice: Head to Venice for a day exploring St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace, and experience a gondola ride through the canals. Want to get the most beautiful Instagram photo? Head to Aqua alta Libreria, a very special bookstore you have surely seen on your social media.
  • Day 6-7, Bologna: Finish in Bologna, admiring a million Arches, visiting the university, and enjoying red wine in the oldest osteria surrounded by locals.

Tip: you can move easily from Florence, Venice, and Bologna by train. Check which flights are better from/ to Rome and plan and swap your plan accordingly to that.

2 Weeks – North or South Exploration

Northern Route:

  • Days 1-3, Milan & Lake Como: Start in Milan for fashion and culture, then relax by Lake Como.
  • Days 4-6, Venice & Surroundings: Explore Venice’s magic, with a day trip to the colorful islands of Murano and Burano.
  • Days 7-9, Florence & Tuscany: Dive into art in Florence, then explore the Tuscan countryside, perhaps with a wine tour.
  • Days 10-11, Cinque Terre: Hike between the five picturesque villages on the Ligurian coast.
  • Days 12-14, Turin: Conclude in Turin, exploring its museums and enjoying its vibrant café culture.

Southern Route:

  • Days 1-3, Naples & Pompeii: Begin with Naples’ lively streets and a day trip to Pompeii.
  • Days 4-6, Amalfi Coast: Visit Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, soaking in the stunning coastal views of Amalfi.
  • Days 7-8, Capri or the backpacker’s heaven Ischia: Spend a day on the island and enjoy the beach life.
  • Days 9-14, Choose between Sicily, Calabria or Puglia:
      • Sicily: discover Palermo’s rich history, the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, and the stunning beaches around.
      • Calabria: End your trip at the toe of Italy’s boot, Calabria, with its unspoiled beaches.
      • Puglia: Puglia offers unique trulli houses and olive groves. Also one of the cutest villages (check out Monopoli). Make sure you also explore the ancient cave dwellings of Matera.

Mixing North and South Italy:

  • Days 1-3, Rome: Enjoy the vibrant nightlife of Trastevere and the panoramic views from the Gianicolo hill.
  • Days 4-6, Florence and Tuscany: the Renaissance heart of Italy. Visit Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia, and wander the historic streets. Dedicate a day to exploring the Tuscan countryside, perhaps with a wine tour in Chianti or a visit to the medieval town of Siena.
  • Days 7-8, Venice: Catch a train to Venice. Spend your time getting lost in its alleyways, admiring St. Mark’s Basilica, and enjoying a gondola ride through the canals.
  • Day 9-11, south to the Amalfi Coast: Base yourself in Sorrento for ease of exploration, and spend your days visiting Positano, Amalfi, or the hilltop Ravello.
  • Days 12-14, Naples and Pompeii: Conclude your journey in Naples. Spend a day exploring the lively streets, sampling authentic Neapolitan pizza, and visiting the Royal Palace. Dedicate your last day to exploring the ruins of Pompeii or hiking Mount Vesuvius for a dramatic end to your Italian adventure.

1 Month – The Ultimate Italian Adventure:

Combine elements from the one and two-week itineraries, and add these experiences for a comprehensive exploration:

  • Extra Days in Rome: Delve deeper into Rome’s neighborhoods and lesser-known sites.
  • Sardinia: Spend a few days on the magical Sardinia island, enjoying its incredible beaches.
  • Umbria: Visit the hill towns of Assisi and Orvieto, with their rich history and serene landscapes.
  • Verona: Experience the romance of Verona, with its ancient arena and Juliet’s balcony.
  • Dolomites: Explore the breathtaking scenery of the Dolomites, offering both summer hikes and winter sports.

Where to stay on a Budget in Italy

Italian hostels are an integral part of the travel experience, blending affordability with a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture and meet fellow wanderers.

From bustling city centers to serene countryside locales, Italian hostels offer a range of experiences. Whether you’re looking for a quiet retreat after a day of sightseeing or a lively spot to meet fellow travelers, there’s a hostel for you.

Few Hostels we love

1. Combo Venezia: Nestled in the Cannaregio district, Combo Hostel in Venice offers a tranquil retreat amidst the city’s maze of canals and alleyways. This hostel takes the Venetian charm and pairs it with a sleek, contemporary design. From dorms to private rooms overlooking the canal, it caters to every type of traveler..

2. Ostello Bello Lake Como: Perched on the shores of Italy’s most iconic lake, Ostello Bello Lake Como offers stunning views and an unmatched vibe. This hostel is all about embracing the laid-back lifestyle of Lake Como. With a mix of dorms and private rooms, it’s an ideal spot for both solo travelers and groups seeking the beauty of the Italian lakes.

3. Plus Florence: A short walk from Florence’s historic center, Plus Florence is a modern hostel offering a range of amenities that could put some hotels to shame. With a swimming pool, rooftop bar, and even an on-site restaurant, it’s the perfect spot to unwind after a day spent marveling at Renaissance art and architecture.

4. Combo Bologna: Situated in the vibrant heart of Bologna, Combo Hostel merges modern comfort with the city’s rich history. This hostel is not just about offering a bed; it’s about creating a community. With its spacious, airy rooms, on-site café serving local cuisine, and a buzzing courtyard where travelers and locals alike gather, Combo Bologna is the perfect backdrop for immersing yourself in the lively culture and gastronomy of this historic city.

5. Ostello degli Elefanti: Set in a beautifully restored Baroque building in the heart of Catania, this hostel offers a rooftop terrace with panoramic views of the city and the volcano. The interior boasts original frescoes and a blend of antique and modern decor. With its central location, vibrant social scene, and cozy, comfortable accommodations, it’s the perfect base for exploring Sicily’s eastern coast.

How to get around Italy


  • Domestic Flights: For those looking to maximize their time or cover vast distances across the boot-shaped peninsula, domestic flights offer a swift alternative. Italy’s major cities like Rome, Milan, Naples, and Venice are well-connected by airlines such as Alitalia, Ryanair, and EasyJet, making cross-country hops both time-efficient and often surprisingly affordable.
  • Airports and Connectivity: Most Italian cities and even some of the larger islands (like Sicily and Sardinia) boast airports that serve domestic flights, ensuring that even the more remote destinations are accessible. Bear in mind the airports for the low-cost airlines might not be as well connected as the major airports, meaning a late or early flight might leave you with no public transport option to get to/from the airport.

Tips for Flying: Booking early can snag you great deals on domestic flights. It is important to consider that some airports (like Fiumicino) close at night, meaning you cannot sleep in the airport.


Locals use the train a lot, as it can bring you to so many places.

  • High-Speed Trains: Italy’s high-speed trains, like the Frecciarossa and Italo, connect major cities at lightning speeds. Perfect for covering long distances in a short time, offering comfort and stunning views.
  • Regional Trains: Slower but more budget-friendly, regional trains are ideal for short distances and getting off the beaten path. Look for Trenitalia.

Tip: Booking in advance can secure lower fares, especially on high-speed routes. Also, keep an eye out for Trenitalia and Italo’s special offers.


  • Long-Distance Buses: Companies like FlixBus and MarinoBus offer extensive networks across Italy, providing a cheaper alternative to trains for intercity travel.
  • Local Buses: In rural areas or smaller cities, local buses are often the only way to explore off-the-grid gems. Patience is key, as schedules can be more relaxed.

Tip: Overnight buses can save you a night’s accommodation cost.


Renting a car gives you the ultimate freedom to explore Italy’s diverse regions at your own pace. Ideal for road trips through the Tuscan vineyards or the mountains of the Dolomites.

Considerations: Remember that in many historic city centers, traffic is restricted. Always check parking options and city regulations.

Scooters and Bikes

  • Scooters: Renting a scooter can be an exhilarating way to navigate through cities like Rome, Florence, or Naples, weaving through traffic and discovering hidden corners. I think it is also the perfect way to discover the Amalfi Coast’s cliffside roads, as doing it by car just triples the car and doubles the time.
  • Bicycles: Many Italian cities have embraced cycling, offering bike rental schemes and dedicated paths. It’s a leisurely and eco-friendly way to explore urban areas.


  • Ferries: To explore Italy’s islands or the stunning coastal areas, ferries are your best bet. From the colorful shores of Cinque Terre to the islands of Sicily and Sardinia, the journey is as breathtaking as the destination.
  • Gondolas and Vaporettos in Venice: While gondolas are more about the experience than getting around, the vaporetto water buses are a practical way to navigate Venice’s canals.

On Foot

Often, the best way to explore Italy’s cities is on foot. Wander through ancient alleyways, stumble upon piazzas, and pause at sidewalk cafes. Walking allows you to feel the pulse of Italy’s urban life.

Transport Efficiency: traveling light is the key, as many low-cost airlines will add an extra cost for every piece of luggage. For those who cannot adjust to the minimalistic life, consider always traveling by train first, as there is no extra cost for your luggage there.

Best Time to visit Italy

Backpacking through Italy doesn’t have to drain your wallet. Timing your adventure right can help you experience the best of Italy while keeping those euros in your pocket. Here’s how to strategically plan your trip to enjoy Italy’s splendors on a backpacker’s budget:

Late Spring (Late May to Early June)

The sweet spot before peak season kicks in. You’ll enjoy warm, pleasant weather ideal for exploring both cities and the countryside, with the summer tourist rush yet to hit. Accommodation and transportation costs are lower than in peak summer. Plus, you can still catch some early bird discounts on activities and tours.

Early Autumn (September to Early October)

As the summer crowds disperse, prices drop, but the weather remains inviting. The seas are still warm enough for swimming, and the cities are less crowded.

Tip: Look out for end-of-season sales, especially in coastal areas.

Winter (January to February)

Aside from the ski resorts, Italy sees fewer tourists, leading to significantly reduced prices in accommodation and flights. It’s a fantastic time to explore Italy’s iconic cities. Many museums and attractions offer lower entry fees or special winter promotions.

Avoiding Italian Holidays and Peak Festivals

Italian holidays and major festivals can see a spike in both crowds and prices. While experiencing Carnevale in Venice or Easter in Rome can be unforgettable, it can also be expensive. If you’re set on experiencing these events, book well in advance. Otherwise, plan your visit for quieter times when you can enjoy Italy’s charm without the premium prices.

National Holidays

  • Capodanno (New Year’s Day): January 1. Celebrations occur across the country, with fireworks, concerts, and public gatherings.
  • Epifania (Epiphany): January 6. Traditionally marks the end of the Christmas season, celebrated with parades and festivities, especially for children.
  • Pasqua (Easter Sunday) and Pasquetta (Easter Monday): Dates vary each year. One of Italy’s biggest holidays, celebrated with religious processions, especially in Rome and the Vatican, as well as across the country with local traditions.
  • Festa della Repubblica (Republic Day): June 2. Commemorates the establishment of the Italian Republic in 1946. Military parades and festivities, particularly in Rome.
  • Ferragosto (Assumption Day): August 15. Originally a religious holiday, it has become a general summer holiday, with many Italians heading to the beach or mountains.

Peak Festivals

  • Carnevale: The dates vary, but Carnevale typically takes place in February or early March. Venice’s Carnevale is the most famous, known for its elaborate masks and costumes, but celebrations occur nationwide.
  • Il Palio di Siena: Held on July 2 and August 16 in Siena, Tuscany. A historic horse race that turns the city into a vibrant hub of activity, with each district competing.
  • Festa di San Giovanni (Feast of St. John the Baptist): June 24. Particularly notable in Florence and Genoa with fireworks, bonfires, and celebrations.
  • Festa della Madonna Bruna: July 2 in Matera. A spectacular religious and community festival featuring a procession and fireworks.
  • L’Ardia di San Costantino: Celebrated in Sedilo, Sardinia on July 6 and 7. A mix of religious devotion and ancient traditions, featuring a daring horse race.

Backpacking Essentials & Safety Tips

Le’ts provide you with all the tips you need to backpack Italy like a pro. Here’s the lowdown on everything from what to pack to how to save your euros for more pizza.

Packing Essentials

Comfortable Footwear: You’ll walk. A lot. Bring shoes that won’t give up on you before you’ve even hit the halfway mark of your city exploration.

>>> Special Hostelgeeks Tip: Make sure to use the sneakers you wanna bring to your travels before – at least a bit. Get used to them. New shoes normally cause friction and you do not want any injury.

Power Adapter: Italy uses Type C, F, and L plugs, so bring an adapter to keep your gadgets charged and ready to capture every moment.

Light Layers: The weather can be a bit of a diva here, swinging from sunny to chilly, especially if you’re hopping from north to south. It is also important to know that the winters can be very cold in Italy, especially in the North.

Cultural Norms

Dress Respectfully: Especially when visiting religious sites. Shoulders and knees should be covered. In places like the Vatican is mandatory and you won’t enter if you are not covered. In other churches or religious sites, they will be not so strict but appreciated.

Greeting: A simple “Ciao” is casual and friendly, but “Buongiorno” (good morning) or “Buonasera” (good evening) shows respect and effort.

Eating Out: Meals are an event. Don’t rush, enjoy every bite, and remember, tipping isn’t mandatory but appreciated for good service.

Safety Tips for Travelers

Italy is quite safe and welcoming for travelers, but like any popular destination, it pays to travel smart and responsibly. Here’s a blend of safety tips and responsible travel practices to ensure your Italian adventure is not only memorable but also respectful and sustainable.
Stay Aware of Your Belongings: Pickpocketing can be an issue in crowded tourist spots and public transport. Always keep an eye on your possessions and consider using a money belt or a theft-proof backpack.
Respect Traffic Rules: Italian cities can be hectic, especially for pedestrians. Always cross at zebra crossings, and be mindful of scooters and bikes.
Emergency Numbers: Keep a note of emergency numbers – 112 is the general emergency number in Italy. Having the local police and medical services numbers on hand is also wise.
Travel Insurance: Ensure you have comprehensive travel insurance that covers theft, loss, and medical emergencies.

Resources and Planning

Starting your backpacking journey in Italy is about clever planning and having the right resources ready. Find all our favorite websites and apps for travel planning here.

Also, here’s a streamlined guide to key tools and platforms that will help simplify your trip planning in Italy:

Trenitalia and Italo: The main train operators in Italy, with websites for checking schedules and booking tickets for high-speed and regional trains.

Walks tours: This company specializes in offering small group tours that dive deep into Italy’s rich culture and history, led by expert local guides.

EatItaly: Focused on promoting authentic Italian food experiences, this app guides you to the best local eateries, markets, and food tours.

MyCicero: Ideal for public transportation planning within Italian cities, MyCicero helps you buy tickets for buses, trains, and even pay for parking.

Unico Campania: While not exclusively for Naples, this app covers the entire Campania region’s public transport system, including Naples. It’s essential for planning trips on the metro, buses, and trains in and around Naples, including routes to Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.


I’ve poured my heart and soul into providing you with the best information to help you navigate this beautiful country. In case you find yourself craving more tips or have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here or via Instagram. I’m always thrilled to lend a hand.

Buon Viaggio,