Many people assume that travelling in Italy has to be an inherently expensive business, and Tuscany in particular has an especially pricey reputation. The fact that it is one of the most culturally rich locations in Europe, where luxury boutiques and restaurants serving world renowned cuisine are situated in the shadows of some of the most famous and charming architecture that exists anywhere in the world, nestled amidst iconic rolling hills, means that Tuscany is certainly a place where it’s easy to spend a lot of money.
But there are plenty of options for dining and recreation, and plenty of villas for rent in Tuscany for those looking to explore the region on a considerably tighter budget. And don’t be fooled into thinking that the only way to see Tuscany without breaking the bank is to avoid the most famous sights and attractions and stick to the less well known and travelled paths.
Whilst there are a great number of smaller towns and villages that are untouched by tourism and offer a glimpse into the ‘real’ Tuscan way of life, and whilst visiting these places serves the dual purpose of giving you an authentic experience of Tuscany and keeping your costs to a minimum, it’s also very possible to see all the same world famous sights as the big-spending tourists at a fraction of the cost. When you have the right information and a good plan, this magical, highly desirable destination can be made entirely accessible – whatever your budget.
Eat Like a Local
In the modern world, lifestyles and eating patterns are increasingly similar regardless of location. But for many Italians, the traditional ‘dolce vita’ is more than just a cultural stereotype: it is a much loved and cherished way of life, and it remains a working reality.
Whilst there are many exceptions, particularly amongst commuting workers and during the hot Italian summers, many Italians still eat the main meal of the day during the long ‘pausa pranzo’ (lunch break) in the middle of the day. And when travelling on a budget in Tuscany, you can benefit from joining them.
Whilst eating establishments are notoriously expensive in the evenings, when most tourists choose to dine, a great number of restaurants in Italy offer fixed price menus in the middle of the day. It’s entirely possible to find quality meals for under €15, and if you choose to dine at a pizzeria you’ll be able to enjoy truly authentic pizza and pasta for even less. So filling up during a long, late lunch doesn’t just allow you to experience the relaxation and refinement of the Tuscan lifestyle first hand – it also saves you vast sums of money!
If you’re renting a villa or apartment, you could also buy quality, fresh ingredients from the local market and cook fresh meals at home at lunch time. It’s what the Italians do, and it could save you huge amounts of money.
Sample Street Food
If you do decide to save money by eating your main meal in the middle of the day, you’ll probably still want something to eat at supper time. Fortunately, Tuscany offers a wide range of options when it comes to finding delicious and affordable street food for maximum convenience and minimum expense. Schiacciata is a baked flatbread with olive oil and salt which can be filled with meats, cheeses and vegetables and is available throughout the region at kiosks and bakeries. Slices of freshly baked pizza are also available at very reasonable prices, so you can rest assured that you’ll be able to experience a real taste of Italy regardless of your budget.
Explore on Foot
When you only have a limited time to see all the sights you want to see in a given area and you’re keen to have as many new experiences as possible, it is tempting to spend lots of money on taxis and car hire in order to get from A to B as quickly and efficiently as possible. But, regardless of whether you’re in the town or the country, Tuscany is simply better experienced on foot.
Whether it’s the bustling street life and the characteristic architecture of the big towns like Florence, Siena and Lucca or the quaint and beautiful hills, orchards and vineyards of the ancient Tuscan countryside, the region’s most resplendent sites and memorable attractions are all best experienced at a slow walking pace outside beneath the warmth of the Italian sun.
You’d be surprised how much art and architecture you miss when you travel by vehicle from one gallery or museum to another, but it’s all available to be enjoyed absolutely free when you choose to walk through the Renaissance streets, soaking up the exciting vibes and savouring the smells of beautiful, authentic Italian cookery pouring out of the Ristorantes and Pizzerias.
In the countryside, the rural walkways of the Via Francigena allow visitors to explore a a landscape which seems to have been trapped in time for hundreds of years. The ‘road to France’ has been used as a route to Rome for people from all walks of life since antiquity, and it remains largely untouched by modern industry and technology. The unique experience of exploring an area of countryside where time seems to stand still is completely free, and it’s one of the best ways to get a real feel for the Tuscan way of life.
Use Public Transport
Whilst it’s best to go around on foot when exploring different towns, villages and districts, the question of how to get from one to the next still remains – and it’s this question which frequently causes many tourists to spend large sums of money on hire cars.
Instead, consider using the public transport system that is in place in the region. Not only is it considerably cheaper and less stressful, it also gives you an opportunity to experience the daily lives of the locals – ensuring that at every moment of your trip, you’re being entirely immersed in the culture and lifestyle of this incredible region while simultaneously saving money!
Tuscany is never going to be the cheapest place to visit and explore, but that shouldn’t stop you from going. With some background knowledge and the right plan in place, you can enjoy absolutely everything the region has to offer at a fraction of what you’d expect.