Budget Breakdown – Italy, Part 2

Last week I went into depth about how I booked the flights, apartments, and hotels for our honeymoon in Italy in 2016. Due to the length, I broke this budget analysis into 2 parts. This week, I’m giving a glimpse of what we spent on transportation (in Italy), attractions, and food. If you missed last week’s post, check it out here!

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Overlooking Naples and Mt. Vesuvius

Transportation:

First, I will start with Naples. From the airport, there is a special bus called the Alibus that only runs between the main train station, the port, and the airport. It is only 3 euros in one direction, but it’s difficult figuring out if you don’t look anything up in advance. You have to buy the ticket inside of a tobacco/gift store in the airport near the exit. Then you have to walk out to the left for a bit. There was a sign, however the area was under construction! We quickly learned that apparently, the temporary stop had been moved across the street. We managed to figure it out with the help of other tourists and made the bus. It was a quick, direct ride. We got off at the train station because our hotel was about 1 minute away by walking.

For the rest of Naples, we mainly traveled on foot from site to site. It was A LOT of walking. Naples does have a subway system consisting of a few lines, but we only hopped on once during our 2nd day to get to Castel Sant’Elmo. The one way ticket was 1.50 euros.

We walked up a giant staircase of death, not realizing in advance that this castle was on a mountain. It took about 30 minutes. I don’t really recommend anybody ever do this, so if you want to visit – know that there is a funicular that can take you up! It’s worth the fare.

We only took a public bus once, with a transfer. I can’t really advise people on the bus system there because we had NO IDEA what we were doing. I had looked up routes in advance on Google Maps, but then nothing matched up. I couldn’t find the stop I had looked up back home, so I bought fare at a different stop and they gave me a confusing map. None of the routes even had the same names as what Google told me. So then I was trying to figure out where we were on the map, and what routes seemed to take us to the museum we were going to. Of course, I only have like 30 seconds and a bus pulls up so we decide to hop on and hope for the best. I realize which direction the bus is going and follow the route on the map, trying to figure out when to make the transfer and where that transfer will be in real time. A man noticed that I had been looking at the map intensely, and spoke some English. He started up a conversation with me, asked me about where I was going, and told me he was making the same transfer so I needed to follow him. Then we had small talk, started chatting with a woman next to us who only spoke Italian (so he became our translator), etc. When it was time, we all got off together and realized our bus was already here, except it was around the corner and across the street. They all start running so we just started running with them! We all make the bus, and then we find out he has to get off before us. He keeps counting “1,2,3 OFF!” So that we know how many stops to wait through. However, at one point he starts yelling at the bus driver and lots of people became upset. We thought it was because the bus driver had missed a stop, so we took that into consideration when we counted when to get off. We ended up getting off at the wrong spot, but the Italian lady literally came off the bus to get us and put us back on. Sure enough, one more stop and we are RIGHT in front of the museum.

Literally would not have made it without the nice Italians!

Needless to say, that was our only journey on the bus in Naples. The fare was also 1.50 euros per person.

We did go from Naples to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius in a day trip, but transportation was included in the package we booked. I will be counting that money towards attractions.

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Pompeii

When we transferred to Sorrento, we took a cheap train that made several stops just like a subway all the way there. This only cost 4.50 euros. This train is called the Circumvesuviana. This train is notorious for pick pocketing (as is the Naples train station, Naples in general, and Italy in general). Be very, very careful with your things. I personally feel like I had a couple of people eyeing me closely and we met a tourist that had her phone stolen. It gets very crowded just like subway trains too.

In Sorrento, we could walk everywhere in the city. We did take one taxi from our hotel back to the train station because we were running late to the train station that morning. Even though the Circumvesuviana runs several times each hour, we had to make it to Naples pretty early in order to make our other train taking us to Rome. This was a very short taxi ride though, and only cost about 20 euros.

When we went to Capri, we went on an excursion that included the boat travel to the island. On the island, since we were short on time and wanted to see Capri and Ana Capri, we took a taxi between the 2 cities. The taxis there are convertibles too! And it’s so beautiful and mountainous; it’s very much worth it at least one way. They do have public buses, but those obviously take longer. We barely had enough time to fit in everything we wanted so take into consideration how much time you have on the island. The taxi fare was exactly 20 euros each way.

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Convertible Taxi in Capri

We toured the Amalfi Coast on an excursion that included minivan travel to the cities of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. You can also take public transportation, but then it is not realistic to expect to get to all 3 of these cities and back to Sorrento in a day. In each city, we only walked around.

Now Rome…..Since we were in Rome for 6 days, and it’s much larger, we bought an all-inclusive week long public transportation pass. It was 24 euros, and it was WELL WORTH THE MONEY. We used public transportation so much. Rome has 2 subway metro lines, lots of buses, as well as a couple of other trains (we didn’t understand what they were even at the time). We did indulge in one taxi ride after a late night, which was about 20 euros.

Our apartment was about a 30 minute walk away from the closest metro station, which was just north of the Vatican. There was a bus though from that station, but since it ran less often than other buses, it only came by once every 30 minutes. We know, since we tested it several times. There was a Serbian lady who could not believe the wait times and asked the locals about it, and that’s how we found out it was a less-used route. Other buses run more consistently, especially ones tourists normally will be using. To be honest though, we did not use the metro very often. It’s not actually that convenient. We either walked or took buses for the most part. What I love about Rome buses is that all of the stops are easy to see and well labeled with the route listed out, as well as all the buses that stop there. So I could just walk to a bus stop and figure out my route from looking at the sign. We actually got home that way once!

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The Roman Forum

We also took a couple of regional trains, but just through a couple of stops in Rome. There were no ticket scanners so we just hopped on and hoped that the passes were valid on those trains (the train station was closer to us than the metro). Finally, on our last ride, we had a person coming through the train checking tickets. We discovered that our passes were valid on those trains as well!

We also took a train from the Rome suburb Ostiense to get to Ostia Antica. It was the Lido train, and it was still included in the weekly pass as well.

To get from Naples to Rome, and from Rome to Pisa, we took regional trains that I had purchased fares for online. The gamble is, even though you guarantee your seat and prices are better, apparently Italy has train strikes a lot. Sometimes, it is better to be flexible and see what is going on once you get there. I’m such a planner though, I hoped for the best and it worked in our favor. Naples to Rome was about $25 a person, and Rome to Pisa tickets were about $35 a person.

Finally, in Pisa we just walked everywhere. We only got on a bus once to take us to the airport. The ticket was 1 euro.

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Pisa

So to calculate my transportation total, I’m counting the euros the same as US dollars since they were so close to being equal when we were traveling.

Cost of transportation per person: $140

Attractions:

In Naples at the train station the first morning we “set off,” we went to an office in the train station to buy the Campania Art Card. There are different options, but we bought the 7 day pass that gets us into 5 of the included sights free, and the 6th one at ½ off. I had done the math though and was very strategic about where we used it, and where we would just pay a fee separately (use the pass for the more expensive places). We used ours to get into the following: Royal Palace (12 euros normally), the Bourbon Tunnel (10 euros), Castel Sant’Elmo (10 euros combined with Museum), Certosa e Museo di San Martino (10 euros combined with castle), and Teatro di San Carlo (7 euros). The Castle and the Museum were supposed to be combined for one entry, but we somehow screwed it up and got it counted twice unfortunately. The Naples National Archaeological Museum (12 euros) ended up being our ½ off one, but the original plan was to get into this one as well with the card for free, and then getting ½ off of Villa Cimbrone (7 euros) in Ravello a few days later.

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Royal Palace

The card was 34 euros a person. We would have otherwise spent 58 euros a person.

We did splurge on tours for this trip. We did one taking us to Mt. Vesuvius as well as Pompeii. This included round trip transportation, a guide for Pompeii, and lunch. It was $105 a person. You could use the Circumvesuviana train from Naples to get to these locations, and then pay the 11 euro admission at Pompeii, and the 10 euro admission at Vesuvius. It would just take a lot more time and be more difficult to do all in one day.

We did a tour that included our boat transportation to Capri, as well as a sail along the coast, a stop for swimming, beer and limoncello, and transportation to the Blue Grotto. This was $93 a person. If you were to do this one on your own, it is about $55 round trip for the ferry alone. Then getting to the Blue Grotto would have taken additional transportation on the island.

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Our ride to Capri

Finally, we also did an Amalfi tour to help save time. It was mainly just direct transportation to Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. We got dropped off in each city to do what we wanted. Our driver also stopped for many photo ops, was very knowledgeable about the area, and lunch was included in Ravello. Since it was William’s birthday, he even surprised the group with some Prosecco. This tour was $87 a person. Bus tickets are very cheap, but then you would probably need to have an additional night in the area to see everything we saw (which adds up in the end).

In Rome, for all attractions we either bought tickets online in advance or paid at the door. I had looked into the Roma Pass, but it simply was not beneficial for what we were doing. In addition to just admission to places, we did do an underground Scavi tour in the Vatican, as well as the underground and third ring tour at the Colosseum.

In Pisa, everything was free except the main things by the Pisa tower. We were able to buy this in a combo ticket for $23 per person including the tower climb.

So our grand total per person does include some transportation costs and meals since it was combined in tours.

Cost of attractions per person: $477

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Naples

Meals:

I LOVE Italian food. So we cut back so much on airfare and lodging, I will not lie – I did not hold back on the food here.

Breakfast – In Naples, every morning we walked to the train station. I would always just get a couple of pastries from the bakery and William would always get something from McDonalds. In Sorrento, food was included with our hotel stay. Our Airbnb provided food for breakfast in Rome. So we only bought a breakfast meal in Pisa our last morning in addition to Naples.

Breakfast Total per person: $40

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Eating my morning pastry (cannollis count!) in Naples

Lunch and Dinner – When we did sit down in a restaurant, we usually spent about 40 euros on a meal for both of us. However, sometimes we were tired in the evening and just grabbed fast food or groceries to eat in our room. Sometimes, we kind of skipped lunch and just snacked throughout the day. This is the hardest one for me to estimate, but I believe we probably spent around $300 a person on all food other than breakfast and what I’m about to mention below. Could have definitely spent less. But I wanted gelato and pasta everyday!

While in Rome, we also did a food tour which was money WELL SPENT. We had coffee, cannolis, meats, cheeses, jams, truffles, pastas, pizzas, and gelato. I had SO MUCH FOOD I literally got so sick later but it was so worth it. Wow. Our only regret was not doing the tour sooner on the trip. This was $99 a person.

We also signed up for our first Eat With experience at Barbara’s. We went to an Italian’s home in Trastevere, and enjoyed her home cooked meals with wine and company all night long. This was $75 a person, which helps to supply all of the ingredients, wine, and Barbara herself!

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Drinking wine with a local Italian man and a family from Tel Aviv in Barbara’s home

Cost of food per person: $514

Summary:

The grand total is $2,041.50!

AK, THAT’S TERRIBLE. That is not saving money at all!

It was my honeymoon, give me a break. It’s also important to take the following into consideration:

  • I went into this trip knowing that I had honeymoon gifts and money from the wedding to cover things (included in the total above). About $800 of that per person was covered for us – bringing the cost down to almost $1,200 per person total for EVERYTHING.
  • I didn’t have to pay for hotels. I could have booked airbnbs, hostels, or used hotel points (potentially reducing the cost by $835.50 per person).
  • I also got so many miles from the hotel bookings that I have enough for a free one way flight in the states.
  • Time is money. I splurged on tours to mainly save on time that would be lost if I got everywhere myself. You could cut back several hundred just from that. If you do want to do a tour though, you could look into using certain credit card points to cover those as well.
  • I love food. We ate all the food we could ever want and more. If you stick to grocery shopping, just getting a light pastry in the morning, making your big meal of the day lunch as opposed to dinner (more expensive), being okay with standing to eat, etc. you can definitely do it for cheaper than we did. Also, don’t pick places with pictures of the food or where the menu is translated. If you are near a super touristy area, walk a few blocks away before looking for food. We were bad about this because we always waited until we were starving and on our death beds before looking for a place to eat. Therefore, we settled quickly. Some research in advance or looking on yelp could help too. Obviously, skip the food tours too if you are on a tight budget.
  • We did every attraction under the sun in these parts of Italy. A lot of them start to feel repetitive. If you just stick to what you really care about seeing, and what is free, that will also help. You can have an amazing time in Italy just wandering around for free.

I know this post is lengthy, but there is really good advice and ideas you could use on your trip. A lot of these things I had to really dig to find, or didn’t find out until I was there. I know quite a few people have already been to Italy too, so if you have anything to share, PLEASE do.

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At the top of Mt. Vesuvius
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Budget Breakdown – Italy, Part 1

This blog post’s purpose is not to solely provide entertainment, but to present a realistic breakdown of expenses spent on a trip. The goal is to help create ideas on how to cut back, help set expectations, and to see how my money was spent based on airfare, lodging, transportation, attractions and meals.

Italy is at the top of most people’s lists for places they want to see the most. For me, I remember seeing the pictures of when my former youth pastor and his wife went on their honeymoon there. I couldn’t believe it – how could anything be more romantic than honeymooning in Rome? Especially since I had thoughts of riding on the back of a moped with a handsome man just like Lizzie McGuire did in her movie.

Well, dream accomplished. I had told William from the get-go this is where I wanted to go, and he was onboard with the idea. We went in April 2016. I have our general outline of how the trip went below for reference.

04/15/16 – Flew out of DFW

04/16/16 – Arrived in Naples after a layover in Frankfurt AND a layover in London (that required us to switch from Heathrow to Gatwick airport in 3 hours – yikes) – evening

04/17/16 – 04/18/16 – 2 full days exploring Naples

04/19/16 – Day trip from Naples to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius

04/20/16 – Train to Sorrento in morning, full day in Sorrento

04/21/16 – Day trip from Sorrento to Capri

04/22/16 – Day trip from Sorrento to Amalfi Coast (Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello)

04/23/16 – Train to Rome in morning

04/24/16 – 04/28/16 – 5 full days in Rome

04/29/16 – Train to Pisa in afternoon

04/30/16 – Pisa, leave for airport in evening. Fly to London for overnight layover

05/01/16 – London to Madrid, then finally home

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Plane Tickets:

Because it was our honeymoon, my gracious, thoughtful, awesome in-laws gave us miles to book the flight with! William’s dad flies multiple times a month for work so he racks up a lot of American Airline miles. We went with the Economy MileSAAver redemption, which is the lowest amount of points possible that you can use to get from point A to point B. They are not available every day, so you have to be flexible with your dates. At the time, this was 20,000 miles per person each way. So for both of us, this would total to 80,000 miles. American has increased this award to 22,500 miles each way now though (90,000 round trip for 2 people).

Even when you book with miles, you will still have to pay various taxes and fees associated with the ticket. When I currently looked this up on a similar flight, this was about $150.

Keep in mind, if you book through American Airlines, avoid long flight segments that are on British Airways. In my case, I had to make sure my flight going over the ocean was not a British Airways flight. They charge you the fuel surcharge on top of the miles redemption, so this can change that $150 fee to a $600 one.

If you don’t have people in your life with tons and tons of miles to spare though, you can sign up for a credit card with a good bonus. Some examples are:

Citi American Aadvantage  – currently a 60,000 mile bonus, and the annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year.

AAdvantage Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard – currently a 50,000 bonus with an annual fee of $95 NOT waived. Clearly, the first card would be better but I already got it so this is appealing for me.

Starwood Preferred Guest – currently a 25,000 point bonus, and the annual fee of $95 is waived for the first year. Every 20,000 points that you transfer (at a time) to American Airlines racks up an additional 5,000 mile bonus. If you would like more information on this card, send me your email on my Contact Me page. I have a special referral email I’ll send to you!

Make sure though you are careful with your credit, and have a score of at least 700 before applying.

Cost of airfare per person: $75

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Lodging:

As a honeymoon present, we were able to upgrade for a bit of our stay in Italy as long as we kept it under $200 a night, and I used Rocket Miles to book these hotels. Why? Because they bonus me extra miles to the account of my choice just for booking through them. The prices for the hotels are similar to other hotel booking sites; the only difference is there are not as many options. The bonuses are always at least 1,000 miles but can go up to 13,000. Keep in mind, this is for the reservation (not per night).

In Naples, I found the Ramada Naples conveniently right next to the train station. After all taxes and fees were factored in, this cost $172 a night for 3 nights. I earned 516 miles through my credit card for making the reservation, and then I got a bonus of 9,000 American Airlines miles deposited to my account; 6,000 for the actual reservation and 3,000 for it being my first booking.

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Train Station in Naples

In Sorrento, we stayed at the Hotel Corallo for 4 nights at $183 total a night with all taxes and fees. So in addition to earning 731 miles on my credit card, I also earned a bonus of 6,000 American Airlines miles.

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View from the room at Hotel Corallo in Sorrento

For the rest of the trip, we were on our own so I chose to book our lodging through AirBnb! In Rome, we stayed 6 nights in an apartment located within walking distance of the Vatican. It had a full kitchenette, a patio with a garden, neighborhood cats, and it took a million keys to get inside (very secure!) The host was very kind, even though she didn’t speak much English. There was also food to make breakfast and many guide books inside (and a map)! You can check her place out if you are looking at Rome here.

We paid about $61 a night, totaling $365 for the whole stay.

Finally, in Pisa for one night we also stayed at an AirBnb location. It was $58 for the grand total. Never met our host, but it was a great location.

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Our Pisa apartment

Cost of lodging per person: $835.50 (but also earned 16,247 miles just through 2 hotel bookings. More than enough for a one way domestic airline ticket).

All of my Italy budgeting, especially transportation, ended up being some rather lengthy writing. I’ve decided to end this post here, but next week I will include more information on the cost of transportation, attractions and food. I will also reveal the grand total!

Stay tuned…..

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