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Expectations of food costs in Italy

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I am hoping to plan a trip in October to Rome, Florence, and Italy. I visited as a poor student and was hoping to return again as a (moderately) successful adult who can finally eat in finer restaurants and basically chew my way through the country. The crappy exchange rate, however, is making me worried. Is anyone, who has visited Italy recently, able to give me some insight on what I should expect?

As I reference, my boyfriend and I live in New York City and are accustomed to typically spend $100-$150 when we go out to dinner around here, in popular and well-reviewed restaurants.

Thank you for the feedback!

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  1. The prices do vary an awful lot depending on many things such as the area you are visiting, the type of restaurant and what you order. However, I live in Parma where you would probably only spend 100/150 between two people if you were to have a really classy meal. In general I would be looking at probably around 35 - 50 euros per person in an average good restaurant. I don't really know Rome or Florence very well but I think the price ranges there are even greater. The other thing is that you are not expected to tip, although if you do it is appreciated and the amount you leave is entirely up to you. More often than not people just round the figure up (if the restaurant doesn't round it down!) so if your bill comes to 76.50 you would probably leave 80 euros.......but again this does vary from region to region. Sorry, I've probalby just confused you.

    1. I think coombe is about right. 35-50 euros would be average in Rome for a meal in a reasonably good place. That figure will rise substantially, however, if you start drinking better wine from the wine list and not the house wine. In an upscale place, I think you could easily spend 75-90 euros.

      1. it depends always on the wine you get because the food after all is not that expensive generally speaking.I do go to Italy every year and this time I was a bit dissapointed by Florence which offers no more then crowds of tourists and mediocre food.I was happy to discover Assisi and Cortona both offering good food for a fair price,nice service (you actually feel welcomed ) and the accommodation was decent. Parma is very nice ,i love it (not only because I am a fan of the soccer team).Basically a 150 might do but you might also spent more in some places.

        1 Reply
        1. re: albani

          Albani makes a great point--beware of your wine choices. Even here in Calabria where prices are much lower than Rome and Florence, you can end up with a hefty dinner bill in a modest ristorante/pizzeria because of the wine.

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        2. I've been from Positano to Northern Lake Como, and I've found that it's only as expensive as you want to make it. Drinking the "house" wine at some of the restaurants will get you something better than many mid-range wine in the US restaurants. Also, the touristy spots (around a major piazza or a restaurant mentioned in the Zagat guide or something) will get you touristy prices. Go to some of the local spots where they really cook with their heart and you get a great meal. I guess it all depends on your definition of "finer restaurants". IMHO, the local spots in Italy are far better than some of the finest restaurants in the US serving Italian.

          3 Replies
          1. re: dallen

            I agree with this - its perfectly possible to eat for 35 euros for two (thats the slowfood standard, I believe) though its getting harder - certainly 50-60 (lets say primi at around 8 and secondi at 14-18) will get you a good meal in most places,. I have two suggestions which dont reduce the pleasure of italian dining one whit (1) go with the house wine, which is cheaper than the water , unless you definitely want to drink something special, usually red (tho we tasted around the whites of Campania with pleasure this spring - mostly still very reasonable in price) (2) share courses and dont order so many - three courses x 2 and you will get stuffed. Have whatever assortment suits you. Some people find the meats boring for example and will just order some mixed antipasti and primi as a meal. I would never what to miss the great lamb, pork, fish etc in Italy but a little moderation is needed sometimes, especially with two restaurant meals a day. Skipping dessert is also a good idea in italian restaurants, weve found - usually they arent very interesting. Get your sweets elsewhere. Have a pizza meal occasionally or go to a wine bar for a light supper (we usually have our big meal in midday in Italy)

            Have fun and dont worry - prices are up but not unbearable.

            1. re: jen kalb

              I'm back trolling this board since we too will be in Italy again in October. Last year, although the $ was faring a little better, we managed to spend about as much as we do here in NYC, travelling to Venice, Ravenna, Florence, Bologna, Parma and Milan (an aside here: coombe, you are one lucky person... we fell in love with Parma over our 3-4 days there). Our eating here in NY is mainly Brooklyn (Heights, Slope, etc) with some Manhattan places thrown in; not Per Se, but Ssam or Hearth, as well as some Astoria and Flushing ethnics. I look forward to pretty much doing the same in Rome and the other places we wind up this time. Regulate the high end flings, look for good recommendations from trusted sources ('hounds included), watch the wines (as others have said, we stick with house or splurge carefully) & you'll do fine.

              1. re: Steve R

                thanks everyone for their responses; its been very helpful to have the feedback. we'll be sure to post our experiences upon our return!

          2. I agree with Jen kalb's comments, was just there recently in May (Florence, day trips to Pisa and Luca - after being in Paris) and found that portions were too much and we could have very often skipped one of the courses or split it. Also, sticking with house wines kept the price tag down a bit. In comparing Italy with Paris, quite interesting in that in Paris pre fix dining was awesome - a nice way to try the talents of a chef but in Italy not at all. It was sort of their way of just getting in that cost concious crowd and unfortunately giving them low quality (for the most part). Be careful. Our hotel finally steered us to two great places.

            5 Replies
            1. re: lexpatti

              Everyone keeps using the phrase house wines as the only strategy for keeping wine costs down. Unless spending 15-18 Euros is too much for your budget, we drank lovely wines in this price range from the wine menus in all but two restaurants on a 17-day trip. (One of those instances we did not need to spend more than our usual.)

              Without giving each waiter any guidance beyond "Can you recommend something local that will go with our meals?" every recommendation fell into the 15-18 E range.

              1. re: Indy 67

                15-18 euros per meal can add up - especially when the alternative is acceptable house wine (sticking to the wines that are good locally - red house wines in rome mostly are terrible, for example) that costs less than the water. Restaurants with pride will also serve a carafe wine that they are proud of. I am all for trying special varieties at a reasonable price that I cant get at home, and we do that but if somebody is trying to cut back a little and isnt looking for tannin or the big red vintages (not so good in hot weather anyway) its a valid approach to managing cost.I dont think this OP is heading for La Pergola, or such where you are splashing out so much that its ridiculous to try to economize on the wine..

                ps - there have been days where we didnt want to drink two bottles of wine a day - a half liter wasd plenty for a meal. thats another spot where the house wines work well.

                1. re: jen kalb

                  While I'm not disagreeing with you, the OP's message asked what to expect in the way of costs. She, then, supplied her typical budget in her home town: "...accustomed to typically spend $100-$150 when we go out to dinner around here." Applying that to dinners in Italy doesn't restrict one to the house wine.

                  I'm impressed that there were days when you drank two bottles of wine. At lunch, my husband and I typically drink a single glass or, at most, a half-liter of the house wine. But a full bottle of wine when our afternoon itinerary of art and architecture lies ahead of us? No way.

                  1. re: Indy 67

                    Whoops! I left off a comment about local wines.

                    In our experience, the waiters weren't always literal in their recommendations when we asked for "local wines." We got lots of recommendations for wines from Fruili when we were in Venice. (e.g. Schiopettino). The recommendations clearly indicated that the waiters took our phrase "local wine" to mean we wanted a pleasant wine, but we were not interested in the high-end possibilities from pan-Italian wine lists.

                    1. re: Indy 67

                      Maybe Im misunderstanding, but Id consider Friuli a local wine when in Venice - the Friuli Venezia Giulia wine zone is within the zone historically dominated by Venice - and the wines are very good regional wines. But as you say they werent offering you super-tuscans.

                      A bottle goes down pretty easily over the course of a 2 hr lunch - but its gotten harder over the years, as both of us drink less. I will never forget watching a french speaking couple finish 2 bottles of wine over a lunch at the lamented Auberge Hatley in Canada.

            2. You don't have to do the whole antipasti, primi, secondi thing--after two weeks we were doing variations on all three courses, maybe having a primo (pasta) and salad, or an antipasto and secondo. Nobody was offended. With wine, we got away with 70-100 euro for two. The occasional 250 euro meal did manage to sneak in. Best part: tipping is minimal compared to NYC.

              1. Why on earth would one travel to Italy and economize on great wine with great food? Italian wines have evolved over time to go with the foods of each region. I go nuts in Italy, like a kid in a candy store, over the great prices of wines that I love. I have had plenty of good house wines at places that don’t feature big wine lists, but I have had great wine with incredible meals at never over 100 euros for two (this spring). I’m a big guy who loves to eat and drink wine, but I can’t handle more than one of those huge Italian meals a day. Usually, we split an appetizer, a primi and a dessert with each ordering a secondi and salad for a late lunch or early dinner.