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Apr 11, 2008 12:58 PM

Cost of eating in Italy

Hi, I’m new to these boards, I posted pretty much this same question over on the France boards because this coming September/October 2008 I’ll be spending a few weeks in France and a few weeks in Italy (definitely plan on visiting Rome, Vatican City, hopefully Naples/Pompeii, and probably Florence), and I was wondering how much money I should plan on spending a day for food? I may eat out somewhere moderately nice once or twice, but besides that I’m not planning on eating out often, and hope to save money by doing so.

How much is “average” food there? Just so I can get an idea. Today here at home (in Washington, USA) for lunch I’m eating a sandwich I made at home and drinking a Pepsi, yesterday I had a cup of noodles and water, the day before that a 1 serving instant Mac and Cheese bowl (and a Pepsi), etc. I’m not generally an upscale kind of eater if you get my drift, and I don't drink coffee. For breakfast a piece of toast or a small bowl of cereal or oatmeal works for me just fine.

So what – on average – should I expect to spend a day, for a small breakfast, medium lunch, and a decent sized dinner, with maybe one or two snacks (apple, granola bar) inbetween? You can tell me in Euros or US dollars, and ANY and all information would be very helpful and greatly appreciated! Thanks!

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  1. "I may eat out somewhere moderately nice once or twice, but besides that I’m not planning on eating out often, and hope to save money by doing so."

    I have friends who live in Italy and will post your question to them but need a bit more info. Please explain your sentence (above); are you staying in a house or somewhere else with cooking facilities? do you plan to eat at markets? carry your cereal with you?

    I guess I don't understand your plan. Help me with some more information.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sherri

      Yeah I seem to have confused people, I apologize. Here, where I live, I can eat away from home without cooking facilities and without going to a fancy restaurant easily, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (just like if you were camping). I can go to a deli and get slices of meat, go to a bakery and get some sort of bread, eat at a cafe, etc (I do not consider bakeries/deli's/cafe's as 'going out to eat'). Or I can go to a grocery store and buy food there. I can easily eat three meals a day without going to a restaurant for less than $25 dollars here, maybe that's not true everywhere else, that's what I'm trying to figure out.

      I also am willing to go to smaller restaurants/cafes, that's fine, like here that would be something like a Dennys, or small local restaurants, those are all affordable, I can go and get a dinner there for 7$, which is much better than going someplace where dinner is $25 dollars. I really hope I'm explaining this right, I feel like I'm just making it more confusing.

      1. re: tawnylyra

        Thanks for the clarification, now I understand what you're looking for.

        You'll be very happy to know that there are lots of "prepared" food places in both France and Italy. Yes, you can go to a bakery and buy bread, get meat from a "deli" to make sandwiches, etc. Markets - not the supermarket, but similar to farmers' markets - are also a great option. Also, think "Street Food".

        In Italy, you will pay more to sit at a table, whether ordering coffee (which I just remembered you do not drink so substitute tea) or ice cream than you will pay to stand at the bar or take it away. Compare it to a "Seating Tax" and it can get pricey.

        Since breakfast in both Italy and France is often coffee and a bread product, you can buy this almost anywhere. Buy and take away unless you want to pay to sit and munch. In storefronts all over Italy, pizza is sold by weight so it is up to you how much you'll pay for a piece.

        I recall there are fast food places in both countries but I have never eaten in one and cannot give you any idea of prices. Better to find a small mom & pop cafe, read the posted menu and make your selection that way. I do not recall NOT seeing a posted menu outdoors in either country.

        Can you eat for $25 a day? Maybe, but you'll miss some great food if you completely eschew restaurants.

        Keep in mind that food in the US is less costly overall than anywhere else in the world. We pay about 10% of our wages for food while both France and Italy are close to 15%.
        NB: soda is costly and there is no such thing as a "free refill". Get this message tattooed on your hand, as you can be very shocked at $7 sodas which multiply with each new pour. Ditto for iced tea, etc.

        Another piece of (unsolicitated) advice, Paris, Rome, Florence and other large cities can be quite pricey. Get yourself out into the countryside and eat "on the local economy". Have a wonderful trip!

        Edit: I just noticed this post about street food in Italy and have included it for you.

        1. re: tawnylyra

          Definitely, it's doable. Especially when the weather's lovely and everyone's lounging outside on fountains and steps anyway! Even in the heart of Rome there are food shops and supermercati where you can pick up sandwich supplies, yogurt, water bottles/soda (and it will be so much cheaper if you buy it in a bottiglia than at a table) etc.

          Check and see if your guidebook lists supermarkets- they're often in prime locations but hard to find (oh, and closed on Sundays/limited hours. Just a warning.) In Rome, let's see, there's di per di, SISA, SIDIS, SMA, Despar and probably more. Look for the signs. They also tend to be found in the basements of department stores, like Oviesse. Also, don't forget markets for perfectly ripe and juicy produce- tomatoes! Plums! (NOT the guys on the Via dei Fori Imperiali.)

          There are European granola bars- there's a whole line of special K ones- but honestly if you want anything like a Luna bar/larabar/cliff bar (aka more substantial and less a substitute dessert) you might just want to bring your own. It'll be cheaper anyway and they're nice for the plane ride.

          Otherwise, definitely check out the recommendation for street food- there's more to lunch than a panini. Like gelato, lol. And arancini (fried rice balls with a world of different addons.)

          Have fun!

      2. You can live easily in Italy without spending much money, exactly the way you do it back home.

        BUT: then you have to stay away from the usual tourist attractions !
        AND: you should speak some Italian...

        Rome, Florence, Naples are OVERRUN by non-Italian speaking tourists, and these are easy victims for all kind of rip-off enterprises. In these areas even bars, pastry shops and groceries are extremely expensive, and I always wonder what the Italians do who work in these areas. Most likely they do not buy anything, eat anything from these places.

        What could you do ?
        If you do not speak French or Italian, get some crash course to learn about the most important food-oriented phrases. And if you pick a hotel, get one in a residential area and NOT right in the city centre (try

        Avoid Venice, Naples and Florence...

        Italy is a country full of old and wonderful cities, and if you stay outside the main attractions you will find wonderful sights AND extremely friendly and helpful people AND you will spend almost nothing for eating, just like at home.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Sturmi

          Thanks so much for the links and advice :-)

        2. It would be easy to eat cheaply in Italy. My wife and I eat like that all the time, but not to save money rather to get delicious food. In Bolzano last month, we went to different stands in the market to get tomatoes, cheese, meat and bread to go with a bottle of €8.50 Grignolino I located in a little wine shop. We followed the scent of fresh baked focaccia topped with onions for two blocks in Genova. Often, we are only able to consume one big meal per day. Usually we split a pasta, order two seconds and one dessert. In the cities, that’s around €70 with an excellent bottle of wine, but in smaller, country towns, we have paid as little as €55. At La Bettola Ristorante halfway between Biella and Vercelli in the Piemonte, we had amatriciana, veal piccata on radicchio, osso buco, an apple/pear tart with gelato and a bottle of €15 Langhe Nebbiolo (2-glass Gambero Rosso) for €55. My point is that food is cheaper in Italy than rural California, where I live. Additionally, all of our hotels included breakfast, some were tremendous buffets. In Florence, I get a huge tuna salad for about €6 every time I visit, because it is so good. Italian eating is a great adventure.