Erica*, 24, recently left an editorial job in New York City to freelance and travel throughout Italy for three months. She’s also tutoring English at a private language school for extra spending money. Her estimated annual income before leaving her job was about $30,000, and with the exception of student loan payments and a few other monthly expenses, she was able to save a good portion of her earnings by living at home with family. She doesn’t have to pay rent while living in Italy, thanks to staying with relatives, so most of her expenses are from accommodations, activities, and food while traveling around the country. One of her main goals while traveling is to taste all the specialties of each region of Italy she visits, so she doesn’t mind spending on food and travel. When she gets home, she plans to continue freelancing and living at home to save up some money again before moving to New York City.
Annual Income: About $30,000
Fixed Monthly Payments:
- Student loan bill: $224
- Cell phone bill: $40
- Spotify Premium: $10
11:30 am, $2.84 (€2.50) — Gelato
This happened to be my birthday, and on any day spent in Italy, much less your birthday, you don’t question a gelato purchase — no matter what time of day it is. I took a walk through the city of Bari with my cousins and we stopped at one of those frozen yogurt-style gelato shops where you make your own sundae. It was the perfect way to kick off my twenty-fourth year of life.
2:00 pm, $102.09 (€90) — Facial and massage
I’m not usually one to treat myself to spa appointments, but as it was my birthday, I decided to splurge for a little bit of pampering. I rationalized this purchase by telling myself that the 45-minute massage and standard facial would have likely cost double in the U.S. These types of services tend to be much less expensive in Italy.
8:30 pm, $0 (and priceless) — Family dinner of pizza and more gelato
My family treated me to a birthday dinner of pizza and gelato cake. I got to meet distant cousins and great aunts and uncles who I’d never met before, and they all sang me happy birthday and kissed me on both cheeks afterward, the Italian way of wishing you good luck for the year ahead. Though I was far from home, my friends, and my immediate family, this made me feel so at home and was an altogether priceless experience.
Day total: $104.93 (€92.50)
9:00 am, $15.93 (€14) — Bus ticket to Avellino, Italy
I had to get up quite early after celebrating, but luckily I had bought my bus ticket in advance online. I didn’t really contemplate this purchase at all because I needed to get from point A to point B, and FlixBus was the cheapest and quickest way to do so — I was on my way to a yoga and cooking retreat in the province of Avellino that I had booked online.
1:00 pm, $432.35 (€380) — Yoga retreat tuition, paid in full
Once I hopped off the bus in Forino, a small village in the province of Avellino, my retreat host greeted me and drove me to the retreat house, and then requested the full payment for the 3-day, 2-night stay. I was initially hesitant about spending over $400 just for myself for only a couple of days, but I told myself that I would have a unique experience of yoga and healthy cooking lessons all under one roof, and the opportunity to meet new people and practice my Italian. Sure enough, the other guests there were all Italian. We started off with some introductions, our first yoga class, and a meditation session, followed by baked eggplant parmigiana for dinner, one of my all-time favorite dishes.
Day total: $448.28 (€394)
Today was already paid for since I had paid for the retreat in full. We spent the day doing yoga in the morning, exploring the quaint city of Avellino, and going to a factory in which mozzarella di bufala (buffalo’s milk mozzarella) is made and where I tasted the best cheese of my life. After adventuring all day, we returned to the retreat house, where I had a cooking lesson at night with the chef in residence. She didn’t speak any English, so I had to follow her directions very carefully in Italian. She walked me through making fresh tiramisu, and then the main course: sautéed and rolled up turkey breast cutlets stuffed with grilled zucchini and carrots. It was my first time ever making tiramisu, and I didn’t screw anything major up, a feat considering the lesson was in Italian, so I was proud of myself on all counts.
Day total: $0
12:00 pm, $1.70 (€1.50) — Train fare
It was my last day of the retreat, which ended with breakfast and a morning yoga session. I then packed up my stuff and left the retreat house to spend the weekend in Naples, Italy. My retreat host kindly drove me about 45 minutes to the main train station in Naples, where I then took a subway to my Airbnb reservation.
12:30 pm, $165.11 (€145.56) — Airbnb private room
When I’m traveling alone, I like to book just a private room in an Airbnb apartment, so that I’m not totally by myself in a huge apartment in a foreign city (and to save money, of course). I also like it because there are often other millennials doing the same thing, and I get to meet people my age.
1:00 pm, $11.34 (€10) — Lunch
I was starving, so I didn’t venture any further than the corner bistro right near my Airbnb, which I heard had amazing salads. I got a mixed green salad with seasonal veggies, toasted pumpkin seeds, and a delicious dressing, and it came with a basket of fresh bread that was likely for about four people, but I ate it all.
3:00 pm, $2.84 (€2.50) — Sfogliatelle
In Naples, sweets are just as important as regular food, so I had to get a pastry. The city is famous for its sfogliatelle, crispy, shell-shaped pastries filled with sweet ricotta and dusted with powdered sugar. This purchase was worth the price of the plane ride to Italy alone.
8:00 pm, $9.07 (€8) — Pizza
In the birthplace of pizza, you must eat pizza, and from what the locals told me, the cheaper the pizza is, the better it is. This personal pie came from a pizzeria called ‘Ntrella, and I ordered it topped with eggplant parmigiana, naturally. Unlike in other parts of Italy, where the crust is a bit thinner and crispier, the Napoletano crust is doughier and fluffier. I would not change a thing about this decision.
9:00 pm, $1.70 (€1.50) — Gelato
After the pizza extravaganza, I stumbled upon Mennella, one of my Airbnb host’s recommendations, on my walk home. I was literally so stuffed that I had to order a kid’s size, but I was dying to try this gelateria, which makes its gelato from buffalo’s milk. I got chocolate peanut, since I’m a chocolate peanut butter fiend and had been craving Reese’s peanut butter cups (sadly, one thing Italy is missing).
Day total: $191.76 (€169.06)
10:00 am, $5.67 (€5) — Train fare to Sorrento (round trip)
I decided to explore one of the neighboring cities to Naples, Sorrento, so I hopped on the train, which ended up being much cheaper than taking the ferry there. It wasn’t a particularly scenic ride, but I’m not a fan of boats, which made it the best option for me.
12:00 pm, $4.54 (€4) — Fruit salad
I ordered a huge cup of fruit salad and plopped down on a bench to eat it.
2:30 pm, $2.84 (€2.50) — Lemon cake gelato
Sorrento is famous for its lemons, so I had to try one of the artisanal gelato shops’ rendition of a lemon cake gelato. It was perfectly refreshing.
7:00 pm, $13.61 (€12) — Groceries
Back in Naples, I stopped at a small market to pick up some food to have on hand for dinner and the next day’s breakfast, so I could make easy sandwiches and eat on-the-go before heading out to day trips. I got yogurt, fruit, salami, flatbreads, and grilled veggies, all for about 12 euros. Italy’s grocery stores are way cheaper, and the food is always incredibly fresh. I usually spend half of what I’d spend in the States.
Day total: $26.66 (€23.50)
11:00 am, $22.68 (€20) — Ferry ride to Capri
As I said, I’m not a fan of boats, so I spent a little more money and took the fastest ferry possible, called a hydrofoil, over to the island of Capri (unfortunately, the only way to get there is by boat). It was a smooth ride after all, so I was pretty relieved.
12:00 pm, $2.27 (€2) — Funicular ticket
Capri has this fun method of transportation called the funicular, which is basically a diagonal elevator that takes you up to the mainland. (You can also hike it, but it’s actually quite a steep climb and I was not wearing hiking gear.) There were stunning views of the island below.
1:30 pm, $28.35 (€25) — Lunch
I sat down at a cute restaurant on the mainland and was determined to order an authentic Caprese salad. It was super refreshing and once again, came with a huge basket of bread that I devoured. The food and everything in general in Capri is very expensive since it’s such a big vacation destination (my salad alone was 16 euros), but I decided to bite the bullet since I was only there for the day. After lunch, I was feeling a bit sleepy and ordered a coffee to energize myself a bit. My iced espresso came with a few free biscotti, so that made me feel like I got a better deal.
3:30 pm, $6.80 (€6) — Caprese cake with gelato
I got a slice of Capri’s famous flourless dark chocolate and almond cake, plus a scoop of gelato on top, for just 6 euros. And, I got to skip the long gelato line and go right inside the bakery, where they served me at the counter.
4:00 pm, $45.36 (€40) — Silver ring
Since Capri was one of my favorite places I visited in all of Italy, I decided to commemorate the day and splurge on a piece of jewelry for myself. I found a small jewelry shop and tried on a bunch of rose gold and silver rings, but ended up going with a thick silver band to wear on my right ring finger. I usually don’t buy myself souvenirs, or jewelry for that matter, but who knows when I’ll be in Capri again?
4:30 pm, $2.27 (€2) — Bus ride up to Anacapri
Since Capri is built into a super steep cliff, to get up to the little town on top, Anacapri, you have to take a minibus that only seats about seven people. Again, you could hike, but it’s very steep and probably not worth it. The town at the top is absolutely charming, with tiny, almost Grecian-style churches and mosaic art on all the benches.
6:00 pm, $13.61 (€12) — Souvenirs
After meandering through Anacapri, I went to the Villa San Michele, the former home of and museum dedicated to Swedish doctor and author Axel Munthe. From the top of the villa there are breathtaking views of the island from a sphinx statue the author had built. I wanted a postcard of this view, so I stopped in the gift shop and picked one out, along with some funky coasters for my friend’s apartment.
7:00 pm, $22.68 (€20) — Ferry ride back to Naples
Once again, I took the fast ferry to get back to my apartment as quickly as possible. This ride was not smooth. I popped a Dramamine pill, sipped on some sparkling water, and attempted to close my eyes until we reached the shore.
8:00 pm, $4.54 (€4) — Cheese at a grocery store
Back on land, I realized that I had forgotten to buy cheese the previous day. Right as the market was about to close, I snagged a chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano.
Day total: $148.56 (€131)
9:00 am, $6.80 (€6) — More pastries
Before I headed back to Bari, where my family lives, I stopped at the bakery around the corner from the apartment and bought a box of the sfogliatelle pastries for them to try.
10:00 am, $15.88 (€14) — Bus ride back to Bari
Again, this was a great deal to travel back — it’s much cheaper than taking a train, and actually, a bit quicker too. My relatives live right near the bus station as well.
10:00 pm, $2.84 (€2.50) — Gelato, again
You bet I got a gelato cone while walking around the city with my family at night. We went to a lovely free piano concert in the city center and needed a little treat afterwards. I am never going to say no to gelato.
Day total: $25.52 USD (€22.50)
Total weekly spend: $945.71 (€832.56)
*Name has been changed.