What Are Food Prices in Italy?
From the gorgeous beaches of Sardinia, to the ancient wonders of Rome, and from the winding streets of Florence, to the romantic canals of Venice, Italy is home to some of the most fascinating art, culture, fashion and natural scenery in Europe. But it's the country's cuisine that keeps travelers coming back for seconds – and thirds and fourths. Before making your way to Italy, it can be helpful to know what the average cost of food is; otherwise, you may be in danger of blowing all your euros on pizza, pasta and wine, which would still make it a pretty great trip.
Enjoy a Light Breakfast
Breakfast in Italy typically consists of a caffeinated drink, such as an espresso, a latte or a cappuccino, and a pastry of some sort. Doughnuts are a popular option, as are cornettos, the Italian version of a French croissant, and crostatas, a breakfast tart with fruit jam. For this light breakfast, expect an average price of $6 or $7 USD. Keep in mind, though, that if you're eating in a traditional cafe for breakfast – or what Italians call a "bar" – the price of what you're eating will double or even triple if you sit down. This is why you'll see so many Italians standing while sipping their espresso and pastries.
Eat Lunch, Italian-Style
For a quick, easy and affordable lunch anywhere in Italy, pick up picnic supplies at a neighborhood grocery store or corner deli. A meal of cheeses, bread, cured meats and sparkling water or wine in Italy costs around $15 to $20, plus you can enjoy the Italian sunshine in a picturesque park and save your appetite, and funds, for dinner.
Generally speaking, food prices in Italy are pretty low. You can expect to get fresh, locally made food for much cheaper than it would be in the U.S. While you’re wandering the cobbled streets of Sicily, Naples or Amalfi, swing by a pizzeria to grab some of the most authentic Italian food- pizza. A Pizza or some street food is a great, cheap option that you can eat at a restaurant, or take to eat anywhere you please.
Dine Like an Italian
Dinner in Italy is an event; Italians love to linger over each of the many courses and chat late into the night. A meal at an inexpensive restaurant, for one person, is usually around $18 to $20, whereas a meal for two people at a mid-range restaurant, with drinks, will typically cost around $70 to $80. If you're in the mood to splurge a bit for a truly authentic experience, set a price limit with the chef and ask them to bring out their favorite dishes of the day.
Some nice tips to keep in mind when you’re at a nicer restaurant is to order the house wine and local cheese. These will be slightly cheaper options than something fancier or imported. You can also just order your main course, or participate in a bundled three-course meal that will undoubtedly be delicous, but expensive.
Tipping and Restaurant Culture
Tipping culture in Italy is nothing like in the United States. Unlike in the U.S., your Italian server is already being paid a living wage; tipping is therefore considered to be a bonus and isn't expected. If you do plan on tipping, always check the bill first to ensure that gratuity isn't already included. A tip of 10 percent is sufficient for very exceptional service.
Knowing what you do and don't have to pay for at restaurants is crucial, too, as these may be items that you're not used to paying for back home. For instance, you do have to pay for water in most cases; you can ask for tap water, but this is considered slightly rude and isn't a common demand. A large bottle of mineral water shouldn't cost more than $3 or $4. Bread for the table usually costs about $1 or $2 per person; in touristy restaurants in cities like Venice, though, you can expect to pay around $3 or $4 per person. Adjusting to Italian restaurant and tipping culture takes some careful consideration and a little research, but doing so will ultimately help you feel more acclimated during your travels.
General Travel Tips
Try to go off the beaten path and away from the very touristy areas. Use the public transport to find a slightly less bustling part of town and have a nice meal at a small town osteria or trattoria that is more of a local spot. Ask your hotel or airbnb host what places they like to go to, and give those a chance. After all, sometimes the sweetest glass of wine isn’t necessarily the most expensive.