This guide to the most expensive places in Italy hops from the alpine villages of the north to the sunny shores of Sicily in the south to seek out the destinations that are most likely to break the bank account during your travels to the home of deep-friend artichokes and truffle oil this year.
Yep, it’s all about showcasing the places in old Italia that aren’t going to be friendly on the budget front. There’s surprising variety. You’ve got the usual customers: The fashion hub of Milano, the celeb haunt of Lake Como, and canal-filled Venice. But you’ve also got more off-the-beaten-track locations, like the capital of the South Tyrol and resorts on the Ligurian Sea.
One word of encouragement: It should be possible to travel to even the most expensive places in Italy on a tight budget if you absolutely have to. Most have hostels or agritourisms that shouldn’t cost loads, and there’s always a roadside pizza joint that sells slices for a €1. Phew!
Bolzano – highest price increases in the last year
Inflation rates in the last year haven’t made for great reading anywhere in Europe. And it was no different in the land of truffle-topped tagliatelle and pizza pies, which recorded an annual inflation stat of 9.1%, the highest for several decades. But, as ever with Italy, not all parts of the boot balanced out, and it was left to the city of Bolzano in the north to breach the national average with its own inflation rate of 9.3%.
Thing is, life in the mountain-shrouded South Tyrol – the region of which Bolzano is the capital – was never really cheap. Being far from major sea ports, tucked into a cleft in the Dolomites, and on the doorstep of some of the most jet-setter-friendly ski fields this side of St Moritz, meant that the city was a wallet-smasher of a place in the first place. An extra nine points on that added a whopping 3.3k euros to the normal yearly expenditure of the locals. Heavy.
If you can fork out to reside here, then great. You’ll be a short transfer from the award-winning ski runs of the Dolomiti, and within a whisker of the finest hiking Italy can muster. Talk about having plenty of nature in your life!
Lake Como – the classic celebrity escape
Richard Branson, George Clooney, Sylvester Stallone – these are just some of the names of the A-listers who’ve got houses on the edge of Lake Como. It’s easy to see why they might want to live up there between the glistening glaciers of the Bergamaschi Alps and the Swiss Piz mountains. The landscapes are jaw-droppingly beautiful and you get crystal-clear alpine water splashing into your garden.
Como itself is the main hub of the whole lake, which spreads with various tendril northwards to meet the Swiss border. The east coast is more accessible. It unfolds in a series of picture-perfect villages like Varenna, a maze of cobbled alleys with chic wine bars on the water’s edge, and Bellano, a clutch of villas hemmed in by slender cypress trees and pines.
Tempted but don’t have a cool mil in the bank? Don’t fret. Hundreds of tiny hamlets halo the hills of Como on all sides. They’re filled with townhouses and farmhouses that are ripe for conversion and can cost as little as $50,000 a pop. The catch is that you’ll have to live a short scooter ride from the lakeside, probably about 300 meters up.
Pietrasanta – The most expensive place to buy property in Italy
If you judge the most expensive places in Italy by property prices alone, then it’s pint-sized Pietrasanta that tops the bill. Pietras…where? Yea, we had to Google it, too. But then the location is a little surprising. It’s not near Rome. It’s not in Milan. Instead, this one sits between the jagged tops and marble quarries of the Apuan Alps and the glistening Ligurian Sea on the very north-western fringes of coastal Tuscany.
Reports by real estate portal Idealista show that Pietrasanta clocked up an average property price of a whopping €541,351 ($578,000!) in 2022. That pushed it above the capital and far above the national average, topping even hotspots like Venice and stylish Rimini.
So, what’s Pietrasanta got going for it to warrant the bank-account-busting rates? Look one way and there’s the shimmering Mediterranean Sea, strung by beige-tinged sands and promenades filled with gelato outlets. Look the other and you have the Apennine ranges, where lonely hiking trails weave through pine woods. Also close are Tuscany’s legendary winelands and historic hill villages. So, yea, there’s all that.
Milan – Fashion hub extraordinaire
No list of the most expensive places in Italy could possibly skip out on Milan. The happening, stylo urban heart of the north is a colossal town that’s got some serious pedigree on the tourism front. Its historic center is crowned by the handsome Milan Duomo (you can even walk on the roof, you know) and boasts the chapel that hosts Leonardo’s The Last Supper.
Sadly, you’ll pay a pretty penny to see it all. Stats show that Milan claims the fourth-highest rates for four-star hotels in the country. And then there’s the price of day-to-day things – you know, Spritzes on the piazza, those Gucci bags in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall. Budgets can run into the $210/day range here. Yikes.
And if you thought that day tripping out of town would make things go easier, think again. Your options include Lake Como, which is also on this list, or the Pre-Alps, where the winelands of Prosecco are downright lovely but hardly cheap!
Venice – The most expensive place for hotels in Italy
According to numbers published by Statista, Venice tops the bill when it comes to cities in Italy with the most expensive hotels. They worked that out by surveying what people paid for four-star, midrange hotels across the boot throughout 2022. Most spots, from historic Bergamo to lovely Siena, came up around the €100 mark. But Venice – bucket-list, canal-carved, gondola-bobbing Venice – was almost double that, at a mega €169/night.
We’ll vouch. We’ve been stung by the hotel prices in Venice first hand. It was the beginning of a budget hiking trip to the Dolomites and we’d all duly carried tents on our backs the whole way. All that was needed was a hostel dorm bed in Venice for a stopover before getting into the mountains. The cost? Just $150 per person. Gah!
There are ways you can insulate yourself from the soaring costs of experiencing this amazing town on the Adriatic Sea. First, don’t come peak season. Between June and August, stays in Venice will cost about double what they do in the spring or late fall. Second, stay outside of the main historic center – districts like the Venice Lido and Murano are great options, and just as atmospheric.
Amalfi Coast – A land of purring Alfa Romeos and beautiful people
Despite Southern Italy’s rep for being much grittier than the north, and cheaper, there are pockets of high-class holidaying to be had here. Most of all, it’s the Amalfi Coast that leads the way. UNESCO attested, it runs from Sorrento in the west all the way to Salerno in the east, covering one of the most sumptuous stretches of shoreline in Europe – nay, the world.
The roads wind and wiggle the whole way along. One bend reveals a jagged limestone mountain topped with pine woods, vineyards, and lemon orchards. The next reveals a glamorous port town that bursts with pastel-painted mansions and 1,000-year-old churches.
The Amalfi Coast has been a stomping ground for glitterati for as long as the Cote d’Azur has. Actually, longer. Roman emperors set up their pleasure palaces on the nearby Isle of Capri as far back as the 1st century AD. Since, then everyone from Greta Garbo to the Talented Mr Ripley have splashed the cash in the coveted cove hotels.
Taormina – Expensive in a White Lotus sort of way
Lastly, we head further south even than Amalfi and over to the rocky east coast of Sicily. Cue Taormina. This town is like something plucked from a fantasy novel. It’s known for its dramatic Greek-Roman theatre, which gapes open on a clifftop above the Mediterranean Sea to give front-on views of Mount Etna.
Below that, a series of pebbly coves bend like scythes. There’s the Spiaggia di Isola Bella, where shimmering stones dip into turquoise water. There’s the Lido La Pigna, which has rows of upscale fish restaurants to its back. Taormina itself shoehorns a hilltop with narrow alleys and lanes that emerge onto plazas filled with cafés and elegant 1950s cantinas.
So, it’s gorgeous. Gorgeous enough, in fact, to have caught the eye of set scouts for the hit HBO series The White Lotus back in 2022. They’re always on the lookout for deluxe hotels with the full five stars as their series backdrop. They finally settled on Taormina’s San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons masterwork that will set you back over $2,500 per night!
The most expensive places in Italy – our conclusion
The most expensive places in Italy are actually all over the boot. Most, though, are to be found in the more affluent northern part of the country. Up there, you can expect to pay over $180 per night for a hotel in Venice, or about the same on daily budgets when it comes to touring the amazing cathedrals and art galleries of Milan.
Some of the surprising additions to this list of the most expensive places in Italy include the town of Pietrasanta. That had the highest property prices in the nation as of 2023. Plus, there’s Bolzano, the capital of the South Tyrol, which saw an uptick of nearly 10% in living costs in the last year to bring it in line with the dearest destinations in the country.