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Family of 4 (food budget)

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Dec 12th, 2011, 06:02 PM
  #1
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Family of 4 (food budget)

My DH, DD (21) and DS (18) love Italian food and need your input for daily budget. We plan on having nicer dinners in Florence (new year's eve), Siena and Rome but the rest of our days will be strategically budgeted. Your advice is greatly welcome.
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Dec 12th, 2011, 06:11 PM
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That really depends on how many courses you eat, when you eat your main meal, and where you are for the times you are not having your nice night out. If you are in rome, it will cost more than if you are in a little town somewhere. In big cities, avoid tourist restaurants that post a menu outside in English. Look for trattorias that are small and maybe tucked away somewhere. Eating a main meal at lunch and just having something small at dinner is cheaper. You can get inexpensive pannini at lots of bars (coffee shops), and sometimes even a small dish of good pasta or a salad (there was a place like that in our apartment building in Bologna.)
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Dec 12th, 2011, 06:18 PM
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Thank you Charnees. Our hotels include breakfast so I imagine that will be helpful in our plight to stay on budget. We really would like to try and venture away from touristy establishments. I need recommendations of that sort for Venice, Florence, Siena and Rome. But I'm also thinking that on our day trips to Fiesole, Lucca, etc. we will be off the beaten track and find more "momma" type places if you will.
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Dec 12th, 2011, 06:43 PM
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In March I spent 8 nights in Venice with a friend. Prices in Venice are higher, so this might give you and idea of what you might expect. We ate one bigger meal and one smaller meal each day, a few snack-bar lunches, a few pizzas, one or two splurges--and daily gelato breaks. We did not have wine with each meal, often just bottled sparkling water, just the occasional house wine. My summation from my report:

"For those who wonder about costs, P and I split the cost of hotel, meals, admissions, and transport since we did everything together. We collected our receipts as we went and did the accounting later. When P totalled the expenses for our 8 days/8 nights in Venice, we spent $320 per day for two adults for everything except souvenirs. (1€ averaged at $1.42) About half of that total was the hotel cost, so meals, admissions [museum pass and more], and transport [7-day vaporetto pass] cost us about $160 per day for two adults, or $80 per person per day."

I would expect about $65 of the daily cost per person was our meals (lunch, dinner, snacks, gelato). We were not "watching our budget"--just keeping track since we were sharing expenses. If you really watched your spending, you could easily come in lower.

If you want to get an idea of what our meals were like, you can read extensive details of the menus in my trip report here:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...m#last-comment
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Dec 13th, 2011, 04:07 AM
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There are other postings on precisely this issue, but in general you can easily follow ellenem's excellent advice (1 larger, 1 smaller meal).

Lunch will be cheaper than dinner for your larger meal, but that may not fit your touring style.

Pizza is generally excellent at places that have a forno legno -- wood-fired oven -- and there are lots of them. Avoid pizza from places that have slices in the window to reheat; they are awful. I never saw a pizza that resembled Chicago style deep dish pizza, and toppings are less lavish than in the US, but they are delicious.

You can always get a big salad or a dish of pasta at a light meal; you do not need to order multiple courses. Despite what many have written here, portions in Northern Italy at least were very large.

The big surprise is that submarine sandwiches, which are considered an Italian item here, are not known, at least the kind with multiple meats and cheeses. The waiter got a great laugh when I tried to order a sandwich with two kinds of sausage and provolone or mozzarella. Three sandwiches is a lot even for an American to eat!

Finally, buy drinks, picnic items, and snacks in small grocery stores. There is one across from the Academmia in Florence and another across ftom the Pitti Palace. They are a lot like 7-11's inside but with much higher quality food.
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Dec 13th, 2011, 05:05 AM
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This is a VERY difficult thing to come up with anywhere near a pricing. The reason is that nobody knows what another person likes or will accept. In my case, we prefer to find out-of-the-way, small places to eat. As such, we get really good food, really cheap. We have a few rules though...we never buy from one of the trucks, we never go to a restaurant that is in a piazza in front of a famous landmark (ie Pantheon ) or located inside a landmark. We always stay in apartments and not hotels, so usually we will make our own lunch and often supper.

That may be totally unacceptable to many other people, or too big of a hassle. For others, even our way may be too much. So while many people will spend $50-$75 pp pd, we spend about $25 and others will spend $200. With that all said, for the norm, probably follow ellenem's advice, knowing you can go way above or below if wanted.

dave
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Dec 13th, 2011, 05:59 AM
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Over many Italian holidays, in recent years we've generally averaged c.150 euros a day for 2 of us when staying in a hotel, for all other expenses - usually a very modest lunch, ice creams, drinks, a midpriced dinner with (usually house) wine, entrance fees & public transport tickets. We were in Florence in September for the first time in years and were surprised by how much more expensive eating & drinking was there than anywhere else (especially Venice where we go most frequently & had assumed was the most expensive place) - in Florence I don't think we ever paid less than 100 euros for a 2 course dinner with house wine at fairly modest restaurants.
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Dec 13th, 2011, 12:33 PM
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Ackislander is correct that there are no "Subway" style sandwiches in Italy. Panini usually have just meat or cheese, or one slice of each. Nothing more. I woulnd't call it a surprise, though. There are lots of things that we have in the US that are not really Italian. Like deep-dish or thick-crust pizza. Or overcooked pasta that is swimming in sauce like they serve at Olive Garden. Food is different there. They like to let the ingredients stand out, including the pasta itself, so you can enjoy their own taste.
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Dec 13th, 2011, 02:21 PM
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hi mrubio,

i have spent a few weeks in Rome, venice and Florence albeit about 5 years ago, since when prices have undoubtedly risen, with my adult "kids" and try as we might, we were lucky to spend less than €100 per night on dinner, apart from Rome, which we found a bit cheaper. this did not include alcohol for the kids, because they don't like it. you could easily increase that to €160 now especially if you all drink wine/beer. [though cokes are expensive too!]

we usually made dinner our main meal of the day because although we liked to sit down at lunch-time, we usually didn't want to take the time for a full meal. but there are plenty of places that will sell you a snack like a soup or panini. with a drink you can reckon on another €10 each for that. Then there are gelati [perhaps €5 each at worst] and say a coffee or two - another €5 pp. That gives you €60 each for food per day.

most places like museums cost in the region of €10 pp for entry [are either of the kids students? make sure they take their student cards] and you might do 2 a day. so we're up to €80 per day pp. add in some transport, shopping, splurging, ...

ellenem's $80 per day pp is a bit under what I would say, but i do think that the more of you there are, the more you tend to spend pp. don't know why, that's just the way it is.
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Dec 13th, 2011, 07:09 PM
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I think it also depends on how much food your family thinks is "enough" and how much physical activity (walking, tower climbing, etc.) you'll be doing. The B&B/hotel's breakfast will help a bit, but there can be a huge range in what is offered. Some hotels offer only the bare minimum (the traditional 'continental breakfast'), and others will have variety and a good mix of carbs and protein.

FWIW, my husband is not into lots of carbs and won't eat panini for lunch. For him, it's just too skimpy with too much bread and not enough meat. He'll agree to splitting a pizza only occasionally. I bring Clif protein bars on every trip in case we get the munchies.

Almost every restaurant posts its menu outside, so you can see prices and check your budget before you commit. You won't have to leave a 15-20% tip, but there will usually be a service charge added to your bill.
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Dec 14th, 2011, 02:07 AM
  #11
 
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Good point re breakfast, Jean. If you are not staying in lixury hotels, breakfast may not be much more than bread, prreserves and some ham &/or cheese if you're lucky.

I think only students from the EU get discounts for museums etc but I may be wrong.

OP, are you locked in to the hotels you've booked ? If budget is a serious issue you'd be better staying in an aprtment.
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Dec 14th, 2011, 06:05 AM
  #12
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It never ceases to amaze me how incredible this website (everyone) is. I think to be on the safe side we'll budget 60euros per day with the exception of the two splurge dinner dates. My two kids are pretty conservative, the other day they emphatically proclaimed that they absolutely would not be having wine at every eating session (I told them that when in Rome, they had to do as the Romans did). We shall see. Thank you all. Have a lovely holiday season.
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Dec 14th, 2011, 06:53 AM
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the other day they emphatically proclaimed that they absolutely would not be having wine at every eating session (I told them that when in Rome, they had to do as the Romans did).>>

the wine may be the cheapest option for drinks - apart from water that is. juices and cokes tend to be more expensive than a simple glass of house red or white. you also need to think that it may be cold so you may be popping into cafes for warming coffees and hot chocolates more often than you have budgeted for. OTOH, the water that gushes from Roman water fountains is potable, so you can fill water bottles from there. for free.

which brings me to a "delicate" subject - public loos are far and few so whenever you are in a museum, cafe, or restaurant, make sure that you take advantage of the conveniences.
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Dec 14th, 2011, 10:47 AM
  #14
 
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A couple of points:

Portions in Italy are much smaller than in the US - so don't plan on sharing unless you have tiny appetites (18 year old DS may be a problem if he's a big eater)
Soft drinks are very exepensive and tiny - so stick with wine or bottled water
Sandwich shops are fine - but the sandwiches are smal - not huge overstuffed monstrosities - so allow for a couple
You can be very careful if you want - but at some point it starts to become a chore

When the two of us travel we allow $300 for a special dinner with wine (moderate wine). For lunch, dinner and a gelato or a drink in a cafe we allow about $100 a day per person. This is NOT splurging.
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Dec 14th, 2011, 11:06 AM
  #15
 
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I'm glad nytraveler mentioned the portion sizes. They are smaller, although I usually find the servings of soup to be fairly generous. And if you're used to bread being a 'filling' element of your meal, IMO forget it. I find the bread that is automatically brought to the table to be pretty unappealing and usually dry as paper.
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Dec 14th, 2011, 11:21 AM
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I think €60 per person is a pretty good budget for lunch, dinner and snacks. When I was there in May with a friend, we typically had lunch in a cafe or something quick like that, a nicer sit-down dinner, plus usually a gelato as well. If we were at a sit-down restaurant and weren't getting pizza (usually the cheapest entree, around €10), we'd often split a first course and get our own entrees or something along those lines. For the two of us, those dinners ranged from €30-40. We usually drank bottles of water, though I did have a glass of house wine a couple of times. Soft drinks are really expensive, as was mentioned above. Lunches were usually €10 or under. We had some not-great food at some museum cafes and food carts, as you'd expect, but otherwise I feel like we ate well for that budget. You can absolutely spend more, but we're not foodies and didn't prioritize it, and never felt deprived.
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Dec 14th, 2011, 01:08 PM
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Ah grazie! Bottom line: We will enjoy picnics, buy bread, cheeses, fruit and wine (and gelatos). And they will not have soda! Ciao.
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Dec 15th, 2011, 04:21 AM
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Er - picnics in the middle of winter ? Btw be aware that eating & drinking in public spaces is forbidden in Venice.
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Dec 15th, 2011, 09:09 AM
  #19
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So true (
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Dec 15th, 2011, 09:22 AM
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I've read this thread with interest.

Just wanted to say that during our time in Venice and Vicenza last year, we were amazed by how good and varied the bread basket offerings were nearly everywhere we ate. But your hotel breakfast bread may be almost inedible.
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