The Costa Meno: Italy
From south to north, we combed the country for some high-on-charm, low-on-cost places to stay
The “Costa Meno” isn’t a real place, although we wish it was. Imagine if there was a vacationland where every place to stay was run by a nonna chef and her clever niece who has collected World of Interiors her whole life and doesn’t want to change the furniture of their little inn at all except for ensuring there are good mattresses and bedding. They keep the 1960s tile and all the art from the great-grandparents. All the meals are homemade, and maybe there is a view, maybe not—it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a short walk to the beach, or into town. These are the places that show up on page 248 of Google search—they aren’t in a collection like Small Luxury Hotels (although we were thinking maybe we should start one!), and have zero marketing budget. We know we highlight a lot of fancy places here, but these are the ones we (and we think you) truly crave—the authentic, the charming, the discovery; properties with both heart and soul. And, not to mention, hotels we can truly afford!
Relatedly, I was recently speaking to my friend Emily FitzRoy of Bellini Travel (who knows her way around the highest of high Italian luxury, but has a major soft spot for the simple seaside guesthouse) about the issue of the massive escalation in hotel room rates, and how social media has fed into it. Now a photo in an “it” hotel is as much of a statement as a designer handbag. While I’m happy for those hotels to charge whatever they can get, I’m not happy that it makes some travelers feel as if these are the only cool places to go—we have to do a better job of expanding that network. I love what Emily had to say about how she handled her clients who wanted to go to Sicily when there weren’t the options there are today. “Historically, before Sicily had so many lovely properties to stay in, we’d send our clients to guesthouses, which were far more rewarding than some crappy 5 star back in the day. We’d tell them to just trust us,” she said. “These are the places where you connect to the owners in a deeper way, and understand the essence of where you are. They have a real soul and character as opposed to some dull chain.”
So we took it upon ourselves to pull together our Costa Meno list—it means “costs less” in Italian, and costa also of course means “coast” (in Spanish too for that matter), but it’s also our attempt at wordplay to avoid the A, B and C words (affordable, budget and cheap). We’re starting first with Italy, but don’t worry—we’ll revisit the project again with other countries! And because it’s summer, we’re just listing places that are on or near the water, since we figure that’s what most of you are after. Our methodology: we priced out a double room during the peak week of July 17-20 (we didn’t do a weekend knowing rates increase), and only included places that are under 300 euros a night (with a couple that push a bit above that, because they looked amazing). Nearly all are small hotels, but we threw in a couple of rentals we came across because, same. We didn’t ask our friends for recommendations—we know it’s too much to get them to spill their favorite small guest houses publicly—so these are places we have either been to, or already knew about via friends, or just through a ton of research. If you try any of them out this summer, or want to share your favorites, we’d love to hear! And, as always, we’ll keep adding to this list as we make new discoveries.