We're always in the mood for a European adventure, but let's be real: finances hold us back. We're constantly battling the desperate need for a European escape and the (more desperate) need to escape a total piggy bank breakdown.
Good news: this year is one of the best times to visit Europe, and Milan is one of the cheapest places to go.
The euro's value is dropping, and airfare may soon follow, which makes now a fabulous time to visit any big-name European city. But we've got a special eye on Milan thanks to cheap flight deals, cheap food deals and the fact that the vast majority of must-do activities here are 100 percent FREE.
Still not convinced that a cost-friendly Italian vacation is in your future? Allow us to explain...
Flight prices have majorly dropped (not that they were bad to begin with).
Of the 100 most popular destination cities in the world, Milan saw the largest drop in flight prices over the last year, according to KAYAK's annual Travel Hacker guide. While they could drop even more this year, we wouldn't mind if they stayed the same: “lucky” round-trip flight deals from New York to Milan currently cost just about $400, according to travel site Hopper.
You can stay in a local's home, for cheap.
Outlets like Airbnb make it easy to live the life of a traveler, not a tourist, in one of Italy's most precious cities. You can kick your shoes off, cook some pasta and stay awhile in digs from a 19th-century home downtown to a clean little room in a quiet neighborhood, all near the city's central spaces.
There IS cheap shopping.
Milan may be Italy's high fashion capital, but you won't have to blow your whole budget to partake in the tradition. There are numerous outlets and factory stores in and around Milan, vending designer clothing at a discount.
...and art-spotting never has a big price tag.
The number-one cultural experience is totally free.
Find a cafe, grab a macchiato, and watch the city go by -- in a place so breathtakingly beautiful, it's hard to do anything else. If you're feeling antsy, window shop the luxury boutiques or dip into a discount designer store.
Milan's signature culinary tradition also involves (surprise!) free food.
Aperitivo means that a number of bars dish up free food with your drinks in the evenings. At all other times, do yourself a favor and explore Peck, the gourmet emporium reportedly home to more than 3,000 types of cheese.
The city has one cheap subway system.
A trip costs just 1.5 euro (with discounts if you buy 10!), and lines run past midnight... not that the city isn't incredibly bike-able to begin with.
...and it's only going to get more beautiful in 2015.
The city is preparing to host Expo 2015 Milano, a six-month global showcase on sustainable food and nutrition. This means we'll likely see a whole bevy of brand-new parks, trails, walking zones and Wi-Fi in 2015, making one of Europe's prettiest cities even more gorgeous.