How to find good flights from the West Coast to Italy

how to find flights from California to Italy

If you live hours away from an international airport in small town USA somewhere on the West Coast, this post is for you. Like me, I’m sure you know all too well that finding a flight to Italy, not to mention small town Italy, can be quite the challenge (and quite costly).

The challenge for us West Coasters is that there is a curious lack of direct flights to Italy. You can fly nonstop to London , Dublin , Zurich, Paris , Amsterdam , Frankfurt, etc. so WHY NOT ITALY??? I checked every major city on the West Coast too: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Denver, Seattle. No direct flights to Italy.

UPDATE: Norwegian Air has recently started nonstop service from LAX to Rome and Oakland to Rome.

I was seriously curious as to why, so one day I decided to tweet all of the major airlines that should connect the West Coast to Italy. Out of Delta, Alitalia & United, only American Air responded and this is what they had to say:

No direct flights from California to Italy


So pretty much us West Coasters have two options:

  1. Fly across the country for 5+ hours and then catch a connecting flight to Italy on the East Coast
  2. Fly into somewhere in Europe and take a connecting flight to Italy

Since I’ve spent hour upon hour searching for the best way get to Italy from the West Coast, I wanted to share a few tips that I’ve picked up through my own experience about how to find the best flights. 


Weigh the pros & cons of flying into or out of cities that are not your final destination
  • Are you able to afford or willing to stay the night in the city of a connecting flight? For example, if your flight arrives in LA late at night and there are no flights to your hometown until the next morning, would you be willing to stay the night? On the bright side, this could be a wonderful opportunity to see another city. On the other hand, hotel fees could negate the purpose of a cheaper flight entirely.
  • Are you willing to travel hours by car or train to get to the airport before departing on a long journey, or after a long flight to get to your final destination?
  • Does the cost of gas or a train ticket to your destination or layover accommodations make the cheap flight just as expensive as a ticket that brings you to and from your actual destinations?
Which is more important, cost or comfort?

From my observations, the cheaper a flight is, the more uncomfortable/less convenient it is (i.e., less baggage allowance or amenities, long layovers, multiple stops, etc.)

Whenever I see a good deal on Google flights, 90% of the time it’s on Turkish Airlines with a 23-31 hour travel time (aka a super long layover in Istanbul ). Sigh. I totally wouldn’t mind flying on Turkish Airlines because I’ve heard from several people that it’s a good airline. And believe it or not, Istanbul is only about 2.5 hours from Italy. The problem is, the layover in Istanbul isn’t long enough for sightseeing (nor would I want to do a rushed trip into a completely foreign city…that sounds like a recipe for stress!) I hear Istanbul is a fabulous city, but I’d want to give it a proper visit and not walk around like a zombie, nor do I want to hang out in the airport for hours.

My top 4 search tips:
  1. Have flexible dates. Prices can vary a lot from one day to another.
  2. Book ahead. Perhaps you can get last minute deals, but I’ve seen the best deals 4 to 11 months before my departure date.
  3. Keep lookingeven try the same dates again and again – because you can have different results! (This happened to me and I ended up getting a deal on my favorite airline at a reasonable price!)
  4. If you find a good deal, grab it IMMEDIATELY! (And just in case, you have 24 hours to refund a ticket). This also happened to me, except I Iost an amazing deal while the “planners” in my party were faffing about. Sometimes it pays to be spontaneous!

When I was searching for a ticket, I kept blaming the fluctuating prices on cookies (the rumor is that websites use cookies, and airlines raise the price if you’ve searched before.) However, According to an article on that’s not the only reason: “What people see when they shop multiple times and prices are changing is a reflection of inventory changes, data caching techniques and the fact that prices generally get more expensive closer to departure date, even within a day. I am leaning in the direction that cookies don’t really matter because I never cleared my browser and searched the same dates and sites multiple times and got different prices nearly every time (and eventually cheaper prices too).


  • Scott’s Cheap Flights – I learned this site from the Queen of flight deals I highly recommend checking out her review of Scott’s Cheap Flights.
  • Google flights – it’s great because you can search for flights to “Europe” or geographical region to find the cheapest destinations! It also has a calendar that shows you the prices based on different days so you can choose the best deal if you have flexible dates. You can also track flights (although I need to figure out how to get notifications because I had to manual check the flights I was tracking).
  • Hopper – this search tool is only available as an app. I love it because it the price ranges are color coded by date. It also tells you if you should wait, or buy now to get the best price. You can track a flight and it sends you alerts by phone if a price changes.
  • Hipmunk – I love to sorting options on this site, especially “agony” (price, number of stops, and duration).

I am by no means an expert on cheap airfare, just a girl trying to get from the West Coast of the US to Italy who has spent hour upon hour searching for reasonably priced flights. I hope that these tips can help others in my situation who don’t live near a major hub.

Got any tips of your own? Drop them in the comments!

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Ciao, I'm Kelly!

Welcome to my adventures in learning Italian, often while cooking authentic Italian recipes and wine tasting! I love discovering the traditional regional cuisine of Italy and trying to recreate those dishes when I'm back home in the US. I'm also on my way to becoming an Italian citizen through jure sanguinis (by ancestry).

WSET Level 2 Certified Wine Blogger


Join me for a virtual "aperitivo chat" to get exclusive updates on my Italian progress, dual citizenship journey, plus food & wine adventures in the Bel Paese and beyond!

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Questa Dolce Vita (@questadolcevita)

PINNING! Super useful info for anyone looking to book flights in general. Nice that American Airlines responded!!!

Questa Dolce Vita (@questadolcevita)

BTW the photo of you guys with pizza dough is SO CUTE!!!!

2 years ago

Great tips here Kelly. I recently got word of Scott’s cheap flights. Have to check that out. 🙂

2 years ago
Reply to  Kelly

Thanks for the tip Kelly. Xx

2 years ago

This TOPIC – so spot on for me! After four trips to the Amalfi Coast in the past three years, and two upcoming this summer, I’ve gone every which way but loose trying to navigate my way from California to Italy – even throwing Portland and Seattle in the mix to stir it up more. Just get me on a plane in LA or SF where I can fly the longest nonstop – and get the closest to Naples (trying to avoid the greatest number of planes, trains, and automobiles as possible). My best find to date is getting direct… Read more »

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