It’s not true that Italy is so expensive! It depends of course on how you want to spend your vacation and have fun. Something you can do in order to keep the costs down is making your travel in Italy more affordable.
You can find some meals in restaurants to be great value for the quality. If you travel in couple, with your wife/husband, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend, you can have the chance to eat a full lunch or dinner with 2 courses (an entree and a first meal called in Italian antipasto and primo), water, wine and coffee for just 20€. Occasionally the price goes up to 30-40-50€, depending on the place where you are eating at!
What it is important to understand is that in Italy there is a choice of two types of main courses. A primo is usually pasta, risotto or soup, and a secondo is meat with vegetables. You’ll definitely save money by ordering a primo rather than a secondo.
Looking at the menu, restaurants have an antipasto (starter), primo (first course), secondo (second course) with contorno (side dish), and dolce (dessert). You don’t have to order everything, of course. Just take what you want to eat and that’s it.
If you really want to save money, then check the menu for break and cover charge, which is usually 1€-2.50€ per person. If it is more, you should change place, it is unusual spending more than 2.50€.
The cheapest meal ever, by the way, is pizza. So if you go to a pizzeria, you can find pizzas from 4.00 up to 7.50€, depending on the topping. If you are in hurry, then buy a slice of pizza from takeaways and that’s it, you will only spend a couple of euros.