Sun, sea, siestas, mouthwatering food, unspoiled landscapes, beautiful towns and easy Mediterranean living is what you can expect on a holiday in Spain and Italy. Both of them make for wonderful getaways from the daily hustle thanks to their idyllic styles of living. But if you can only visit one it can be hard to choose between Italy or Spain so allow us to make this easier for you.
Both Italy and Spain are Food Heavens
Let’s start with the food as this is one of the main reasons why people travel to Italy and Spain. They are food paradises, each different but equally delicious!
Everyone loves wine, pizza and pasta and Italy happens to be the world’s headquarters for these delicious culinary experiences. Italian cooking is an art that we try but fail to replicate at home. Pure, basic ingredients such as fresh tomatoes, basil leaves, oregano, pine nuts, pesto and parmesan cheese are used to serve up high-quality Italian cuisine, cooked to perfection. It doesn’t get better than this!
But wait, we can’t forget dessert! Chocolate mousse and Italian homemade tiramisu will make those with a sweet tooth go wild. Of course, any good meal deserves a good glass of wine, which will be no problem in Italy. Don’t forget to try the local aperitivo as well; classics like a glass of the almond-flavored amaretto, limoncello or the world-famous sambuca are can’t miss liquid treats. Do remember, that it is a no-go to order a latte or cappuccino after dinner – this is something you only drink for breakfast. Mamma Mia!
No one can resist the tapas heaven that is Spain. Take a seat at one of many charming Spanish restaurants (but not before 8:00pm) and spend a lovely long evening tasting all of the delicious flavors of Spain. Your table will be filled up with little bowls of delicious traditional food such as patatas bravas (potatoes), albondigas (meatballs in tomato sauce), deep-fried calamari rings, garlic shrimp, stuffed olives and bread served with aioli.
Also be sure to try the Spanish gazpacho soup, best enjoyed for lunch with a carafe of homemade sangria – the delicious fruit punch wine that was invented here. Or how about a big portion of home cooked paella with freshly caught gambas, topped off with some squeezed lemon juice? For breakfast, you can have a slice of tortilla de patatas, the traditional Spanish omelet. Yes, it is all mouthwatering and you won’t get enough of it!
Spain is a very large country with many things to see and do, so I recommend focusing on a specific region rather than ‘doing’ the whole country in a couple of weeks. Galicia, Costa Brava and Andalusia are some of my favourite parts of Spain, perfect for road-tripping and enjoying foodie experiences!
Food is definitely a highlight of any Spanish experience – for instance, Costa Brava has some of the best restaurants in the world and lots of exciting local eateries, while the seafood in Galicia is second to none. Spain also has some wonderful nature – hiking in the Pyrenees is one of my favourite activities.
Any time of the year is a good time to travel to Spain, depending on where you want to go. Summer is lovely in northern Spain, but it can be unbearably hot in the south – winter is a much better time to visit Andalusia. Fall and spring are wonderful pretty much anywhere! – Margherita & Nick, The Crowded Planet
Italy vs Spain: Culture
Both Italy and Spain have a rich culture that you will love!
Italians are all about food and family with the mother sitting at the head of the table – every Italian’s greatest pride. The heart is on their tongues and they speak with passion, both in their verbal and body language. It may not be surprising to discover that Opera originated in Italy?
Spain is all about sangria, siestas, and music. The Spanish guitar was obviously invented in Spain, you can enjoy Flamenco music and dances everywhere, food is shared with strangers and there are tons of colorful street festivals waiting to be discovered.
Italy vs Spain: Highlights
Enjoy the food every day during your stay, but be sure to see some of the highlights of these Mediterranean beauties as well:
Rome, Milan, Florence & Venice
Italy is the Roman epicenter and it is home to some of Europe’s most amazing cities with a rich history, archaeological sites, stunning architecture, and museums. You can expect to walk the streets of cities that exude an ancient charm and soulfulness as well as fashion and modern sophistication.
You can see world-famous places like the Colosseum and the Vatican, spot celebrities and get your Gucci shopping done all on the same day. Rome and Florence feature the most beautiful Roman architecture, while Milan is Italy’s fashion capital and Venice, the one and only ‘floating city’, is one of the most romantic tourist destinations of Europe ruled by endless canals, ancient bridges, and traditional Gondola boats.
Don’t miss out on a cultural trip to Pompeii – the sprawling Roman city that got struck by the devastating volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius 79 years AD, covering it in layers of ash. Pompeii is an impressive archaeological site, reminding travellers of ancient times and the unstoppable force of nature.
Adriatic coast and Italy’s Islands
We all love the sea and Italy’s rugged rocky eastern coastline, bordering the deep blue Adriatic is breathtakingly beautiful! With the golden sun shining down on you, go explore the picturesque coastal towns such as Lecce, Polignano a Mare, Trani, Rimini, and Alberobello and dive into the sea as much as you like. You can even go island hopping in Italy, visiting beautiful places such as Sardinia, Sicily, and Capri with their pristine beaches, towns and raw unspoiled landscapes.
This is the biggest lake in all of Italy and it’s truly scenic! A great place to spend a few days, relaxing with your loved ones, enjoying good food and swimming in the lake, taking a break from all the buzzing city centers.
For anyone looking to travel to Italy, be flexible about your city of arrival because it’s extremely easy to travel around the country once you’re there (the high speed trains are the best!). Also, remember to bring an empty stomach, an insatiable curiosity and comfortable walking shoes. There is so much to see, do and eat in Italy – and you will love it all!
What are the experiences one cannot miss? (foodwise, places to see, events, culture etc.) Everyone should visit Rome and Vatican City at some point. While in Rome, eat cacio e pepe and wander the streets without a destination in mind. For those looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, my favorite destinations in Italy are the Amalfi Coast, Lake Como, Franciacorta, Tuscany and Puglia. Some of these places are on the beaten path and touristy for a reason, while others feel like hidden gems and are well worth discovering.
I have traveled to Italy at three different times of the year (January, July and September) and would say that September is my favorite time to travel to Italy. The restaurants are open again after closing down temporarily in August, the air starts to take on a crisp quality as the humidity goes down, and the sea is still warm enough to take advantage of in case you want to go for a swim. – Tausha, The Globe Getter
Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada and San Sebastian
Yes, Spain also has beautiful cities that make you stick around for their charm, liveliness and impressive architecture. Barcelona is a favorite city of Europe and is where you get to admire the stunning lifework of famous artist Antonio Gaudi. Madrid is a real artistic city and hometown of the Spanish painter Francisco Goya.
In Granada, you get to enjoy tapas at almost every restaurant or café you stop at for drinks, really giving you a taste of the heartwarming Spanish culture. Seville is another magnificent city and the birthplace of Flamenco music while San Sebastian features a beautiful bay, charming restaurants, and impressive nature.
Do not travel to Spain with a set conceived notions about the country. Spain is much more than the sangrias and tapas. You’ll find out as you travel that Spain is also not all about Sun, Sand and Sea. Beyond the stunning Mediterranean coastline, Spain has a lot more to offer including historic heritage of the Romans in Tarragona, wine trails on the countryside, and plenty of hiking options in the norther mountains of the country.
Some of my most special moments in Spain, have come while walking the narrow alleys and exploring the hidden neighborhoods. Exploring street art of Barcelona, taking a walking tour and interacting with some of the artists on Las Ramblas, learning about the architectural god- Antonio Gaudi’s birthplace in Reus, watching Flamenco dancers at one of Seville’s dancing schools are all must on itinerary.
Spain is good to visit all time around, but personally I would feel just after Summer (from September to late October), is the right time, when it’s not too cold not to warm. – Deepika, Feet on the Map
Costa del Sol
The lively and vibrant Costa del Sol is home to famous beach towns such as Salou, Blanes and Lloret del Mar, much-loved among youngsters because it is all about beaches, the sun, and parties.
The rocky mountains of the Pyrenees are a natural majestic border between France and Spain. They are also home to amazing hiking trails, national parks, and ski resorts, thrilling any nature lover and adventure enthusiast.
Spain boasts many beautiful islands, an attraction to travelers all year round. The Canary Islands, Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, all are appealing for those seeking nature, as well as for those seeking cultural charm and a busy nightlife.
Italy vs Spain: Getting around
Both Italy and Spain are very tourist friendly when it comes to getting around. There are frequent buses, trains and even planes getting you from one place to another. Prices are affordable and you can get monthly public transport passes as well. Sometimes taking a plane from one city to another is even cheaper than taking the train.
Italy vs Spain: Budget
Both countries have the Euro as their local currency. Spain tends to be a tiny bit cheaper than Italy when it comes down to food, accommodation, and alcohol, but overall both countries make affordable holiday destinations, allowing you to see many of the highlights Europe has to offer.