When it comes to a European getaway defined by incredible scenery, unforgettable historical landmarks, beautiful beaches and amazing food, it goes without saying that Italy and Croatia are among some of the top contenders. But which one do you choose? Both these incredible countries are made up of an eclectic hybrid of cities and islands, giving you a well-rounded holiday that suits every traveller.
Perhaps you’re a Game of Thrones fan who wants to immerse themselves in the setting of King’s Landing in Dubrovnik. Maybe you’re more inclined to enjoy a crisp Italian white wine with a backdrop of a verdant vineyard in the Amalfi Coast. We’re here to ease your travel concerns and pit Italy and Croatia head-to-head to discover which European gem is just right for you. All you have to do is keep on reading and get ready for an escape of a lifetime…
Sun, sea and sand…
It’s a cliché for a reason! Don’t be fooled into thinking that Italy is nothing but a concrete jungle filled with landmarks in city locations such as Rome and Milan – it’s got a softer side, too. The Italian coast is framed by both the Mediterranean and the Adriatic seas and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Sparkling blue waters and stunning golden sands are the norm in Sardinia, while witnessing glorious beachside sunsets over the rugged cliffs of the Amalfi Coast are truly unforgettable moments. We can’t miss out an honourable mention of Otranto Beach in Puglia, Capreria Beach in Sicily and Marina Grande Beach in Positano, which are some of the best places in Italy to soak up the sunshine, explore the coastline and engage in watersports.
Croatian beaches certainly don’t disappoint either. Although pebbled shorelines are more abundant than soft sand beaches, once you find a beach that’s powder-white and framed with clear-as-glass waters, we guarantee you’ll never want to leave. Head to the Palkeni Islands for a long and lazy beach day, located just a short taxi-boat journey from the Hvar mainland. Unspoilt and utterly picturesque, these cluster of beaches will definitely be the highlight of your holiday. Other notable sandy beach areas include Lopar, Korcula Island, and Murter Island. For those who prefer watersports, Croatia provides ample opportunity to get your adrenaline fix with the likes of jet-skiing and windsurfing up and down the Dalmatian coastline.
From city superpowers Rome and Milan to laidback country locations like Tuscany and Ischia, there’s truly nowhere in Italy that isn’t riddled with rich history and gorgeous culture. Rome is Italy’s sightseeing capital, whereby you can conquer some of the country’s most famous landmarks within a few days, such as the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and much more. Move on to Tuscany and get your travel companion to capture an image of you pushing against the Leaning Tower of Pisa, admire the terracotta-tiled dome of the Duomo Cathedral in Florence, and head to Lucca to crane your neck at the famous Renaissance-era wall which encircles the city and its cobblestone streets. Need to give your feet a rest from the pavement pounding? Italian culture extends beyond the buildings and sculptures – take a load off and treat yourself to a glass of wine!
Rome isn't home to the only stunning Roman amphitheatre in the Adriatic! A 2,000-year-old Croatian Colosseum is located in Split, and is so well-preserved that it hosts the annual Outlook Festival that attracts music-lovers from every corner of the globe. Continue your sightseeing extravaganza with a visit to the famous Cathedral of St Domnius also located in Split, and is one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings that still stands. Oh, and don’t even think about leaving Croatia without embarking on a guided tour of Dubrovnik Old Town. The entire area has been deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the world’s most perfectly maintained medieval towns with a glorious history to match. From the city walls and squares to the palaces and cathedrals, the entire town is steeped in rich historical architecture and there’s nothing like a bird’s eye view to take in all of its mesmerising beauty. Take a ride on the Dubrovnik cable car and soak up incredible views of the red-roofed town incredibly contrasted by the sapphire hues of the Adriatic Sea.
Food, Glorious Food…
One of life’s greatest pleasures? Italian food, of course! Miles above your local Prezzo or Zizzi, there’s nothing like tucking into authentic fare al fresco with a gorgeous Italian backdrop. Pizza and pasta are among the staples throughout the country, with each region having their own slight twists on the classic favourites (but remember, contrary to popular belief, spaghetti and meatballs didn’t originate from Italy so finding these on menu is quite unlikely). Don’t forget to branch out and try the likes of arancini, risotto, and osso buco, and all dishes in Italy are best washed down with tasty beverages such as wine, an Aperol spritz or an energy-inducing espresso. Got a sweet tooth? Gelato can be devoured any time of day no matter what the weather, or tiramisu is ideal for a richer, more indulgent pudding.
Although we've already given the pasta capital of the world an honourable mention, Croatia’s close proximity to northern Italy means that they have their twist on the much-loved carb that is just as delicious, such as the potato-based njoki that is served with meat and vegetables on special occasions. Black risotto is a must – but trust us, it tastes miles better than its slightly off-putting appearance. Known as crni rižot, the main ingredient is squid ink, which gives it the dish its iconic black colour, accompanied by olive oil, garlic, red wine and cuttlefish or squid. Lovers of seafood will undoubtedly be in their element in Croatia, thanks to the Adriatic coastline delivering fresh fish served popularly on the beachfront restaurants.
Walking on Sunshine
We don’t always need glorious weather and beaming sunshine to enjoy a beautiful destination – but let’s face it, it certainly helps. The good thing about Italy is that there are so many regions that can be visited at any time of year. If you’re looking for a beach affair on the Amalfi Coast, or in the mood to soak up the sunshine with a glass of wine in the Tuscan countryside, then the sunnier months of May through to September are peak travel times. However, cities such as Rome, Milan and Venice, and quaint picturesque areas such as Cinque Terre and Bologna never lose their true Italian beauty and are still just as striking in the winter months.
Croatia experiences a typical Mediterranean climate, where summers are glorious and the winters are pleasant. Split and Hvar are the ultimate summer go-tos, with the warm, crystal-clear waters on the beach best enjoyed in the months of May through to September. October onwards will still see many areas of the country buzzing with tourists, despite a little rainfall. There are multiple activities that can be enjoyed in Dubrovnik, Split and Hvar come rain or shine – or why not embark on a cruise through Split and its surrounding islands?
Okay, so as you can see, we didn’t really make that decision any easier for you. Both Italy and Croatia are unbeatable destinations in every sense, from glorious gastronomy to beautiful beaches, and offer multiple regions where everything from cable car rides to wine tasting is available. Well, there’s only one thing to do in this case – visit both! You know you want to…