France vs Italy: Which European Country is Right for You?

Both France and Italy are all about wine, food and gorgeous cities where romance and fashion reign. The countrysides, on the other hand, are ruled by olive groves, vineyards, and picturesque medieval towns where sunny afternoons flow gently into easy laid-back evenings, tucking you into bed satisfied and happy at night when the sun is down.

Although these two neighbouring countries have so many things in common and yet, they couldn’t be more different! Find out where you should go on your next tour and continue reading. 

Ready to say yes to adventure? Take a look at the most popular tours travelling to France and through the most popular tours travelling to Italy. 

Famous European Landmarks

FranceItaly
Capital cityParisRome
Most popular destinationParis Florence
Natural attractionRhone riverTuscany
Nightlife destinationOberkampfMilan

France and Italy  share their mutual love for wine and it comes as no surprise that some of the world’s finest wines originate here. The French are the biggest wine drinkers of Europe, closely followed by Italians. Sipping on a glass of wine on an empty stomach is not something your doctor would recommend you to do, which is why the French and Italian cuisines will delight your taste buds while delicately soothing your senses. Expect long summer evenings when dining outside with the loved ones turns into life’s greatest joys.

France is twice as big as Italy and it features a long sandy coastline which borders the Atlantic and Mediterranean sea. Italy features mostly rocky beaches and little coastal towns, bordering the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Mediterranean and Tyrrhenian on the other. Both languages they find their origins in Latin, but don’t be mistaken, they are very different: Italians and French can’t understand each other.

Highlights

Both countries are home to some amazing UNESCO World Heritage sites, grand celebrated cities waiting to be explored, little cultural towns from ancient times, beautiful countrysides and pristine coastlines. Let’s zoom into some highlights of each country.

France

Paris

Paris is said to be the most romantic city in the world. A refuge for couples who want to stroll along the Seine holding each other, enjoy a wine-and-cheese picnic in the park, gaze at the mighty Eiffel Tower, witness remarkable architecture and historical sites, or perhaps just window-shop, at the chic boutiques on the famous Champs-Elysées avenue.


Travel to: France


cycling france from north to south

Avignon

This beautiful, ancient walled city, found on the banks of the Rhône river in the heart of Le Provence, exudes a charm of the medieval times. It is home to the majestic palace and fortress Palais des Papes where the pope lived in the early 14th century. Avignon features narrow streets and boutique shops in between the city walls and every year in summertime, the biggest art festival in France takes place here.

Côte d’Azur

Multi-day tour to France

The much loved Côte d’Azur, also known as The French Riviera is a celebrated resort area with sophisticated picturesque towns and glamorous cities such as Nice, Cannes, St. Tropez and Monaco, attracting tons of visitors and celebrities every year. Imagine long-stretchy boulevards fringed by palm trees and the bluest sea imaginable, luxury resorts, white sand beaches with sun chairs and excellent restaurants and cafés with allures.

Loire Valley

The Loire Valley features a long 280 kilometers stretch of historical towns with endless ancient extravagant castles by the side of the Loire River in central France. A beautiful place that inspired not only dukes, kings and queens but also links to historical figures such as Leonardo da Vinci and Joan of Arc. Some of the best wines in the world originate from Loire Valley.

If you only have time to visit one of the spectacular Loire Valley castles, make it Château de Chenonceau. The current château was built in 1514–1522 on the foundations of an old mill and was later extended to span the River Cher. It’s the second most visited castle in France, after Versailles, but it’s worth braving the crowds to see. Tip: rent a canoe to explore the water around and under the castle, and check out the wine cellars for a tasting! – Anne Mauney, Fannetastic Food

Atlantic Coast

The Atlantic Coast features endless picture-perfect white sand beaches and a deep blue ocean with high waves, making it perfect for surfing. A true surfer’s paradise is the town of Biarritz. Other enchanting places such as Nantes and La Rochelle are perfect for families eager to spend their holiday on one of the seaside camping sites.

Les Gorges du Verdon

Deep lush green valleys with clear blue rivers rushing through, dramatic cliffs, lakes and towns are found in ‘the Grand Canyon of Europe’. Les Gorges du Verdon in a stunning place, great for outdoor activities such as hiking, climbing, canyoning and whitewater rafting.

France is so much more than Paris, Nice and Provence. The heart of France is in the small towns and villages where the people are friendly and where the scenery and the foods are unique. Uzes, for example, a town in the south of France, is filled with history and ancient buildings dating back to the 11th century. The town’s centerpiece is the Duché palace where the family de Crussol d’Uzès, has resided since 1088. Nearby is Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct that stands majestically preserved from the first century. – Deborah, Barefoot Blogger

Italy

Rome

Ahh Rome, the Epicentre of Roman culture and architecture, home to the Vatican and the Colosseum. Culture lovers can eat their heart out! Stroll from one historical monument to another, wander around in the museum’s and take in the breathtaking Roman architecture and the ancient Baroque churches of this magnificent European city. Don’t forget to eat ice cream, sip quick on an espresso, and shop at the beautiful Galleria Alberto Sordi.

Famous European Landmarks

Venice

Romance, romance, romance. This ‘floating city’ on the Adriatic coast of Italy is the most romantic city in Italy with its canals, gondel boats, Roman architecture and bridges. Not to be missed when traveling to Italy.

It is good to pack light for Venice – there are lots of stairs and small bridges all around Venice and you don’t want to be dragging around an over packed suitcase. Try to leave home as many things as you can. The most important item to bring is comfortable shoes – you are about to walk some kilometers even during a short trip.

There are no buses, the public transportation is Venice is all about the boats, so try to look for accommodation near the stops. For trying out gondola without paying a fortune, I recommend gondola ferry church Santa Maria del Giglio where is no bridge and the ferry is just the best way. It costs €2 one-way.

It is good to explore Venice in early morning before it gets flooded by tourist crowds. The best time to visit the San Marco Square is around 9 am. You will have it all for yourself! I also recommend visiting Campanile, the bell tower of St Mark’s. There is an amazing view from the top.

Later, when the crowds are too much, consider visiting the lesser known spots in Venice. Great place to rest just few steps from tourist–filled Piazza San Marco is Giardinetti Reali, or Royal Gardens.

It can be surprising, but some of the most photogenic places in Venice are located on the outer islands. Especially Murano and Burano are paradise for anyone who likes photography: the combination colorful houses and canals has it all. You can get ticket for all the boats (goo choice is ticket for 12 hours for $24). – Veronika Tomanova, VeronikasAdventure.com

Venice

The Italian coast

Italy is surrounded by rugged cliffs, hills and rocky coastlines on both sides. The Amalfi and Adriatic coastlines make popular tourist destinations to holiday or camp by the seaside. The oceans are clean and beautiful, perfect for swimming and along the coastlines, there are plenty of pretty medieval towns to explore.

 Lake Garda

The beautiful Garda Lake, the biggest lake in Italy, makes a great place to spend a family holiday, enjoying the Italian cuisine, swimming in the lake and exploring the surroundings. A great getaway-from-the-city holiday in Italy.

Make sure you check out a few towns when you are there. You can base yourself in a town of your choice but definitely venture out. The ferry across the lake is really convenient to take so take advantage of this and visit multiple spots when you’re there. Each town has a different charm! Also, make sure you go for some ceramics shopping in Malcesine, they have the most beautiful selection of plates, vases and serving ware. Definitely take one home as a souvenir. – Connie, K Is For Kani

Pompei

See the ruins of what once was a sprawling Roman City before it got washed away by the hot boiling lava of Mount Vesuvius hundreds of years ago after a volcanic eruption. An amazing archeological site of Italy!

Food

Food and wine are among the main reasons why we love these countries. The regional cuisine is incomparable, so, when it comes down to food, your decision on where to go should become a bit easier already.

Italy

Italy stands for simple, refined, soulful home cooking. Pasta, ravioli, pizza, lasagna, risotto and fresh seafood are on the menu. The main ingredients are olive oils, fresh tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil and parmesan. All around the world, we try to replicate the art of Italian cooking but we are doomed to fail as the special touch comes from the Italian.


Travel to: Italy


pizza
Pizza

The authentic Italian cuisine alone is reason enough to spend this holiday in Italy, gaining a few pounds in this food haven paradise. Not to forget about the heavenly gelato and desserts to go with your espresso and amaretto in the evening. And remember that the foamy cappuccino’s and lattes are only something you drink in the morning, never ever after dinner!

Here’s a short list of the most delicious Italian dishes:

  • Parmigiana, a dish made with a shallow or deep-fried sliced eggplant filling, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked
  • Pasta, a dish originally consisting of dough made from durum wheat and water, extruded or stamped into various shapes and typically cooked in boiling water
  • Pizza, a yeasted flatbread typically topped with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in an oven

France

baguette
Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

The French kitchen is all about cheese (to go with wine, of course). There are hundreds of cheeses to try out from blue cheese to camembert and brie, and you most certainly will feast o on them with those yummy French cheese platters.

But before we go there, we start the day with a freshly baked croissant and we will munch on the delicious pastries and crepes before we sit down for a delightful sophisticated haute-cuisine meal where potatoes, hearty soups, meat and fish are the main ingredients. Want to have a break from the wines? Try a glass of Calvados, the traditional French cognac in the evening.

french cheese
Photo via Visualhunt.com

Here’s a list of the most famous French dishes:

  • Coquilles Saint-Jacques, an edible saltwater clam cooked in different ways
  • Cheese, like Camembert, Brie and many other types
  • Moules Marinières, a recipe from the west of France: they are mussels cooked in a white wine broth with shallots and parsley

Don’t miss out on food, events and culture all intermingle during the yearly festivities, or “fetes,” in the south of France. The Spanish influence is evident in summer, as you’ll notice plenty abrivados and fete votives held in towns through the region. Bulls and horses run in the streets, colorful flamenco bands perform, and crowded sidewalk cafes serve paella and bull stew. The weather’s warm during the day, but a cold pastis or a pichet of rosé wine cool you down. Deborah, Barefoot Blogger

Getting around

Italy

Here some tips for getting around in Italy in the most time-effective way:

  1. Trains in Italy are generally frequent and cheap but of mixed reliability. There are different train types: high-speed trains (Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, Frecciabianca, Eurostar Italia, Italo trains), Intercity, regional trains (Regionali, Regionali Veloci) and international trains (Eurocity, Euronight).
  2. What’s about cars? In Northern and Central Italy there’s a well-developed system of motorways (autostrade), while in the South it is a bit worse for quality and extent. Every motorway is identified by an A followed by a number on a green backdrop, the A1 (“Autostrada del Sole”) goes through the whole peninsula.
  3. If you want to travel by bus, buy tickets from corner shops, bus company offices or automated machines before boarding (on some systems, tickets might be bought on-board from an automated machine). Buying tickets from the bus driver is generally not possible for the trips going outside the urban area.
  4. Hitchhiking in Italy is related with the hippies and “on the road” kind of culture. Therefore, it is considered out-dated and freaky. You will almost never find Italians hitchhiking, but some tourists get around in this way.
  5. Approaching Italy by sea (via boat or ferry) can be a great experience and is a good alternative to traditional onshore “tours”.
  6. By tour is always a great option to save the hassle out of navigating compicated public transport around the country. Plus, you can meet other like-minded travellers!
italian train
Italian train

France

Here some tips for getting around while in France:

  1. There are many carriers offering domestic flights within France (AirFrance is probably the most popular one).
  2. France has a well-developed system of motorways. Remember to drive on the right. If you need to use car hire services, check in the airports but remember there is good merit in booking car hire in advance.
  3. France is a dreadful country for hitchhiking. Be patient, prepare yourself for a long wait or walk and in the meantime enjoy the landscape: you have a plenty of waiting time ahead of you.
  4. Trains are a great way to get around in France: you can get pretty much from anywhere to anywhere else in this way. For long distances, use the TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse – High-Speed Train; re-branded to ‘inOui’ starting from July 2017) and remember that on which reservations are obligatory.
  5. In France, taxis carry up to 9 passengers and are clearly marked with a ‘TAXI’ panel on top of the vehicle. The ‘TAXI’ panel will be green if the taxi is available and red if not.
  6. Intercity bus service is a relatively new concept in France. Megabus and Ouibus are good options for travelling in this way.
  7. You can cruise down one of the French canals on a river boat to see the sites of the local countryside: a really relaxing way to travel. Two of the most popular rivers are the Seine and the Rhone.

Budget

Italy wins when it comes down to your holiday budget. However, it also depends on where you go. Want to get a coffee at Piazza San Marco in Venice? You will pay an expensive bill. But overall, transport, accommodation, food and drinks are cheaper in Italy. You will be paying with euros in both countries. If you’re looking for a better way to manage your budget, booking a group tour in advance might be an option worth considering. 

Phrases and Words

Italian

Scusa!
Sorry!
Come stai?
How are you?
Il tuo nome?
What’s your name?
Arrivederci
Goodbye
Hands
The most common language in Italy

 

French

Pardon
Sorry
Pas grave
No problem
Allons-y!
Let’s go!
Au revoir
Goodbye
Je suis de…
I’m from…

So, which one is better?

Both France and Italy are little heart stealers and the truth is, no matter which one you pick for your holiday this year, you won’t regret it because you are in for an amazing time. So no need to worry… just simplify: want to indulge in pasta and Roman cities or cheese platters and provincial towns? Next time, you can always flip it around!

Europe is always a good idea! Take a look at the most popular tours travelling to France and through the most popular tours travelling to Italy. 

Stephanie went out to see the world and never came back. From the lowlands of Europe, she traveled eastwards and she is still on the way to seeing the rest of the world. She loves being out in nature, meeting people of different cultures, making music and writing blogs about her travel experiences.

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Italy vs Spain: Which Trip Should You Take?

Italy vs Spain: Which Trip Should You Take?