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Planning your next European vacation and can’t decide between Spain versus Italy?

Spain and Italy are two of the most popular European countries to visit. This makes deciding which one to visit a difficult choice. If you don’t have to choose, visit both! But if you can only see one, hopefully, we can help you decide which city is better suited for your vacation.

There is no universal answer to this question since it depends on the type of traveller you are and the sort of vacation you seek to have. Both Mediterranean countries are full of beauty and stunning scenery and are exciting, lively cities. But for all their similarities there are quite a lot of differences between both countries. 

In this post, we are going to cover questions including which country is safer, which one is cheaper, which one has better food and more. While I have visited both countries myself, I don’t know them both well enough to answer these questions. So I asked fellow travel blogger Mark Jeavons of Solo Travel Man to share his knowledge and experience.

Mark is here to tell you which country is better for you to visit. It’s Spain versus Italy. Are you ready for the showdown? Let’s go!

Seeing the Trevi fountain at night is one of the many reasons to visit Rome, Italy

Is Spain or Italy better to visit?

Ask most travellers and they’ll tell you that Italy is the better destination compared to Spain. However, personally, I would choose Spain every time. Undoubtedly, Italy has several incredible and stunning destinations to visit, from the sublime canals of Venice to the glorious countryside in Tuscany. 

But for me, there’s something about Spain that draws me back to it every time. I’ve visited the country extensively. I lived and worked in Madrid as an English teacher several years ago. That is when I fell in love with the Spanish culture and way of life. Spanish street art is beautiful and adds a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ to its city streets.

Whether it’s their laid-back attitude to life or social warmth, the Spanish are extremely friendly. And it doesn’t matter whether you can speak the language or not. That’s not to say that Italians are not friendly, but life in Spain seems somewhat easier and more relaxed. 

In my opinion, Spain is a better-organized country as well. It has a fantastic high-speed train system that is easy to use. It allows you to travel from Andalusia in the south, to the north rather easily. 

I can’t say the same about Italy’s train system. During a recent trip to Italy, I had planned to catch a train from Naples to Rome. Unfortunately, the train was delayed for several hours meaning I missed a whole day of exploring the capital. 

And when it comes to each country’s capital city, well, my heart lies in Spain. I much prefer Madrid to Rome. Rome is an amazing place, but I found it to be extremely overcrowded with tourists. 

Author’s opinion – Spain is the clear winner

But this is all, of course, very subjective. Let’s answer some key questions to truly answer the question about which country is better suited to your needs and vacation desires: Spain or Italy. 

Cadiz

Is Spain or Italy cheaper?

Spain is a slightly cheaper country when it comes to accommodation and food and drink. This remains true even in seemingly expensive cities like Madrid or Barcelona. A glass of wine at a hotel lobby bar will cost you a mere €3-4.

It’s easy to find cheap accommodation, even in Madrid. There are several neighbourhoods in the capital including Malasana or Lavapies where you can find cheap bars with fantastic tapas. 

On the opposite end of things, several of the main tourist places in Italy can be very expensive. This is especially true in the likes of Venice, Rome, and the beautiful Lake Como. 

Some good news is that the further south you visit in Italy, the cheaper it gets. I have visited Naples and the Pompeii region and this area was considerably cheaper compared to cities in the north of the country that I’ve visited such as Milan, which is Italy’s modern, fashion capital. 

The south of Italy is considered the poorer area of the country, with a lack of jobs and a worse economy. This explains why it’s cheaper compared to the north, which is considered the prosperous, business centre of Italy. 

There is a belief that Italians in the north of the country are more hardworking, career-oriented people. Whereas people in the south are warm, friendlier and life is more relaxed. 

Winner – Spain is cheaper than Italy

Valencia

Spain versus Italy, which country is safer?

Both Spain and Italy are considered very safe countries to visit. Having said that, it’s believed that Spain is the safer of these two countries to visit. When it comes to violent crimes including assault and armed robbery, Italy has higher figures than Spain. 

The official figures show that Italy has a moderate level of crime right across the board from every type of crime including being mugged, and having your car stolen. Overall crime is believed to have increased over the past three years. 

You’re more likely to be insulted or subjected to a physical attack because of your skin colour or ethnicity in Italy than you are in Spain. That’s not to paint a picture that Italy is racist and high on crime while Spain is paradise. 

Overall, crime is moderate in Italy while it’s low in Spain. As I say, they are both very safe countries to visit. I have never experienced any troubles when visiting either country. 

Of course, you should be vigilant when travelling to either Spain or Italy just as you would any other country. Petty crimes like theft are more likely to occur in bigger cities, especially touristy cities. 

Winner – Spain is safer

Travel tip: Theft on the metro is very common in Barcelona. If you wear a backpack, hold it in front of you when riding the metro. And for men, don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket as it’s very likely to disappear. Pickpockets in Barcelona are professionals so always keep an eye on your belongings.

Stay safe on the metro with these travel essentials:
Wear a backpack that locks
Infinity scarf with zipper to hide your valuablesLocking belt bag with RFID protection

Is Spain or Italy more beautiful?

This is a trick question, but we’re going to try and answer it here.

The general consensus is that Italy is more beautiful than Spain. In fact, Italy is thought to be the most beautiful country in Europe. It is hard to disagree. Italy is home to some of the most beautiful places you’ll find anywhere in the world. 

There are numerous spots worth visiting in Italy, from the amazing Roman architecture that is everywhere you look in Rome, to the beauty of Florence and the stunning Almalfi coast. It is a picturesque country that is spoilt with scenic beauty spots. 

It is without a doubt worth visiting Italy at least once in your life, for sure! That’s not to say that Spain isn’t beautiful, far from it. Spain has many beautiful places as well. In the north, you have glorious countryside in the Galicia region, and in the south, you have many beautiful historical cities like Granada, Seville and Cordoba. 

Although Italy has the most ancient Roman sites in the world, Spain has its fair share too, as well as heritage and UNESCO sites. Whether it’s the amazing Alhambra Palace and military complex in Granada or the Royal Alcazar in Seville, pictured below, there’s a lot to choose from. 

Winner – Italy is more beautiful than Spain

Seville Alcazar

Spain versus Italy FAQ

Still not sure whether you should visit Spain or Italy for your next European vacation? Let’s answer some commonly asked questions about these two fantastic countries:

What are the best places to visit in Spain?

There are so many amazing places to visit in Spain that it’s hard to single out just a few here. It depends on what kind of experience you want to have. Do you prefer visiting cities or going on an adventure in nature? 

If you’re thinking about a city break in Spain, then Barcelona is the obvious choice. The Catalan capital is the country’s number one tourist attraction. Barcelona boasts close to 10 million tourists visiting the city per year. 

Barcelona is a beautiful city in Spain worth visiting.

As I previously mentioned, Madrid is my favourite city in Spain. I personally would choose it over Barcelona, which can get extremely crowded with tourists, especially during the peak summer months. 

On the other hand, if you fancy an adventure in more remote parts of Spain, then you should consider walking the Camino de Santiago. This is a popular walking trail across northern Spain. It is very historical and is said to be the route that the apostle St.James used to spread the word of Jesus. 

There are several different Camino trails across Europe that all lead to Camino de Santiago. Located in the northwest of Spain, it is believed to be the resting place of St. James. 

Nowadays, the Camino is very popular with tourists and students from all over the world, especially during the summer months. I walked the Camino back in 2013 and it was one of the best experiences of my life. It’s a great way to see lesser-known parts of Spain, to learn about its culture and to make lifelong friends. 

Other places I would recommend visiting in Spain include several places in Andalusia, the southern region of the country. Seville and Granada are two of the most popular places to visit here. There are many interesting and beautiful parts such as the popular beach city of Cadiz, as well as Ronda, which is famous for its awesome bridge that is spectacular and pictured below.  

Ronda Bridge is a reason to pick visiting Spain versus Italy.

Which is the best place to visit in Italy?

Choosing a destination in Italy is also very difficult as there are so many beautiful spots! I would recommend spending a few weeks travelling around this country to visit as many tourist sights as possible. 

Of course, the likes of Rome, Venice and Milan are all extremely popular tourist destinations. If I had to recommend just one place, however, it would be Lake Como in the north of Italy. 

Lake Como is easily reachable from Milan. It takes just a few hours by train, so it is possible to visit for a day trip. But you really should spend at least 2-3 days there. Lake Como is such a stunning place, based at the foot of the Alps. It is full of stunning scenery and a beautiful small village. 

And if you’re curious about visiting the south of Italy, I highly recommend visiting the Amalfi coast. You can visit this beautiful region from Naples quite easily by train, which takes just a couple of hours.

The Amalfi coast is known to be one of the most gorgeous places in the whole country. It boasts glorious scenery, beaches and several small towns and villages based on top of cliffs, offering amazing views. 

It is another very popular tourist destination and quite pricey to visit. I would suggest visiting this part of Italy outside of the summer season when prices will be lower and with fewer crowds. 

Granada. Alhambra
Granada, Alhambra

When is the best time to visit Spain or Italy?

I would recommend avoiding both Spain and Italy in the summer months. This is the peak season for both countries and when accommodation prices will be most expensive. It’s also the hottest time of the year and riding the metro can be unbearable.

In recent years, both Spain and Italy have experienced extended heat waves during the summer months. Temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for multiple days make for a rather uncomfortable vacation. 

Instead, visiting these European destinations during their off-peak seasons is ideal. Whether it be during early spring or late autumn, the weather will still be exceptional and costs will be lower. You could even visit during the winter months. Temperatures will be much cooler and great for sightseeing, as long as you’re not looking for a beach vacation.

Which country has the best food?

Italy is famous the world over for having some of the best cuisine anywhere. Most people would agree that it has better food than Spain. Whether it’s pizza, pasta or other culinary delights, visiting Italy is a feast for the tastebuds just as much as it is for the senses. 

If you want to experience the best cuisine that Italy has to offer, then I would suggest a visit to Naples, especially if you’re a pizza lover. Naples is believed to be where pizza was invented, and the best place to find real, authentic Italian pizza. 

I spent three or four days there ordering nothing but pizzas at several really good restaurants. The prices were surprisingly low and the quality of the pizzas was out of this world. These were easily the best pizzas I’ve ever tried!

In the battle of Spain versus Italy, Italian food takes the win.
Pizza in Naples, Italy

Spain is also famous for its great food, although their popular dishes may be less well-known abroad. Traditional dishes including paella and tapas are celebrated throughout the country. To try a traditional plate of paella, I would recommend visiting the beautiful city of Valencia on the east coast. This is where the dish is believed to have originated. 

Tapas are popular in all restaurants throughout Spain. Tapas translates to light snacks and are traditional appetizers that you enjoy before a main meal. Many tapas come free of charge, which is always a bonus. 

Another culinary capital in Spain is Bilbao, which is a major city in the Basque country of Spain in the north. Bilbao is renowned for having some of the best restaurants in the whole country, showcasing exceptional Basque dishes, which range from traditional cod dishes to lamb stews. 

Conclusion: Which is better Spain or Italy?

That concludes my blog post on which is better to visit between these two fantastic European countries. It isn’t an easy choice as they both have so much to offer. In my humble opinion, Spain is better to visit than Italy, but you truly can’t go wrong with either place.

Winner (according to guest author Mark Jeavons) – Spain!

On the one hand, there’s no place in the world quite like Italy, with so many historical sites, beautiful spots and of course, food. But then you have Spain, which is also full of culture and history and has top-quality food from tapas to paella. 

Whether you decide to visit either Spain or Italy (or hopefully both), I can guarantee you’ll fall in love with what you discover. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through my list of which is better: Spain or Italy and this has helped you decide on your next European adventure!

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Spain versus Italy, where should you go?
The ultimate guide on Spain versus Italy for your next vacation.
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✈️ Compare airfare prices on Expedia for the best deal