Each year, millions of tourists from all over the world visit Europe to immerse themselves in the beautiful landscapes and the ancient heritage of the continent. Both Italy and Spain are steeped in culture, have delicious cuisines, numerous galleries and museums of international significance.
Italy and Spain are undoubtedly Europe’s most popular vacation hotspots which can make it difficult to decide which of these countries you should visit. While it’s true to say that both nations are extremely enjoyable to explore and have a lot to offer tourists before you make a decision about where to visit it’s worth taking a few moments to compare the pros and cons of the two countries.
Culture, Heritage And The Arts – Italy Vs Spain.
Italy, and more specifically Florence, is the birthplace of the 14 Century Renaissance that revolutionized the art, culture and science of Europe and, eventually, the entire world. However, even before the Renaissance, Italy was one of the most important cultural hubs in Europe, with architecture, art and literature that epitomized the Gothic, Romanesque and Medieval periods.
One of the major influences in the art and culture of Italy has traditionally been the Catholic church, based in the Vatican in Rome. Not only did the church patronize hundreds of the nation’s top artists, such as Michelangelo and Raphael, but the churches, cathedrals and basilicas were also safe houses where the finest works of art could be displayed for the public to appreciate.
Visitors to Italy are absolutely spoilt for choice, especially if they have an interest in art, culture and history. Italy has some of the world’s most famous opera houses, including the legendary Teatro Alla Scala in Milan. You can also discover the history of Italy by visiting the nation’s many archeological sites, one of the most famous being the Colosseum in Rome although there are thousands of sites scattered all through the country.
Spain’s artistic and cultural heritage has been inspired by both the Catholic church and North African Muslims (The Moors), who conquered the Iberian coast in the 8th Century and incorporated the region into the Islamic caliphate. This period made a lasting impression on Spain’s culture, cuisine and style of art.
Spain has an impressive artistic heritage, which includes great artists such as Salvador Dali, Gaudi, Goya and the beloved cubist master, Picasso. There are plenty of galleries in Spain to visit, mainly in the Tier 1 cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, but also in some of the smaller towns and villages.
Although Spain doesn’t have as many UNESCO world heritage sites or world-famous landmarks as Italy does, there is still plenty to see and do. Some of Spain’s top attractions include La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Palacio Real in Madrid, the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and La Alhambra in Granada.
Even so, for tourists visiting Europe Italy has far more to offer in terms of culture, art and historical monuments. From the Italian Alps in the North to the stunning Amalfi Coast and Sardinia in the South, Italy is a magical land that attracts well over 60 million tourists each year, has 58 UNESCO world heritage sites and has some of the most beautiful cities on the continent.
Cities In Italy Vs Spain.
This is not even close. Both countries have some wonderful cities to explore but in terms of sheer variety, Italy is head and shoulders above Spain. From the Eternal City of Rome to the bustling metropolis of Milan, from the picturesque city of Florence to the floating city of Venice, each Italian city has its own unique characteristics and tourist attractions to explore. Italy has many other smaller towns like Sienna, Lucca, Pisa and Palermo that are so beautiful as well.
Cuisine Of Italy Vs Spain.
Italy and Spain have very different types of cuisine although both rely on fresh ingredients to create a huge assortment of classic dishes. Spanish cuisine is very influenced by the nation’s North African neighbors, and although Italian food is also somewhat influenced by North African flavors and spices, particularly in Sicily, there’s a much broader range of traditions in Italy.
For instance, unlike in Spain, each region in Italy has its own very distinctive dishes and in some cases uses completely different ingredients. For example, in Venice, and much of Northern Italy, the dishes regularly use rice instead of pasta. This diversity makes Italy a food buff’s heaven, with so many specialties to try from place to place.
Where Spain does compete with Italy is with its wines. The Spanish climate is perfect for growing grapes that produce sharp-tasting red and white wines. Even so, Italian wine is still in a league of its own.
Most Spanish food is based on rice and much of it uses North African spices and herbs. Of course, Spain’s most popular dish, the paella, is served all over the country, as are potato omelets and fresh salad side dishes. However, when compared to Italy, Spain’s cuisine is far less diverse and although tasty, doesn’t reach the artistic heights of Italy’s incredible food culture.
Affordability – Italy Vs Spain.
Generally speaking, Spain and Italy are fairly similar in terms of affordability. Of course, this will depend on the type of hotels, restaurants and attractions that you frequent since in both countries you can travel on a budget or enjoy a jet-setting vacation of exceptional luxury.
If you’re looking for ways to save money while traveling in Italy then some group tours offer very competitive prices. However, even if you’re traveling on your own, you can still find great bargains for hotels and holiday vacation properties in Italy.
The average price of a meal for 1 person in an inexpensive restaurant in Italy is around 15 Euros, as compared to 12 Euros in Spain. For a 3-course meal in a mid-range restaurant, the average cost per head in Italy is around 60 Euros while in Spain it’s slightly cheaper at 50 Euros. If you’re grabbing a quick meal in a fast food restaurant, such as McDonald’s, the costs are pretty much the same in both countries, averaging at around 8 Euros per head.
If you’re traveling around on your vacation a one-way ticket on local transport, such as the Metro or a bus, costs around 1.50 Euros in Italy compared to 1.40 Euros in Spain. For a one-month travel pass, within a city or region, the price averages at 35 Euros per person in Italy and 40 Euros per person in Spain. To drive 1 km in a taxi, you pay 1.30 Euros in Italy as opposed to 1.10 Euros in Spain.
Overall, Spain is more affordable than Italy but given that Italy has a lot more to offer visitors to the country the extra costs are probably worth it!
Ease Of Travel – Italy Vs Spain.
Italy and Spain both have well-developed public transport systems although Italy’s bus and rail lines are much more extensive. The trains, buses and Metro systems are very modern and comfortable in both nations but in the major cities, they can get extremely overcrowded during rush hours.
If you’re planning to rent a car and drive yourself around while you’re on vacation then you’ll find that the Italian roads, although well-maintained, are much more difficult to drive on. This is mainly because Italian drivers have some very dangerous habits, such as overtaking on the inside and coming to sudden halts, even at high speeds! By contrast, Spanish drivers are much more laid back and you’ll find it easier to adapt to getting around by car.
Safety – Italy Vs Spain.
When you’re visiting either Spain or Italy you should have no concerns about your own personal safety. Both countries are extremely safe although there are areas of the major cities that are worth avoiding due to elevated crime rates.
Generally, the main problem for visitors to both countries are pickpockets which deliberately target tourists and locations that they know tourists often frequent. Fortunately, there are super easy ways to keep your possessions safe while you’re on holiday so it should be nothing to worry about.
Overall, including all types of crime, Italy has 67% more crime than Spain. However, even though this seems like a stark difference, the majority of the crimes in Italy occur in certain parts of the Tier 1 cities which you can easily avoid during your vacation. If you’re ever in any doubt about which areas of the city to avoid then you can just ask the staff at your hotel and they’ll be happy to let you know the districts to steer clear of! Measuring crime is tricky. For example in the United States a particular crime might be a felony in one state but a misdemeanor in another. Countries and cities often smudge crime statistics to make them look better.
Compared to Philadelphia, Spain and Italy are extremely safe. I have never had any issues in Italy at all. However, my friends were pickpocketed when we were traveling in Spain (once in Barcelona and once in Madrid).
What Type Of Vacation Are You Looking For?
Spain has a great reputation for its beach holidays, in fact, the Southern Spanish coast is one of the favorite destinations for European holidaymakers looking for a simple sun, sea and sand vacation.
Italy, on the other hand, also has fantastic beach locations, such as Sardinia, but the nation’s cities are perfect for a cultural holiday, the Italian Alps have some of the best skiing in Europe and the countryside is perfect for an agrotourism vacation.
Essentially, for most types of vacation Italy is a far better choice for tourists than Spain. You can do everything in Italy that you can do in Spain while enjoying better food, a more diverse cultural heritage and a magnificent range of galleries to explore.
I do love the historic part of Southern Spain, particularly the regions surrounding the cities of Granada, Almeria, Cordoba and Seville. Italy also does not have an artform like the Flamenco which has deep connections to the art forms of India.
Italy Is Better For Visitors To Europe Than Spain.
Even though every European nation has its own unique charms and characteristics, Italy is by far the continent’s premier destination for tourists from all over the world. The absolutely amazing architecture, galleries, museums, cuisine and the natural beauty of the country’s landscapes, all make Italy the top choice for visitors to Europe.