Italy or Croatia? Which Place is Better to Visit?
Which place to visit in Europe? Which country is the better travel destination – Croatia or Italy?
While finding the perfect travel destination depends a lot on personal choices, there are a few parameters that might help you to find out if you should travel to Italy or Croatia.
Comparing countries is difficult and personal – this is supposed to be a post helping you to find the better destination to travel to. But it is not based on facts, but more based on my experiences and my impressions – so, you might disagree and have a different opinion, but this is for the readers who need some help when they are totally unsure about what to expect.
Spoiler: I think both countries are great and eventually you should visit Croatia and Italy.
But of course, it is not always possible to visit both countries in a short period of time and so I have compiled a list. This list should help you in your decision-making process and finding out whether Croatia or Italy is the best to visit for you at the moment.
Maybe you agree, or maybe you disagree – however, these are not facts but just my opinion.
So, without further ado, here are the arguments for or against Italy/Croatia.
Italy and Croatia both have a long history and buildings that tell a lot about the past. Both countries impress with medieval towns and sights.
In Croatia, we have Dubrovnik with its medieval walls (that are still very-well maintained), Split, Sibenik, Pula, and more places that are perfect for anyone – not just the history geeks.
Then we have the birthplace of the Renaissance – Florence. And let’s not forget all the small old towns that you can find in almost any town and city in Italy.
Italy does not only win against Croatia, but would win this category against most countries, so the winner is clear here!
Which country is better to road trip? Italy or Croatia? My winner is clear: Croatia is the better place to road trip. At least, it is the more relaxed place to road trip. You may know that I drive regularly in Italy, but I am always anxious as heck – driving in Italy stresses me out (and also other non-Italians I have spoken to).
The thing with driving in Italy is: The views are often scenic – depending, of course, on where you drive, but especially in the mountainous northern part of Italy, where the window views are amazing.
However, if you use the highways in Italy, you have to pay. A lot. The tolls are extremely high. But if you use the side streets, it will take you forever to get from one place to the other.
Then, you have the crazy Italian driving style. I‘ll try to say it nicely – drivers in Italy are not very considerate. They tailgate (but somehow often don’t want to overtake), honk their horns whenever they feel like it, speed down narrow streets, and and so on.
Yes, I love Italy and Italians, but driving in Italy has been – so far – not a thing I truly enjoy. In addition to this, cars without a special permit often cannot drive into town centers.
However, many people regularly report that the GPS does not warn them and it can easily happen that you drive there and receive a high fine (ask me, Bergamo charged me 70€). Of course, it was my fault, but with all the stress that alreadys comes with driving in Italy, this is an unnecessary extra problem.
Driving in Croatia, on the other hand, is like a dream come true – although yes, tolls on the highways are extremely high.
Even higher than in Italy, BUT there are many, even more scenic routes that you can drive for free. You can avoid paying toll highways most of the time – even if you drive from Rovinj to Dubrovnik, you can basically – and easily – drive without using highways. And I promise, the roads and views are amazing.
Streets are mostly not narrow, but mostly wide enough – even the mountain roads. And streets, apart from cities and busy towns, are not busy, which makes driving in Croatia a lot of fun.
In addition, the drivers in Croatia are completely different from the drivers in Italy.
They are much more considerate and patient. Yes, I love driving in Croatia – actually, the Croatia road trip has been one of my favorite trips so far (probably even better than driving in Switzerland with its amazing mountain roads).
Croatia and Italy are both NOT budget-friendly destinations, in general.
Croatia is no longer a hidden gem with great prices – but most countries aren’t the most expensive travel destinations in Europe either.
If you visit in the summer months, both places will be expensive – you have pricey Dubrovnik (very pricey Dubrovnik actually) and Hvar in Croatia, and then many, many expensive places in Italy like Florence, Lake Como, Rome… (I could go on forever.)
So, in general, visiting either of the countries in July or August is not the best idea for your budget – but even though Croatia is not a cheap destination, overall, I would definitely say it is still cheaper than Italy in terms of accommodations, food, and activities.
So, if you are budget-conscious, then Croatia is probably the better place to visit, though prices are increasing with the more visitors the country gets.
If you are a dog owner, you might be wondering about whether Italy or Croatia is more dog-friendly.
We have a clear winner: Italy is probably the most dog-friendly country in Europe (along with San Marino).
This comes from two things: my dog loves Italy and the people in Italy love my dog. It is such a tight bond that they have created in the last few years.
So, why is Italy so dog-friendly? First of all, quite a lot of accommodations allow dogs. Sure, not all do, but compared to many other countries in Europe, dogs are often welcomed – and many times, without an extra charge.
Second, Italians show a lot of affection to dogs (at least to smaller dogs). My dog, Puppy, makes friends daily (and he normally is not the friendliest dog) because Italians talk to him in such a beautiful voice (and Italian is such a sweet language that dogs like it in general, I assume).
Next, you can take dogs (smaller and medium-sized at least) into many indoor places. Taking dogs into restaurants is quite common in many countries, but in Italy I was allowed to take my dog into some museums, grocery stores, churches (yes, you have read that right), and other indoor buildings.
Of course, sometimes dogs were not allowed and sometimes dogs were only allowed if carried in bags. In popular places like Pisa and Florence, dogs were not allowed at the main attractions at all. But in the end, no other country has been as dog-friendly as Italy.
What about Croatia? Well, Croatia is not really dog-unfriendly, but it is also not really dog-friendly. If you filter accommodations on Booking that allow dogs, you will realize that a lower percentage than in Italy allows dogs. And thus, that leaves you with a smaller choice of accommodations.
Also, dogs are not allowed in most buildings – I was even kicked out of a bus in Dubrovnik because of my dog.
I did not even check if dogs were allowed because I just assumed it would be fine (especially because he was carried in a little bag).
On the other hand, he was allowed on boats in Dubrovnik and Rovinj.
So, I would not say Croatia is very dog-unfriendly, but Italy is the best place to visit in Italy with a dog.
There is no clear winner and it is a close call, though I would probably say that Italians might win by a hair.
So far, my experiences with Italians have been pretty positive – despite the fact that Italians often vote for right-wing parties. And I have heard from some other visitors, especially colored people, that they experienced some blunt racism even when they visited for only a few days.
Luckily, I haven’t experienced anything like that. Yes, I do look Italian, but people quickly realize I am a foreigner – due to my lack of language skills. But I love how friendly the people are – yes, Italian men are very flirty, but even the women are very friendly.
What about Croatians? Croatians are friendly, too – but somehow, they seem more reserved, and younger women in particular were not as friendly.
As for language, Croatians often speak better English (and many even speak some German,) but even communicating with Italians wasn’t a big issue. So, for me, Italians are the friendlier ones – but I sometimes wonder if the people are so overly friendly in Italy just because they really like my dog?!
I don’t know and I have heard other opinions, so my tip is to be open-minded in this category.
Mountains and Lakes
The Dolomites in northern Italy, South Tyrol to be more precise, is one of the most stunning outdoor places in Europe, if not the world.
With stunning lakes, like Lago di Braies and Lago di Carezza or Lago di Sorapis, and the uniquely-shaped mountain range of the Dolomites, it is one of the most distinctive and unique areas in the world. This alone is reason enough to declare Italy the winner for mountain and lake lovers.
Yes, Croatia is mountainous, too. Driving in the mountains in Croatia is fun and the views are beautiful, too.
But the Dolomites win the race and bring the trophy home for all of Italy.
Both countries have a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and colder (and wetter) winter months. So, both are great for beach vacations in summer, and perfect for sightseeing in spring and fall. And in winter, you can do some winter sports – at least in some areas of both countries.
In northern Italy, it gets really cold though in the winter months, and it is a perfect place for winter sports – but you can do winter sports in Croatia, too.
Italy is known for many things, and though there are some waterfalls in Italy, it surely is not the first thing that come to mind when thinking about Italy.
One of the first attractions that comes to mind when talking about Croatia though is the Plitvice National Park with its many, many waterfalls.
Then there is the Krka National Park with even more waterfalls – so, if you chase amazing waterfalls, then Croatia is the place to go.
Are you a shopping addict? Then head to Italy – Italy is the fashion capital of Europe. Especially around Milan, people are just extremely beautifully dressed, and in general, Italians are the best dressed people.
It does not surprise that many famous fashion designers, like Armani, are Italian.
So, if you are a shopping addict, and especially into fashion, then Italy is the better place to visit.
This is another category that I personally cannot really judge first-hand, but given the many big cities, I assume Italians have a lot of parties taking place. However, it seems that visitors love Croatia as a party destination. Think about the Yacht Weeks and Hvar – the party island. Younger people who like to party tend to flock to Croatia!
Are you looking for a relaxed and still fun beach holiday? Okay, I am not the expert here as I am not the biggest beach person – but both Italy and Croatia have beautiful beaches.
Due to their locations, both countries have many beaches and it will never take too long to find a beach. You can even combine a city trip with some days at the beach. But there are differences.
Many of Croatia‘s beaches are rocky or pebbly beaches – which is not to everyone’s taste. The water is clear and stunning, but it really comes down to whether you like sandy beaches or not.
There are definitely enough beaches to choose from, and if you really want to find a sandy beach, you can find those ones, too. Beaches in Italy are also stunning – not all beaches are sandy here, either, but you can find more of them.
So, both places are great for a beach vacation and I cannot really name a winner.
If asked for one of the best foods in the world, many would probably name Italy in their top 3.
And Italy does have some amazing food – pizza and pasta are just some of the delicious food options. Let’s not forget about antipasto and gelato.
Yes, food in Italy is great and I don’t know anyone who seriously dislikes Italian food. There are, however, some big differences between southern and northern Italian food (I am more into southern Italian food, with its vegetables).
BUT Croatia is actually also known for good food – seafood and meat lovers especially are in heaven in Croatia. Food here is heavier though not bad. Yes, you can find international dishes (like the Indian food in the picture), too but that is not typical Croatian food.
Though I do not eat any seafood or meat, I did have some great dinners there and Croatia for sure did not disappoint.
However, given the overall reputation of food in both countries, Italy wins here.
So, for many, this might be another important aspect. Where do you get better wine? This is another category I am no expert in, but think of Tuscany!
Besides the green rolling hills, it is all about wine – what wine lover does not dream of visiting Italy and trying all the different wines? The biggest wine producer in Italy has also opened its own relais – perfect for anyone who wants to combine a vacation with wine tasting!
Yes, Croatia also has a long history of wine production, and if you drive through Croatia, you will find many vineyards along the way – but when competing against Italy, Croatia gets the short end of the stick.
Where to Go? Croatia or Italy?
This comparison is totally based on my own judgement – of course, I tried to back it up here and there with facts, BUT please do not take it too personally.
It should help you find the perfect destination – we are all different and are all looking for different things when traveling. Both share a lot of similarities, but also some differences.
I do like both countries and have enjoyed my times there. But of course, it is not only we humans that are different, but also our countries. Maybe you agree, or maybe you disagree and have had different experiences. Either way, don’t take my opinion for fact, though I try to be as honest as I can be!