Comparing two destinations with each other is almost impossible, it’s like comparing apples with oranges. Each destination has something different and unique to offer visitors when it comes to historical attractions, cuisine and culture.
European countries Italy and France are two of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. The latest data shows that Italy received 47.7 million visitors in 2013, while France received a staggering 83 million visitors in the same year. With so many people travelling to France and Italy every year, there are bound to be many people who will have to choose between travelling to either Italy or France. As you know we’re all about making travel easy, which is why we’ve had a stab at comparing the two destinations with each other, to help you make your decision easier. Let’s look at what each country has to offer:
France: crème brûlée, crepes, soufflé, macaroons, croissants, ratatouille, escargot, truffles, duck l’orange, filet mignon and foie gras….
Italy: salami, calzone, pizza margherita, cannelloni, lasagne, ravioli, carbonara, bolognese, risotto, carpaccio, ricotta, mascarpone, parmesan and gelato.
How does one choose between duck l’orange and lasagne or crème brûlée and gelato? The answer is, you can’t. Italian and French cuisines have taken over the world. Can you imagine life without croissants or pizza? Food tours through both France and Italy should be on every traveller’s bucket list. Burgundy, Paris and Provence are the foodie hotspots in France. In Burgundy you can taste fine wine while eating hearty traditional French meals at country style Michelin star restaurants. Paris is all about champagne, fine dining and bistro lunches. In Provence you can stroll through fresh food markets, picking out the freshest fish, finest cheeses and most succulent meats, before heading out to the famous Provencal lavender fields for a picnic.
In Italy it is not so easy to choose the most popular food regions, because every region has a specialty dish that is known in just about every corner of the world. Pizza comes from Naples, salami was first made in Northern Italy, parmesan cheese is from Parma and Bolognese sauce is from Bologna. Like with French cuisine, you will never have enough time to taste all there is to taste from Italy. So if you are struggling to decide between going to France, to have ratatouille in the shadow of the Eiffel tower, or to Italy for a pizza next to the Pantheon, we know how you feel.
France: Palace of Versailles, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mont Saint-Michel, Somme Battlefields, Charles de Gaulle, Notre Dame Cathedral, Abbaye Saint-Victor, Palace of the Popes, Paris Catacombs and the Grotte de Font de Gaume…
Italy: Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica, Julius Caesar, the Roman Empire, Augustus, Roman Forum, Colosseum, Marco Polo, Spanish Steps, Pompeii, Vatican, Florence Cathedral, Arch of Constantine, Castel Sant’Angelo and Palatine Hill.
Verdict: You will be hard presses to find two countries with a richer history than these two. France and Italy is perhaps the two most popular destinations for history loving travellers in the world. People from all over the world go to Italy to see how Emperors lived and Gladiators fought in Rome, and to France to see where Marie Antoinette once lived, in the lap of luxury at the Palace of Versailles, or to visit Napoleon’s final resting place at Les Invalides in Paris. Italy pips France in this category. The Roman Empire built truly amazing structures like the Roman Forum, Circus Maximus and the Colosseum. Very few (if any) countries in the world, have as many popular and historically significant sites as Italy does. So if you are a history buff, and you can only go to one of these two nations at a time, head to Italy (then to France on your next trip).
Art & Culture
Italy: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Sistine Chapel, Statue of David, The Last Supper, The Vatican, The Creation of Adam, Luciano Pavarotti, Venice Carnival and the Teatro alla Scala Opera House…
France: Claude Monet, The Louvre, Palais Garnier Opera House, Mona Lisa, Aphrodite of Milos, The Moneylender and His Wife, The Thinker, Whistler’s Mother and the Musee d’Orsay.
Verdict: Italy and France are home to the world’s most celebrated pieces of art. Most of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures were either created by an Italian or French artist or it currently resides in either of the two countries. The Sistine Chapel, Statue of David and The Last Supper in Italy, and the Mona Lisa, Aphrodite of Milos and the Thinker in France, are the western world’s most famous works of art. Millions of people from all over the world travel to Italy and France’s museums, cathedrals and chateaus every year to view these celebrated works of art. Opera originates from Italy, so it should come as no surprise that the world’s most famous opera houses are located in Italy. The Teatro di San Carlo in Naples and the Teatro alla Scala in Milan are arguably the world’s most famous opera houses. In the 16th century the popularity of Opera spread from Italy to France. In 1861 construction started on the Palais Garnier opera house in Paris. To this day the opera house is one of the most striking buildings in Paris, and it is one of the most important and prestigious Opera houses in the world. Italy and France are without a doubt the world’s best arts and culture destinations. We have another dead heat here. One cannot compare seeing the Mona Lisa to seeing the Statue of David. I have no other option then to recommend travelling to both countries, which is not a bad option if you ask me.
Italy: The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, Colosseum, Cathedral of Monreale, Villa del Balbianello, San Michele in Foro, Pantheon, Saint Mark’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Basilica…
France: Chambord Castle, Arc de Triomphe, Palais du Louvre, Sacré-Cœur, Panthéon, Château de Chambord, Le Mont-Saint-Michel, Sacré-Cœur and Les Invalides.
Verdict: It doesn’t get easier does it? How can you compare the Arc de Triomphe with the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or the Panthéon (France) with the Pantheon (Italy)? With architecture beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It’s difficult to stay unbiased when pushed for an answer on who has the most beautiful buildings, France or Italy? If you’re fascinated by the history of France and the renaissance, then you will be more interested in French architecture. If the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, the history of the Catholic Church and the stories of Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius, Nero and Augustus interests you, then you will love Italian architecture. The Roman Empire dominated the western world for hundreds of years. They built hundreds of amphitheatres throughout their empire, which are to this day among the most impressive structures ever built. For instance in France there is a Roman Amphitheatre called the Nimes Arena, which is among the best preserved ancient Roman sites in the world. You will be hard pressed to find a city with more beautifully preserved historical buildings than Paris, but the same can be said for Rome. France has perhaps preserved and restored their historical buildings better than Italy has. But areas like the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, are home to more impressive ancient structures than any ancient site in France. My (totally bias) choice in this category would be Italy.
Italy: Colosseum, the Canals of Venice, History, Amalfi Coast and the La Dolce Vita lifestyle.
France: Eiffel Tower, French Riviera, Champagne, Cannes, Paris and cheese and wine!
The Final Verdict: At the end of the day travel comes down to taste and interest. France is more refined while Italy is raw. It’s easier to travel in France, but easier is not always better. The numbers show that France is a more popular destination than Italy, but I believe that Italy steals more hearts than France. Italy has more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than France (49 vs 38), which means that you will be able to tick off more “bucket list” experiences in Italy than what you would in France. However France has the undeniable allure of one the most visited cities in the world, Paris. The cobble streets, corner cafes, Eiffel Tower and Seine River all adds to the romance and charm of Paris. Paris is always a good idea, but all roads lead to Rome….