When it comes to the top destinations to visit in Europe, Spain and Italy are often at the top of most traveller’s bucket lists, so the question is, which should you visit first – Spain or Italy? Both countries are known for their excellent cuisine, rich culture and stunning natural landscapes, so no matter which one you pick, you are guaranteed a terrific trip. If you are finding it impossible to choose between the two, here is our take on some of the best bits of both, to make your decision that little bit easier…
If mouth-wateringly good food is a key requirement of your next holiday destination, then you’ll be more than satisfied in both Spain or Italy, but there are some key differences between these countries’ cuisines. Italy, the land of pizza and pasta, is all about indulgence. Whether it's gelato in Rome, tagliatelle with truffles in Umbria or rich Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese in Emilia Romagna, your taste buds are in for a real treat. In Spain, the food is all about variation. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of different tapas dishes to taste, from spicy patatas bravas and gambas al ajillo (shrimp in garlic sauce), to the popular Spanish omelet. One of our favourite places for tapas tasting is San Sebastian, a cool coastal city that has its very own type of tapas known as pintxos.
With more UNESCO World Heritage sites than any other country on the planet, Italy has got to be our top pick when it comes to culture. There’s the Colosseum and Vatican City in Rome; Saint Mark's Basilica in Venice; the fabulous Florence Cathedral; and the unique Trulli houses in Puglia, to name just a few. Italy might be king when it comes to culture, but Spain is a worthy runner up, with its quirky Gaudi creations in Barcelona’s Park Guell; the beautiful old buildings in Santiago de Compostela, a renowned pilgrimage site; and the stunning Seville cathedral, which is the largest Gothic building in all of Europe.
If you are a lover of all things wildlife, Spain might just top the list when it comes to the question of Spain or Italy. The country has the second-highest number of UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserves in the world and its network of National Parks, 15 in total, are home to some exceptional (and endangered) wildlife species including brown bears, wolves, Iberian imperial eagles, bearded vultures and the elusive Iberian lynx. That said, wildlife lovers will also be in their element in Italy. Venture into the country’s hinterland to see everything from Mariscan brown bears and golden eagles to the Abruzzo chamois; a goat-like antelope.
We might just have to call it a tie when it comes to choosing between Spain or Italy in the category of best scenery. Both countries are known for their glittering coastlines and excellent beaches, as well as their romantic rolling countryside and dramatic mountain trails. On a trip to Spain, catch some sun on the beautiful beaches of Ibiza; enjoy some sweet solitude in the Picos de Europa Mountains; and see the salt marshes, sea cliffs, forests, and beaches of the UNESCO protected Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. In Italy, experience the glitz and glamour of the Amalfi Coast; top up your tan on the beautiful beaches in Puglia, in the heel of Italy's boot; drive through the undulating hills of Tuscany and Umbria on an epic road trip; and set off on heavenly hikes through the Dolomites Mountains.