Greece or Italy? Which Destination Is Better For You?

greece or italy
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Dreaming of a Mediterranean vacation but unsure whether to choose Greece or Italy? Well, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together a comparison of these two beautiful countries, discussing what’s on offer in each to help you choose which one is right for you. 

There are plenty of reasons to visit either; they’re both wonderful counties known for their warm climates, beautiful landscapes, pristine beaches, delicious food, and incredible history. But there are differences between them that make them more suitable for some people than others. 

Whether you’re a city lover or an island hopper, whether you want to try new food every day, shop till you drop, party until dawn, or view world-famous artworks, we will help you find the perfect destination to suit your vacation style!

Greece or Italy: History and Art 

The Colosseum of Rome.
Photo by David Kohler on Unsplash

There is no doubt that history lovers will be in their element in either of these two destinations. Greece, the birthplace of western civilization, is filled with the remnants of ancient temples, monuments, and arenas, all with names straight out of mythology. Where else can you climb Mount Olympus, the home of the gods, run on the first-ever Olympic track, visit the birthplace of Aphrodite, or the home of Odysseus? Plus, it’s home to one of the most recognizable historic sites in the world, the Athens Acropolis and Parthenon. 

There are not many countries more steeped in history than Greece, but Italy is one of them. Italy leads the world for the most UNESCO World Heritage sites with a whopping 58, including the entire historic center of Rome, with its Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Trevi fountain, and Sistine Chapel.

Then there’s Florence, the birthplace of the renaissance and home to works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. There’s Pompeii, where you can get a glimpse of ancient Roman life, and Milan where you can view one of the world’s most famous paintings, da Vinci’s Last Supper. The list goes on and on, and you could spend a year in Italy without being able to explore all its historical, architectural, and artistic wonders. 

Conclusion: Though it’s amazing that Greece can be beaten in history, we have to give this one to Italy for sheer abundance. 

Greece or Italy: Islands and Beaches

Greece has 6000 islands to explore.
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Greece’s beautiful islands, scattered across the Aegean and Ionian seas, are one of the main reasons that tourists flock to this country in their millions every year. The collection of 6000 islands are home to some of Europe’s best beaches, most pristine waters, and most beautiful holiday destinations. There’s an island to suit every taste, from the glamour of Mykonos to the buzz of Zakynthos, historical Crete, to laid-back Lipsi, but why pick just one? Who hasn’t dreamt of a holiday spent sailing lazily from island to island, snorkeling, swimming, sunbathing, and exploring? 

While Italy’s islands might not be as well known, they are still pretty special. Sardinia is a beach lover’s paradise, while Capri is an education in glamour, and Sicily offers volcanic landscapes, ancient ruins, great food, and modern artistic flair. Or how about visiting Italy’s most southern island Lampedusa, with its otherworldly beautiful beach Spiaggia Dei Conigli?

Back on the mainland, you might have to hunt for the beaches amidst the rugged stretches of cliff-lined coastline. But, between the northern shores of Portofino, Adriatic Rimini, the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, and Tropea down on the ‘toe’ you’ll undoubtedly find a stunning beach to suit you in Italy. 

Conclusion: While Italy’s beaches are beautiful, we’re giving this one to Greece for numbers and accessibility.

Greece or Italy: Natural Wonders

Italy's Dolomites are a dramatic sight.
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It’s not all about the beaches; both of these destinations have incredible natural landscapes well worth exploring. Why not take a rowing boat through Melissani, ‘the Cave of the Nymphs’, in Greece? Head to Lemnos to explore the Gomati Desert or hike the Stone Forest in northern Epirus. And every visitor should see the strange karst rock formations of Meteora and visit the ancient monasteries sitting on top of them. 

In Italy, you can hike or maybe ski the jagged peaks of the Dolomites. You can take a tour of Italy’s spectacular lakes: romantic Como, grand Garda, beautiful Orta, and serene Maggiore. You can soak in the geothermally heated pools of Cascate del Mulino, explore the magical Blue Grotto of Capri, and climb the tiered limestone cliffs of Sicily. And of course, visit Europe’s most active volcano, the constantly smoking Mount Etna.

Conclusion: For the sheer drama of the Dolomites, Mount Etna, and the Lakes, we’re giving this one to Italy. 

Greece or Italy: Towns and Cities

Italy has many beautiful cites.
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There is no shortage of beautiful cities in Italy, each with its own distinct character. There’s Rome with its ancient wonders, artistic Florence with its Renaissance frescoes, enchanting Venice, with its waterways and lagoon, modern Milan the epicenter of all things fashion and shopping, and underrated Naples, known for its chaotic attitude and surprising beauty. You can visit peaceful Siena nestled amidst the beautiful Tuscan countryside or fair Verona of Shakespearean fame. Or take a trip to the colorful string of towns that make up photogenic Cinque Terre.

While it’s true that most people visit Greece to go island rather than city-hopping, it’s not without its urban charms. Athens is the oldest capital city in Europe, home to some of the most recognizable historical sights in the world, a cosmopolitan shopping, art, and restaurant scene, and some thriving nightlife. Thessaloniki is a little quieter than Athens, but it has its own impressive history, as evidenced by the Byzantine Castle overlooking the city. You’ll also find plenty of excellent restaurants and a vibrant, youthful party scene. The fortified walls, castles, and palaces of Rhodes Town and Heraklion make for fascinating viewing, while Corfu Town blends history and elegance with modern convenience. 

Conclusion: Italy’s cities are more plentiful, more beautiful, and filled with bucket-list experiences like seeing Juliet’s balcony, the Colosseum, or taking a gondola ride. It’s a win for Italy. 

Greece or Italy: Nightlife

Venice by night
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The nightlife in Italy is all about enjoying Aperitivo time, (early evening cocktails) before a long dinner with plenty of wine then heading out for the night. You can find fantastic nightlife hubs in all the cities; Milan has perhaps the most modern scene, while Rome is known for its live music, and Naples is always lively. Or head to the Versilia area of the Tuscan coast for some of the best beach parties in Italy. Rimini on the East Coast is known for its festivals, and the Riviera Romagnola draws young people from all over Europe every summer to party till dawn along the endless stretch of bars and clubs. 

Greece has long been known as one of the biggest party spots in Europe. Mykonos is arguably the most famous island for nightlife, and it prides itself on its cool clubs and Ibiza-esque vibe. For something less exclusive, try the party strips of Kavos in Corfu, Faliraki in Rhodes, or Laganas in Zakynthos. Skiathos and Kos also know how to have a good time. If you want to party city-style, head to Athens, where you’ll find cool cocktail lounges, glamorous bars, hipster hangouts, lgbtq+ venues, and super clubs. 

Conclusion: While Italy’s nightlife is undoubtedly very cool, it’s geared more towards locals than tourists. Greece’s nightlife is more inclusive and accessible, so we’re giving them this one.

Greece or Italy: Food and drink

Italy has a world class reputation for culinary excellence.
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The beauty of Greek food is in its simplicity. The ethos of Mediterranean cuisine is to take excellent fresh ingredients and do very little to them. For example, the greek salad is straightforward yet delicious due to the freshness of vine-ripened tomatoes, salty feta, and drizzles of world-famous olive oil. Bliss! 

We’re also big fans of lightly grilled fresh seafood, vine leaves stuffed with fragrant lemon rice, courgette and feta fritters, and souvlaki skewers of perfectly cooked meat. For heartier fare, try the ultimate Greek dish, moussaka, oven-baked layers of spiced meat, and eggplant in a creamy bechamel sauce. And be sure to sample the traditional aperitif, Ouzo, an aniseed-flavored spirit drunk with a dash of water and a cry of Yamas

Italy has a global reputation for culinary excellence and you’ll find a lot more diversity between regions than in Greece. Each area has a traditional dish or signature way of preparing it, and a tour around the country is a chance to sample many different delicacies. 

In Tuscany, try Bistecca Fiorentina (steak of Florence) or fresh ravioli stuffed with ricotta. In Naples, the birthplace of pizza, sample the most delicious Margherita of your life. Be sure to try the fried sardines and squid ink risotto in Venice, eat pesto pasta in its birthplace Genoa, and enjoy exquisite cream-filled cannoli in Sicily. And, this being Italy, pair your meal with excellent local wine, finish up with a tiny, potent espresso, and then (if you have room) go in search of gelato!

Conclusion: Although we’d happily eat Greek food for the rest of our lives, we’re giving this one to Italy for variety. 

Greece or Italy: Budget 

Santorini is one of Greece's most luxury destinations.
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One of the best things about both these countries is that they cater to all budgets. There is enough variety of destinations and accommodations in both Italy and Greece that you can find package holidays, budget breaks, and luxury escapes to suit all tastes. 

Italy is a little more expensive than Greece, especially if you want a city break because Rome, Venice, and Milan all come with a higher price tag than Athens or Thessaloniki. And places like Capri, Portofino, Lake Como, and the beautiful Cinque Terre are renowned for being high-end. For a more affordable break, try Verona, Naples, Sicily, or Apulia. 

Similarly, in Greece, you can opt for exclusivity and luxury with a trip to Santorini or Mykonos, enjoy city center splendor in Athens, or go for a more budget-friendly stay. Try Crete, Zakynthos, Corfu, or Rhodes for package holiday deals, and try Agistri for a low-cost island break located just an hour from Athens. 

Conclusion: You can holiday in either spot on a big or small budget, but since Greece is marginally cheaper, it wins this one.

Greece or Italy: Conclusion

The Parthenon of Athens
Photo by Patrick EvMearrxas on Unsplash

So it’s 4:3 and Italy is our winner. But it’s a close call and hopefully, you can see from this that there is no bad choice when it comes to Greece versus Italy and the decision really comes down to personal choice. Both destinations are capable of giving you a dream vacation, but if you’re an urban explorer or an art lover, if you want to hike dramatic mountains and tour the lakes, if you want to check off those bucket list experiences that only Rome and Venice can provide, well then it had better be Italy. However, if your priority is island hopping, sailing from one pristine beach to the next, partying till dawn, or immersing yourself in ancient mythology, then it’s got to be Greece! 

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Anita is from Wales and has been a travel addict since her first trip to Australia ten years ago. Since then she's lived and worked in Oz, New Zealand and Canada, worked many ski seasons and travelled widely through South East Asia, Morocco, India and Europe. She's a nomad, freelance writer, foodie, compulsive reader, tea addict and animal lover.