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Croatia vs Italy: Which Destination Should You Choose in 2024?

Planning your summer vacation and can’t decide between Croatia or Italy? This guide on Croatia vs Italy will help you make the ultimate choice for your dream holiday.

Why should you listen to me? Well, I’ve called Croatia home since 2014 and even before becoming a full-time resident, I was a regular summer visitor.

Since moving here, I’ve made it my mission to discover every corner of Croatia and can confidently say that I know the country like the back of my hand (which is why I stared this blog in the first place!).

On top of that, Italy and Croatia are right next door to each other, with only the Adriatic Sea between them. And thanks to budget-friendly flights (shoutout to Ryanair!), I’ve had my fair share of Italian escapades.

I’ve roamed all the major tourist destinations like Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, Naples, and Capri, and even lesser known locations like Lucca, Montecatini Terme, and Laghi di Fusine.

Both of these countries are incredible vacation destinations, but they are different in many ways, with one country having the edge over the other in certain categories. That’s why I’ve pulled together years of firsthand experiences to give you a comprehensive rundown of Italy vs Croatia to help you choose the best destination for your summer holiday.

In this travel blog, I’ll break down the highlights, attractions, local cuisine, and unique qualities of each country to help you make an informed choice.

So, are you Team Croatia or Team Italy? Let’s find out!

Croatia vs Italy Vacation: Which Country is Better?

🇭🇷 Croatia
With over a thousand islands, quaint harbor towns, and pebbled beaches framed by azure waters, Croatia is a go-to destination for the ultimate summer vacation.

One of its major draws is its manageable size. Split, Dubrovnik, and celeb-favorite islands like Hvar can all easily be reached in just a few hours driving. Even the capital of Zagreb (totally worth visiting btw) can be reached in 3-4 hours depending on where you are on the coast.

Croatia’s countless islands make it the perfect destination for a sailing holiday-after all, the country does host yacht week every year! Whether you charter your own boat or hop on one of the many boat tours from Split or Dubrovnik, the best way to experience Croatia’s crystal clear waters is to glide over them.

🇮🇹 Italy
Italy needs little introduction. This iconic boot-shaped country has been practically capturing hearts since the beginning of time. With coastlines along three major seas, this place has it all – from sun-kissed beaches to historic cities overflowing with art and ancient architectural marvels.

And the best part? You don’t even need to set foot in a museum to get a culture fix. Simply strolling through its charming piazzas, medieval hill towns, ornate bridges, and churches will transport you back in time.

If that wasn’t enough, Italy’s culinary scene is nothing short of legendary. From the simplicity of a margherita pizza to the indulgence of osso buco, Italian food is simply irresistible. You’d need several lifetimes to try every mouthwatering dish this country has to offer.

Croatia and Italy Map

Take a look at the Croatia Italy map below to get an idea of how close the countries actually are to each other.

A map of Europe showing the outlines of all of the countries in light gray, while Italy is highlighted in a dark blue color and Croatia is highlighted in a dark pink shade.
Italy is on the left in dark blue, and Croatia is on the right in dark pink.

Is Croatia cheaper than Italy?

While Croatia used to be a go-to for budget travel, things have changed, especially with the recent introduction of the Euro. Famous spots like Dubrovnik and Hvar have reached a price point that competes head-to-head with Italy’s iconic destinations. But if you wander off the beaten path, you can still find some deals along Croatia’s coast.

Italy is super popular for summer trips, and that popularity comes with a price tag. It’s not dirt-cheap, but it’s not break-the-bank expensive either, especially if you plan carefully (and well in advance).

Of course, the price of your trip in either country will vary depending on several factors: when you go, how long you stay, where you stay, and what you do. But if we’re talking averages, Croatia still has a bit of an edge when it comes to being easier on the wallet.

🇭🇷 Croatia has gotten expensive, but it’s still slightly cheaper than Italy.

Red, white, and blue flag of Croatia blowing in the wind with the town of Vela Luka on Korcula Island in the background.

Does Italy or Croatia have better food?

When it comes to food, Italy has a reputation that’s hard to beat. From the birthplace of pizza in Naples—where I had pizza so delicious it practically melted in my mouth—to the array of renowned dishes like pasta, risotto, and gelato, Italy is a food lover’s paradise.

Croatian cuisine, on the other hand, is a mix of flavors shaped by its history and geography. The food you’ll taste in Croatia depends on where you are traveling. In the northern and eastern regions, you’ll discover a menu influenced by former ruling empires like Hungary, Austria, and Turkey. Expect hearty, meat-centric dishes like paprikash, schnitzel, and stuffed cabbage.

Yet, Croatia isn’t without its Italian influence, owing to its historical ties to the Roman Empire. In places like the Istrian peninsula and Dalmatia, you’ll find a tasty blend of Croatian and Italian traditions. Not to mention Zagreb’s restaurant scene which is bursting with international flavors.

But given its iconic dishes and global influence…

🇮🇹 Italy is the clear winner when it comes to food.

One of my top recommendations for traveling anywhere, but especially Italy, is to join a food tour. This gives you a unique way to experience the local cuisine and learn about the country’s culture through its food. These tours are also a great way to meet locals in an intimate setting.

Here are some food tours to check out while visiting Italy:

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    Who has better national parks: Croatia or Italy?

    Do any quick search online and you’ll find that Plitvice Lakes National Park is a must-see in Croatia. With its 16 cascading, turquoise lakes interlinked by a series of breathtaking waterfalls, this park is a real-life fairy tale setting.

    I’ve been too many times to count and have visited in every single season, and I can say with certainty that it blows me away every time. The lakes shimmer a million shades of blue, the nature is pristine, and the entire area just looks like a postcard.

    If you’re closer to the coast and want to experience something similar, Krka National Park just 1 hour from Split or Mljet National Park is a short ferry ride from Dubrovnik.

    Italy, on the other hand, lays claim to the dramatic Dolomites. This mountain range in the northeastern part of the country is an adventurer’s dream, offering an impressive amount of hiking, biking, and skiing opportunities. The jagged peaks of the Dolomites are breathtakingly gorgeous, especially when viewed from the top of Monte Cristallo in Cortina d’Ampezzo.

    And let’s not forget Cinque Terre (yes, it’s also a national park!). I first visited these five charming, cliffside villages along the Italian Riviera in 2012 before they became even more famous thanks to the movie Luca. It’s one of my favorite places in Italy — from the many trails to explore, amazing swimming spots, and delicious seafood restaurants, you can easily spend days hopping between the towns.

    So after weighing both sides…

    🇮🇹 Italy wins this category for best national parks.

    A picturesque view of rolling green valleys dotted with pine trees, a few tiny houses and a church steeple, and the towering Dolomite mountain range in the distance.
    The Italian Dolomites, one of the most beautiful national parks in Italy.

    Pro tip: If you’re traveling to Italy soon, make sure you download the best Italy travel apps!

    Which country has the best islands?

    Island allure is undeniable in both Croatia and Italy, making this a tough call.

    Croatia’s coastline is dotted with over 1,000 islands, ranging from the glamorous hotspots of Hvar and Brac to lesser-known ones like Vis. Since all of Croatia’s islands run parallel to the mainland, the setup is practically designed for island-hopping, making it a breeze to explore multiple locations on a single trip.

    Croatia’s islands are easy to navigate and you can even DIY your own island hopping route for a fraction of the cost of a tour. Plus, with so many islands to choose from, there are plenty of secluded spots to escape the crowds.

    Italy, on the other hand, has fewer islands but they are stunners. Think Capri’s dazzling cliffs and azure waters or Sardinia’s sublime beaches. While Italy’s islands are breathtaking and iconic, they can also be quite expensive and may require more strategic planning to avoid the throngs of tourists.

    In the end, if you want variety, ease of travel, and the option for both social scenes and secluded getaways, Croatia is the perfect destination for your island holiday.

    🇭🇷 Croatia’s islands take the crown.

    An aerial view of Zlatni Rat Beach on Brac Island in Croatia
    The famous Golden Horn Beach on Brac Island in Croatia.

    Does Italy or Croatia have better beaches?

    Let’s talk Italy first. Yes, the Amalfi Coast is drop-dead gorgeous with its cliffside villages and deep blue waters. But if you’re a beach lover like me, you might find the black sand beaches of places like Positano a bit underwhelming.

    Italy does have some gems, particularly in Sardinia and Sicily, where breathtaking slices of coastline meet crystal-clear waters. However, there’s a catch—many of Italy’s best beaches are private, requiring you to fork over some euros for a spot on the sand. The “free” sections of beach (if you can find them) can be disappointing in comparison.

    On the flip side, the beaches in Croatia along the coast and on the islands are immaculate and free. Yes, even in expensive places like Dubrovnik. Primarily pebbled or rocky, the sea sparkles in the Mediterranean sun and you can typically see all the way to the bottom of the sea floor.

    Even the Italians recognize Croatia’s beach superiority! Each year, many cross the Adriatic for “Ferragosto,” an August holiday, to enjoy Croatia’s less crowded, more pristine beaches.

    When it comes to beach bliss, Italy and Croatia offer two very different experiences, but for me, Croatia wins hands down.

    🇭🇷 Croatia has better beaches than Italy.

    A small strip of sand tucked between a red, rocky cliffside and sparkling blue waters.
    Pasjaca Beach just south of Dubrovnik in Croatia.

    Italy vs Croatia: Which country is better for a road trip?

    If you’re on a tight schedule but still want a hearty dose of culture, breathtaking scenery, and quaint pit-stops, Croatia is your go-to. Nothing quite compares to cruising along the coastal road all the way to Dubrovnik, pulling over for a spontaneous tasting at a roadside Croatian winery or a quick swim in an isolated cove along the way.

    With its compact size, Croatia lets you easily tick off multiple destinations in less time.

    Italy, on the other hand, is the dream for those with a leisurely pace in mind. Hasn’t everyone fantasized about going on a road trip through Tuscany’s rolling hills and stopping for pasta in a medieval town, or is that just me?

    Either way, Italy’s landscapes provide film-worthy road trip scenery. The country is overflowing with charming old towns and endless possibilities for exploring. But due to its sheer size, you’ll need more time to experience it all.

    When it comes to road-tripping, both Italy and Croatia offer uniquely rewarding experiences, but they cater to different types of travelers and timelines.

    🇭🇷 🇮🇹 It’s a tie!

    Pro tip: When renting a car in Italy, do be extra careful, especially in popular places like the Amalfi Coast. Navigation can be challenging if you lack experience, and heavy summer traffic can put a damper on your vacation. Plus, it’s important to note that some roads are restricted exclusively for local residents.

    A coastal road on the island of Krk at sunset with a cloudy blue sky up above. On the right of the road is a rocky landscape with some green Mediterranean plants, and on the left is railing along the edge of the cliff with the sea in the distance.

    Which country has more interesting history?

    Croatia offers an interesting fusion of cultural influences, reflecting its diverse past rulers, from Romans to Byzantines, Greeks to Austro-Hungarians. Along the Dalmatian coast and the northwestern peninsula of Istria, the remnants of Venetian rule are evident in the abundance of Italian-style architecture and well-preserved historical ruins.

    Look no further than the Roman Emperor Diocletian’s Palace in Split and the well-preserved Pula Arena – the sole surviving Roman amphitheater with all four side towers intact.

    Meanwhile, Italy is home to cities brimming with cultural richness, full of awe-inspiring architecture, ancient ruins, captivating sculptures, and exquisite paintings. It is the birthplace of an impressive lineup of influential figures, from Roman emperors to Renaissance geniuses. Think Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, and Christopher Columbus just to name a few.

    Plus, cities like Rome, Florence, and Venice are virtually open-air museums, offering endless opportunities to explore the country’s past.

    Italy has had a major impact on global art, science, and philosophy, and for that reason…

    🇮🇹 Italy wins the category for more interesting history.

    Ancient Roman ruins standing close together surrounded by green grass and other old buildings in Rome.

    Is Croatia or Italy better for luxury travel?

    Croatia is a rising star in the world of luxury travel, attracting celebrities and high-profile individuals from around the globe. Destinations like Dubrovnik and Hvar have become magnets for A-list celebrities and high-net-worth individuals.

    Sure, Dubrovnik has a rep for being expensive, but its allure is undeniable. Picture-perfect at every turn, it offers luxe experiences for those willing to splurge. Beyond Dubrovnik, the Istrian Peninsula has become a refuge for upscale European travelers, featuring some truly impressive 5 star hotels that give any luxury establishment a run for its money.

    Italy, on the other hand, has long been the go-to for those seeking “la dolce vita” – the good life. With iconic destinations like Lake Como, Portofino, and the Amalfi Coast, Italy has the upper hand when it comes to global recognition. Don’t even get me started on Capri.

    This glam island is practically a runway for designer brands, boasting high-end boutiques from Prada to Gucci. On top of that, the country’s history of fashion and art adds another layer to its luxury appeal.

    Whether it’s million dollar villas overlooking the sea or the sheer variety of designer shops selling irresistible Italian souvenirs, the country simply has a proven track record of delivering on high-end experiences.

    While both countries offer their own versions of opulence, Italy still has the edge when it comes old-world, established luxury.

    🇮🇹 Italy offers the best luxury travel experiences.

    A view of the famous Lake Como in Italy with a small charming town on the edge of the lake and mountains in the background.
    Lake Como is one of the most renowned luxury destinations in Italy.

    Which country is safer for solo travelers?

    Generally speaking, both Italy and Croatia are safe for solo travelers.

    I’ve been living in Croatia since 2014 and visiting the country since I can remember. I’ve never felt unsafe, even when walking alone at night. Even the capital city of Zagreb is safe and there are no particular areas you should avoid. Of course, as with anywhere you go, you should always be aware of your surroundings.

    Italy is also considered a very safe country. The only major risk, particularly in tourist areas, is petty theft. While I’ve always felt safe when traveling Italy, my local Italian guide (from the Naples food tour I mentioned earlier) did caution us against going to certain areas of town after dark.

    This is something I’ve never experienced in Croatia in my 25 years of living in and traveling in the country, so for that reason, I’m going to give this one to Croatia.

    🇭🇷 Croatia is safer for solo travel.

    Woman with her back to the camera holding a little white dog and looking out over Primosten, a seaside town on the Croatian coast

    FAQs

    Is Croatia better than Italy?

    Both Italy and Croatia are different in their offerings, so which one is “better” really depends on the type of trip you’re after. If island hopping and stunning coastlines what you dream of, Croatia is for you. On the other hand, Italy is perfect for those looking for a cultural experience with its many incredible cities and historical sites (and amazing food).

    Which country is cheaper Croatia or Italy?

    Despite its rising popularity and subsequent increases in prices, Croatia generally remains slightly less expensive than Italy. However, it’s worth noting that hotspots like Dubrovnik and Hvar can be on par with Italian destinations when it comes to expenses.

    Is Croatia similar to Italy?

    Yes, Croatia and Italy do share similarities, partly because of their geographical proximity and historical ties. However, each country has its own unique character and traditions that set it apart.

    How is Croatia different from Italy?

    Both countries offer Mediterranean climates and coastal beauty, but they have distinct differences including geography, cuisine, culture, and prices.

    Does Croatia look like Italy?

    Some parts of Croatia do resemble Italy, especially regions like Dalmatia and Istria which were historically influenced by Italian or Venetian rule.

    The Verdict: Italy vs Croatia

    So, there you have it—the ultimate guide comparing Croatia and Italy, two of Europe’s most captivating summer destinations. By now, you’ve got a solid rundown on everything from the beaches, historical sites, and road-trip potential to the luxury experiences and cost of travel in each country.

    If it’s the effortless island-hopping and crystal-clear Adriatic waters you’re after, Croatia might just be your slice of paradise. But if you’re craving a journey rich in art, culture, and world-renowned cuisine, then Italy is hard to resist.

    Ultimately, which one is “best” truly depends on what you’re looking to get out of your vacation. You really can’t go wrong with either!

    Instead of choosing between the two, why not enjoy the best of both worlds with these Italy and Croatia itineraries?

    Woman sitting on a stone bench surrounded by gorgeous, colorful Mediterranean flowers and plants on the island of Capri.
    Enjoying the gorgeous gardens at Villa Rufolo in Ravello, a charming town on the Amalfi Coast.

    You Might Also Like

    Croatia Travel Planning Guide

    💸 What is the currency in Croatia?
    As of January 1st, 2023, the official currency of Croatia is the Euro and NOT the Kuna (which is also the name of the national animal of Croatia).

    🇭🇷 What language do they speak in Croatia?
    Croatian is the official language of Croatia. Learn some phrases in Croatian before your trip with the Ling app!

    🚑 Should I buy Croatia travel insurance?
    10000% YES – Seriously, don’t leave home without it. You never know what can happen on the road. I like SafetyWing because they provide excellent coverage for as little as $1.50 a day.

    📱 Will my phone work in Croatia?
    Maybe – check with your provider to see if you’ll have service while traveling Croatia. If you don’t have service (or it’s too expensive) I recommend getting an eSIM like Airalo. Airalo allows you to have data while traveling without the high costs of roaming. They have super affordable plans available for 190+ countries, including Croatia. Download the app and get your plan before you leave home so that you have data as soon as you touch down in Croatia!

    🏨 What’s the best way to book my Croatia accommodations?
    For Croatia hotels, Booking is by far the best site.

    🛫 What’s the best site to buy Croatia flights?
    I always use Skyscanner to find the cheapest flights.

    🚗  Is it safe to rent a Car in Croatia?
    Yes! – In fact, renting a car in Croatia is one of the best ways to see the country! I recommend Discover Cars because they check both local and international rental companies to ensure you get the best deal. (Get your Croatia road trip itinerary here)

    💦 Is it safe to drink the water in Croatia?
    Tap water in Croatia is completely safe to drink, so bring your reusable water bottle and fill up!

    🪪 Do I need a visa for Croatia?
    Depending on where you are coming from you may or may not need a visa to enter Croatia. Check the official Republic of Croatia Ministry of Foreign Affairs website for more information on who should apply for a visa.

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