Or in other words, to say bonjour or ciao? That’s the real question.
It’s hard to compare two of Europe’s most popular countries and when I say hard, I mean it’s pretty much impossible. France and Italy are some of the most visited countries in the world, especially when summer rolls around and all anyone can think about is warm nights spent in front of the Eiffel Tower and drinking Aperol Spritzes.
But if you can only travel to one country, which one should it be? This is a tough question and I’m not entirely sure I can answer it but by comparing the two countries’ cities, cuisine, famous landmarks and coastlines, I should get pretty close.
If I don’t, you can always eenie-meenie-miny-mo it.
France is simply beautiful – there’s no ifs, buts or maybes about it. And its romantic cities play a huge part in that beauty. From the iconic monuments and fascinating museums in Paris to the turquoise waters and famous promenades of Nice, there’s no shortage of cities in France that sparkle just as bright as the Eiffel Tower.
Wander the grand palaces and ancient mansions of Bordeaux before sipping on some of the best red wines in the world at a local café. Learn about Lyon’s rich heritage and devour plate after plate of pate en croute, coq au vin and gratin dauphinois. Watch the fishermen return to the port as the sun goes down in Marseille and get lost in the magic of meandering by the water.
You could put every city in France in a beret and not be disappointed by the one you pick out, they’re all that good.
There’s no beating around the bush, Italy is full of enchanting cities. And each one is guaranteed to be more captivating than the last. Whether you’re searching for museums to get lost in, cobblestoned streets to wander down or Renaissance culture to learn about, there’s an Italian city for everyone.
Rome is a one-stop-shop for all things ancient Roman architecture and the interesting history you probably learnt about in high school. Venice boasts fairytale-like canals and subsequent gondola rides. Then there’s Pompeii (not to be confused with the popular 2013 song by British band, Bastille) with its active volcano and archaeological sites.
Not to mention Naples with its colourful markets and ‘birthplace of pizza’ title, Pisa with its iconic landmark and plethora of medieval palaces and Bari with its charming old town and Basilica di San Nicola (the resting place of St Nicholas aka Santa Claus). Should I keep going?
It’s pretty impossible not to love French food. There’s the pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) with its flaky pastry and chocolate-y centre, the quiche Lorraine with its crispy shortcrust dough base and creamy mixture of egg and bacon and the classic steak frites; a rib-eye cut of prime beef garnished with bearnaise sauce and served with a healthy helping of French fries.
In fact, French cuisine is so beloved everywhere that it was added to UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritages in 2010 and has influenced the cuisines of other countries and regions. Like, while beignets may have made their home in Café Du Monde in New Orleans, these deep-fried powdered squares originated in France. And let’s not forget the wedges of camembert, brie and Roquefort that grace cheese boards the world over.
I rest my case.
It’s hard to compare Italian food with French food because they’re so different and just as delicious as each other. But I’ll give it my best shot…of grappa.
Arguably one of the world’s most popular cuisines, Italian food is made with fresh, local ingredients usually straight from a recipe that’s been passed down through the generations. It’s also characterised by its generous portions and family-style feel, so don’t be surprised if you can feel the love oozing out of your lasagne.
Whether you’re excited to snack on some antipasto, wolf down a bowl of spaghetti bolognese, tuck into a Margherita pizza or treat your tastebuds to a pistachio gelato, you’ll never go to bed hungry when you’re travelling around Italy.
You might be thinking “does France have any other famous landmarks than those in Paris?” And that’d be a valid question. But while Paris boasts a lot of France’s iconic monuments (the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe and the Palace of Versailles just to name a few), there are a few other French cities throwing their own landmark into the ‘famous’ ring.
Take Normandy and its Mont-Saint-Michel for example. Perched on a rock and sometimes surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean (depending on tidal conditions), this magnificent abbey was first built in the 11th century before being partially rebuilt in the 13th century after several violent disputes. It now sits proudly overlooking the city and welcomes thousands of tourists each year who admire its detailed gothic architecture and ancient ramparts.
There’s also the Pont du Gard bridge in Nimes (a region in Provence), the Basilique de Notre-Dame de la Gard in Marseille and the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg in – you guessed it – Strasbourg, in case you thought we’d forgotten.
While France only has super recognisable landmarks in its capital city, Italy has them all over the place. There’s the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish steps. And St Peter’s Basilica. And the Pantheon. And the Roman Forum. And the Vittoriano. And that’s just in Rome.
Milan also comes in hot with the Duomo di Milan (Milan cathedral). Pisa’s up next with its leaning tower. Venice isn’t to be outdone with the Doges Palace. And then there’s the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence where jewellers and artisan crafters set up shop hoping to convince a tourist or two that they’re in desperate need of souvenirs (most of them are).
The point is, wherever you go you’ll be greeted with stunning architecture, fascinating history and some serious photo ops perfect for uploading to the ‘gram.
We all know this category is the only one any of us really cares about when those first few rainy June days in Australia start to feel like booking a one-way ticket to a European summer. And luckily for us, France has one of the best coastlines to forget those winter blues.
From the crisp white sand of Argeles Plage near the Spanish border all the way to the glitzy, sun-soaked city of Nice, the French Riviera boasts around 4,800 km of spectacular beach for you to lounge on.
Some of our favourite must-stop-ats include St Tropez with its rich holiday-makers and glittering waters, Biarritz with its postcard-pretty scenery and surf waves and Marseille with its historic neighbourhoods and iconic landmarks.
Italy sees millions of sun-hungry travellers flock to its 7,900 km pebbly coastline each year in search of a great tan, traditional food, photos you can turn into a Tiktok highlight reel and a summer romance (or is that just me?). And it’s no surprise when the country promises wanderlusty destinations such as the Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre and the island of Sicily.
But those hot spots can get extremely busy (and pretty expensive) so opting for a slightly less well-known beach city is often the way to go if you’re trying to keep the budget down. Like La Spezia for example. Known as the gateway to Cinque Terre, this not-as-visited but still just as beautiful port town is home to a lively culture, fascinating museums and some pretty incredible water you simply have to dive into.
However, while Italy’s beaches are beautiful, I think France wins this category – I’d take sand over pebbles any day of the week (and so would you).
We’ve arrived at my most dreaded part of the blog. Now I have to decide between France and Italy…or do I? If we break it down, I think Italy wins the city category. You simply can’t go past a country that has Rome, Venice, Naples and Milan. But when it comes to coastlines, I think France has got the category in its baguette-toting bag.
As for the others? I’m not even going to try to compare a chocolate souffle with tiramisu. Or the Eiffel Tower with the Trevi Fountain. So, this one’s too tough to call – it’s a draw.
But, if you’re indecisive like me, why not combine the two countries for the ultimate trip of a lifetime on our Barcelona to Rome adventure that stops in Provence and Nice along the way? Sounds like a win/win/win to me. Either that, or you could just plan another European jaunt for the year after.