Italy or Greece? A love letter to both and an honest appraisal

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Italy and Greece and both have all the essential aspects of unforgettable holidays. But should your next trip be to Italy or Greece? Of course, it depends on your budget, interests, and the kind of travel you love best.

So here is a matchup of these two cultural superpowers – everything from travel hassles to food scenes, beaches, history, art, transportation, hiking trails, and ancient ruins to help you answer that most difficult of questions: Italy or Greece?

You’ve probably noticed that at Trip Anthropologist, we are history lovers and are equally passionate about the two countries.

That’s because of the sheer depth of their history and number of historical sites, the beauty of their beaches and landscapes, and the exciting local cultures and cuisines that make every visit to Italy or Greece unforgettable.

Photo of the Sunrise over the Roman Forum and the ruins of historical buildings in Rome, Italy
Sunrise over the Roman Forum and the ruins of historical buildings in Rome, Italy

What both Greece and Italy have in common

There are many similarities that make your choice difficult. These include:

1. Modern and Mediterrean

Both Italy and Greece are modern European nations that lie on the Mediterranean sea. They have a Mediterranean climate and diet.

Map of Italy and Greece and the Mediterranean Sea
Map of Italy and Greece

They both have stunning beaches and clear waters, unique cuisines, efficient and modern infrastructure and transportation, and generous and hospitable people.

2. Sacred spaces

As devoutly religious countries, you won’t be able to travel for long without coming across a sublime Cathedral or a whitewashed village church in Greece or Italy.

Photo of the Greek church view from Plaka castle in Milos island, Cyclades, Greece
Greek church view from Plaka castle in Milos island, Cyclades, Greece

Monks making wine on Crete and the Pope giving a mass in Vatican City on Sunday are some of the ways that religious traditions survive in Italy and Greece.

3. Historic and Cultural riches

Many civilizations have left their mark on Greece and Italy, including for Greece, the Myceneans, the ancient Greeks, and the Minoans.

Picture taken Inside-the-Roman-Colosseum-Italy, showing the underground area beneath the arena and the stands
The Colosseum of Rome showing the Arena, the Hypogean, and the tiers of stands.

Along with the Roman Empire, the Etruscans, and other inhabitants of ancient and prehistoric Italy, both Italy and Greece have been left with an extraordinarily rich history that you could spend your whole life discovering.

Together these Mediterranean countries contain a trove of ancient treasures that include too many UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites to count.

4. Weather and Over-tourism

If you’ve been almost crushed to death in Venice, you’ll know that it’s no fun being always hemmed in by thousands of other tourists wanting to see the same thing at the same time as you.

The major tourist sites are becoming increasingly difficult to buy tickets for in peak season, and many towns and islands have many times more tourists than they do locals over summer. Add in climate change and you can have a very hot and crowded experience.

Picture of the many crowds of tourists waiting for the sunset in Oia, Santorini, Greece
Crowds of tourists waiting for the sunset in Oia, Santorini, Greece

If it’s a beach holiday I’m after, I often travel in June or September to Italy or Greece – the Amalfi Coast, Sicily, and the Greek islands.

It’s not quite the same as the major beach season, but beach bars are still open and the sea is warm enough to swim in.

But if it’s an urban tourism break, I’m after, I like traveling to the grand historic cities of Europe in the cooler weather when the prices are lower and the crowds are fewer.

And as much as I love the luxury resorts of Oia in Santorini and the majestic palazzos on the Grand Canal in Venice in July, I don’t want to add to the degradation of these precious places through over-tourism.

I also don’t want to be rushed around historical sights like famous landmarks or wait in long security lines at major tourist sites.

What I love about Greece

I spend time in both countries every year. Here are the main reasons I travel to Greece.

1. Price

Greece is cheaper than Italy. It has become a reality for more travelers who choose to visit Greece, or you can save money by choosing simple and traditional Greek accommodations.

Aerial photo of woman lying in incredible pool at Summer Senses Luxury Hotel, Paros Island, Cyclades, Greece
Summer Senses Luxury Hotel, Paros Island, Cyclades, Greece

2. Ruins

I love historic sites, ancient ruins, impossibly beautiful old white churches on idyllic islands overlooking the Aegean Sea, and the remains of buildings from antiquity.

Photo of the
Ruins of the Temple of Apollo in Ancient Delphi, high on the slopes of Mount Parnassus Greece
Ruins of the Temple of Apollo in Ancient Delphi, Greece

I love the incredible history of pirates, Venetian conquerors, and Byzantine invaders, the ancient Myceneans, the mighty Greek gods on Mount Olympus, and the Minoan frescoes and myths.

3. The Acropolis and the Sacred Island of Delos

I can’t think of a place where I can see more UNESCO World Heritage sites in a couple of hours than on the slopes and the top of the Acropolis of Athens.

Photo of the side and front of the Parthenon with the front covered in scaffolding on a grey early evening at the Acropolis of Athens, Greece
The Parthenon, Acropolis of Athens, Greece

In the modern city at the foot of the Acropolis, is the Acropolis Museum, which holds some of the treasures of the empty buildings on the Acropolis.

If you want the best beach parties in Greece, stay on Mykonos island, but don’t miss its greatest wonder – the sacred island of Delos that you can reach on a short ferry ride from Mykonos.

Like Pompeii, this island is uninhabited and contains the remains of a great society that you can wander around for as long as you like.

4. Adventure

I think Greece is a little more adventurous and it’s important to get out of the big cities.

Picture of a Tiny white church in Tinos with the sea behind it
Tiny church in Tinos with the sea behind it

The distance between the Greek islands means that island hopping is an adventure.

There are more places to strike out on your own in both mainland Greece and in the fishing and mountain villages of the Greek islands.

5. Greek beaches

There are spectacular Italian coves and hidden beaches, but Greek beaches are diverse and often long stretches of golden (or pink!) sand that you can have to yourself.

Photo of Balos Beach and headland connected to the mainland by a sandbank and surrounded by green waters, Crete
Balos Beach, Crete, Greece

Many of the Greek islands such as Santorini make for a very romantic trip with luxury accommodations and sailing opportunities around the island but also to other islands.

I vote for Greece as having the best beaches of the two countries.

6. The Greek aesthetic and Greek food

Greek life is easygoing, and unhurried, with a zest for the good life of great company, dancing, singing, and partying. I like that “Greek time” is a bit fluid and an essential part of the everyday flow of Greek life.

Picture of a plate of Freshly caught and cooked seafood at Paros Island, Greece
Freshly caught and cooked seafood at Paros Island, Greece

Greek cuisine is justifiably famous for its freshness and traditional recipes. I love its fresh seafood, a simple Greek salad, lamb with rosemary and mountain herbs, or stuffed vegetables and bread with locally made olive oil.

Occasionally I’ll choose a row of quaint cafes on one of the larger islands or mainland cities and be served some Greek food that is so good, I want to pack up and live here forever!

What I love about Italy

And here is why I can’t stop traveling each year to Italy.

1. The food scene

I can’t help it – I want to try every single homemade pasta dish this country makes, and I want to pair it with every red wine to match!

Photo of a plate of Handmade ricotta ravioli with sage, Siena, Italy
Handmade ricotta ravioli with sage, Siena, Italy

Italian cuisine is such a celebration of simplicity, and one of the countries where there is still a direct relationship between the locale, its soil, and its seasonal produce.

Tuscany is a wonderful example of all that’s heavenly about Italian cuisine. Delicious food is a real bonus of choosing Italy for a holiday, and there are many Michelin-starred fine dining restaurants. And don’t get me started on wine tasting!

2. Romantic Destinations: The romance of Italian cities and their natural attractions.

The Italian alps hovering over green clear lakes that are ringed by pencil pines, historic mansions, and lakeshore castles, are just a fraction of the romantic destinations to be explored in Italy.

Photo from the terrace above the Villa Rufola formal garden which hovers above the Bay of Salerno, Amalfi Coast, Italy
Villa Rufola formal garden above the Bay of Salerno, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Sailing the Italian coastline, or just the Amalfi Coast, watching the lemon farmers in Sorrento and carolers in the Amalfi Cathedral, or wandering the gardens of the villas of Ravello – it’s hard to think of a better wedding or honeymoon destination than romantic Italy.

3. Day trips

Photo taken looking up at Michelangelo's statue of David,, Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence
Michelangelo’s statue of David, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence

You can base yourself in a phenomenal place, like Siena, Genoa, Florence, or Naples, and take dozens of day trips to an equally beautiful city or to Italy’s many natural wonders like the Cinque Terre National Park.

4. Rome

It’s not called the Eternal City for nothing.

Photo of the Trevi Fountain in Rome on a bright blue day
Trevi Fountain, Rome

There is an exciting, enduring delight in wandering the streets of the center of the Roman Empire and visiting the spectacular historical and cultural phenomena of the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Vatican City, The Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain.

And then, of course, it’s time for an aperitivo followed by the Roman versions of Italian dishes.

5. Pompeii (and Herculaneum)

Apart from Ancient Akrotiri on Santorini in Greece, I can’t think of a more astonishing and sober destination than the enormous excavated city of Pompeii.

Photo of the Temple of Jupiter, Forum, Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the background
Pompeii, with Vesuvius in the background

In both Pompeii and Herculaneum, we see how life stopped in a few moments of pain and terror for slaves, gladiators, performers, and nobles who lay buried in lava for almost two millennia.

What I don’t love about Italy or Greece: an honest appraisal


(lack of) Signage

From what I can figure out, it stopped about the time of the building of the Roman Forum.

Photo of a square mural that is an Ancient Roman bath house mural signage, Italy
Ancient Roman bath house mural signage, Italy

The Forum has lovely signs carved in stone but it’s impossible to know where anything is in Italy – if you just abandon all hope of directional signage, I think especially train stations, metros, and tourist attractions will be less stressful!


Unless you have a bladder as big as a whale’s, you will come to the unfortunate moment in Italy where every public toilet for miles around is out of order.

The unhappy solution is to purchase something at a store and show the receipt to the person guarding the store toilet, who will give you a ticket that you can use to enter the toilet!

Bus and Ferry Chaos

The Italians have the train and tram and systems working like a treat. And everything works well in the major cities.

Trip Anthropologist
People queuing to buy ferry tickets in the port of Sorrento, Italy

But small ferries and rural buses are another matter. Amalfi is a good example – it gets bazillions of tourists a year but the signage as to the two locations for bus departures, which bus is leaving when, and where you buy tickets, is a typical Italian maze I’ve encountered many times.

The lack of signage extends to ferry slots as well and in summer there’s often chaos as you don’t know if the ferry that has pulled up is going where you want to go.

You also don’t know if you’re going to be able to board the ferry since there are clearly too many people waiting to fit on the ferry!

Like in Greece, it pays not to be on tight schedule.

Many flights of narrow staircases

Certainly not the only European country to suffer from wonderful old homes without elevators! But it does mean you should pack lightly to be able to haul your luggage up and down tight staircases.

It’s not a large list, and not a lot of aggravation, just sometimes when you need a little patience.


Tourist food in tourist destinations

Is fresh rather than frozen and hastily defrosted swordfish during swordfish season Santorini too much to wish for? And don’t get me started on Santorini’s Mexican restaurants…

Pick Pockets and bag snatchers in Athens

The economic crisis that has engulfed Greece in recent years and the effects of years of austerity is evident all over the country.

A photo of a wall with a painting of Political Street Art in Athens Greece called "Next Economic Model" by Bleepsgr-C. of a beautiful model with a peg leg against a Greek-blue background
Political Street Art in Athens Greece, “Next Economic Model” by Bleepsgr-C. Photograph courtesy of the artist

This is despite the higher tourist numbers now than pre-Covid. The only good thing I can see to come of this is that budget travelers can find some great deals in the major cities.

On the islands, however, there are fewer flights and ferries operating and so Greek island hopping takes a little more time and making some day trips a more difficult proposition.

Ryanair is removing Greece as a major hub because it can’t get the deals it wants for airport slots and facilities and so it has suspended flights in winter for much of the country, and all flights from Athens.

It’s clear in Athens in the lack of maintenance to infrastructure and buildings and the increasing number of tourists being robbed. And they’ve had a go at my bag and back pocket as well.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you if you spend time in Plaka.

Taxi fares on the Greek Islands

I get that I’m stuck on an island and a lot of other tourists want a taxi now that the bus hasn’t stopped because it’s full, but taxis on the islands take ‘surge pricing’ to a whole new level.

Final Thoughts

For beaches, ancient ruins, adventures, and island hopping in paradise, it’s Greece every time.

For food and wine, medieval towns, art, religious excess, exclusive resorts of the jet-setting crowd, and the ruins of a mighty Empire, it’s got to be Italy.

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🧳Italy or Greece? A love letter to both and an honest appraisal