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10 Nights in March - Portugal or Italy?

First of all, thank you to everyone who posts here, it has been so helpful as I narrow down my travel plans! Reaching out as I was hoping to get some input from the folks here on Portugal or Italy in early March. I know this comes down to personal preference but don't have that many people I know that have been to both and would love to get an understanding of how the trip vibe/experience overall would differ in these places.

My partner and I are planning a vacation March 5th - March 16th. We are in our early 30s and both have extensive experience traveling in Europe (he's Scottish). We were looking to get away in March and narrowed it down to Italy (neither of us have ever been) Or Lisbon then north (hes been to Portugal but mostly in the Algarve region where his family has a condo).

In terms of our interest: We love doing museums, historical locations (we do like art but are more interested in learning the history of how people lived). For example, I visited Scotland with him and loved Stirling Castle as it has so much history from the artifacts, to the stories of the people who lived there, information on prisoners held, etc... We also enjoy going to restaurants/bars/cafe (not looking to spend more than 20ish euros/person not including drinks on average for a meal but if we're going somewhere nice that's would be fine. We also love a good cheap sandwich sitting on a park bench while watching people). We really enjoy staying in areas of a city where it has more of a local feel and we don't mind commuting in via metro/bus to where all the heavy tourism is. For this trip, our goal is to see some historic sites/areas, but also to relax and get lost walking in the city, sit in parks/people watch, and if we can, find some cultural events (live music somewhere at night, dance, etc..). Most likely in bed each night by 10PM.

For Portugal - We were looking at starting in Lisbon, ending in Porto, and checking out a few cities in between. Lisbon (4 nights) - SIntra (1 Night) - Coimbra - (1 Night) - Porto (4 nights) with a trip to the Duoro Valley. Most excited at the idea of Portuguese food, Jerónimos Monastery, seeing the castles and history in Sintra, wine excursion/boat trip in Duoro Valley and getting a feel for local life. Also love that it will be by the sea and their cities are beautiful

For Italy - We are looking at Venice (3 nights) - Florence (2 nights) - Rome (4 nights) and then maybe spending a night in a city outside of of the main ones listed. Love the idea of seeing the canals in Venice, Murano, Doge's Palace, Duomo, Colosseum, Castel Sant'Angelo... Again, wandering around the Piazzas, cafes, wine bars, and all the food.

We will be using the train to get to our locations and will be booking open jaw flights.

Again, I know that a lot of this is up to personal preference but would love to try to get an understanding of how these would differ based on some of our preferences.

Posted by
2860 posts

I think you could call me a fan of Italy. I’ve lost count, but we’ve been there around 16 times, with another possible visit on the horizon. However, nine days is so little time for that treasure trove, that I’ll confine my remarks to Portugal.

One advantage of Portugal is that it will probably cost uite a bit less than Italy. I would do Sintra as a day trip from Lisbon. Add that night to Coimbra. Very close to Coimbra is a magnificent Roman archaeological site, Conimbriga. Be sure to include it on your itinerary.

Posted by
593 posts

For Italy - We are looking at Venice (3 nights) - Florence (2 nights) - Rome (4 nights) and then maybe spending a night in a city outside of of the main ones listed. Love the idea of seeing the canals in Venice, Murano, Doge's Palace, Duomo, Colosseum, Castel Sant'Angelo... Again, wandering around the Piazzas, cafes, wine bars, and all the food.

I think you answered your own question. Since neither of you have been, I would pick Italy.

Posted by
5019 posts

One bit is unclear to me. You say you both have "extensive" European travel experience. But you don't say where you have or have not been to before. Have you been to Italy or Portugal? That could make a difference.

If you haven't been to either country before, I'd pick Italy. In March, you'll have a slightly better chance of more warm weather in Italy.

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks everyone for the responses so far!

Rosalyn - You bring up a point about not having enough time to cover everything in Italy. That was one of my fears which is why I was considering Portugal. I know there is a lot to see there as well but i think 10 nights in Portugal allows us to cover a lot more highlights than we would in Italy without feeling rushed.

David - I haven't been to either country and my partner has only been to the south of Portugal at a holiday home with his family so hasn't really done any tourism outside of going to the beach there.

Posted by
5019 posts

There's no way you're going to "cover" everything in Italy in 10 days, or even 30 days for that matter. Do you really anticipate having 90 days to cover everything in Italy anytime in the foreseeable future? If not, that argument ("we can't cover it all in this trip") does not seem to make much sense to me - that's always going to be the case (unless you move there), so that's a reason to put off travel to Italy forever.

Early March is winter. The weather in northern Portugal in early March is likely to be noticeably cooler and wetter than the weather in most of Italy. If you don't want a good possibility of more cold/wet weather, then Italy seems like a better choice to me. In any case, enjoy your trip.

Posted by
4124 posts

These are two of my favorite European countries. However, I would go with Italy if going in March. Portugal will be cooler than Italy. I would do Portugal in May, no earlier.

Posted by
3976 posts

If you look at average weather stats, Lisbon is warmer than Rome in March. Far more people on this forum seem to have visited Italy than Portugal, so you are likely to get far more votes for Italy.

I would opt for Portugal for your timescale, as the weather will be better and it’s more doable in your timeframe, combining Lisbon and the towns north of there such as Alcobaca, Batalha and Obidos.

Ideally, Rome needs at least 5 full days and Venice would be rushed in 4 full days plus travel between the two...

Posted by
6 posts

Thanks all for the input! Sounds like I can't go wrong with either choice. Looking at flights it seems Portugal would be an easier and less expensive option so we'll save Italy for the next trip.

Appreciate it!