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2019 Travel Help: Italy or Spain?

My wife and I were planning to return to Europe for the 3rd year in a row. We’ve done Paris, London (two times each) and Amsterdam. For this year we have a max of 7-8 nights to use just because of my new work position I cannot be gone for close to two weeks right now! We’re deciding between Italy (Rome, Florence and possibly Amalfi coast with some side trips in there) or Spain (Barcelona and maybe a beach stay in Costa del Sol). I’m wondering which trip would be better to fit into our current time frame? The trip would be in early September. Open to itinerary changes and /or suggestions. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
7212 posts

7-8 nights if you go to Italy, don't try to visit three places, stick with two, Rome and Florence.

Italy would be my preference over Spain.

If you go to Spain, I recommend skipping the beach. You can always go to the beach in North America and the beach at Costa del Sol is not very nice.

Posted by
4429 posts

People have different travel styles.
Some wouldn't even consider leaving North America with anything less than 2 weeks for an international trip. Others go for a week and see 1 or 2 cities, where others still do the 'tapas' version - just a taste of what a place has to offer and then move which case 3 or 4 stops in 8 days is realistic for them.
It sounds like you want both a city and an ocean location. In which case, if Italy, I would suggest Rome and the Amalfi Coast. Rome has a lot to offer, and then there are day trips. Or, since you have to change trains there anyway, add a day or 2 in Naples. It isn't a scary hell pit like its reputation seems to be....though, sure, like anywhere, you need to be street smart. Keep in mind the Amalfi Coast isn't as 'efficient' to get around as some places - unless you were planning to rent a car.
If Barcelona and a beach stay is what you would like, I am not going to dissuade you. I think it works for your time constraints.

Posted by
1280 posts

Both are great tourist destinations. But with only 7 or 8 days, whichever you choose, I think you should limit your plans. For Italy, I would pick Rome and Venice. For Spain, I would suggest Barcelona and Seville/Cordoba.

Whether one country is better than the other is a pointless discussion, since both are brilliant (for tourists that is, not necessarily to live in given the economic/political problems of both). But if you want a preference, then Italy is smaller and easier to get around, is attractive, and has more of the "wow" sights you've seen on TV. Spain has a better culture, more diversity of sights and also better food.

I wouldn't make Costa del Sol part of your trip in any case.

Posted by
4429 posts

If Nick's suggestions appeal, then do not buy a return ticket to one location. Fly into one city and out the other. Either recommendation eats up enough hours to loose almost a full day returning to your arrival city. Personally, I would prefer to keep the locations closer to each other with only 7-8 days to work with.....but then I eat tapas, don't do 'tapas' travel.

Posted by
3742 posts

I can't speak for Italy, but for Barcelona I would recommend at least 4 nights, that gives you 3-4 nights to play around with. Personally I wound not recommend to stay at a Costa del Sol tourist trap, there are much better beach areas closer to Barcelona, so you don't waste vacation time traveling all the way down to the south.

For closer alternatives to the Costa del Sol, you can look at:

Costa Brava - The rugged coast just north of Barcelona, here you can find small fishing villages, medieval towns, and hidden beaches tucked in rocky coves.

Costa Dorada - South of Barcelona, here you will find long sandy beaches, young families, and Roman ruins.

Costa del Azahar - North of Valencia, nicknamed "the Orange Blossom", here one can find rural orchards, white washed seaside towns, and even a Knights Templar castle.

Mallorca - The largest of the Balearic Islands southeast of Barcelona, known for turquoise blue waters/coves and rugged green inland, although this island is rather popular with European tourists.

Menorca - The smaller brother to Mallorca, it has the same turquoise blue waters/coves as Mallorca, but with much less people, the island has a more low key slow paced atmosphere.

Posted by
22987 posts

Sorry Maria but our shortest trip was five days and that included travel. My wife later wished we had expanded the trip to six days. It was a birthday in London for one of my former students. With 7/8 nights, I would hit one place for the time period. Changing locations just eats up wasted time that is precious during a short trip. My choice would be Lyon. The grape harvest is getting underway and there are a number of short day trips you could hit for Lyon. Don't make it complicated.

Posted by
4429 posts

Frank, I re-read my initial post. Darn typing fingers...... 'so' should have read 'some'....I have now edited.
So my intent was to say 'some wouldn't consider.....' Me, personally, I would go with shorter timing. It's faster to London than LA and often cheaper.

Posted by
4103 posts

I would choose Rome and Florence. Be sure to schedule your trip to include weekends at the beginning and end-then you have 9 days including travel days

Posted by
1440 posts

I suggest Barcelona and Costa Brava. I agree with people who have said you should pick 2 locations close to each other so you don't waste time traveling.

You could spend 4 or 5 nights in Barcelona, and then spend 3 nights along the Costa Brava. We spent one night in Cadaques, a cute fishing village on the Mediterranean. If it's warm enough, you can swim there. You can visit Dali's house in Port Lligat. We also spent 2 nights in Girona. Places we stopped along the way from Barcelona to Cadaques are: Tossa de mar, S'Agaro, and Callela Palafrugell. Places we visited when we left Girona, and before we returned to Barcelona: Besalu, Ripoll, Rupit, and Vic. Gorgeous scenery! You would fly in and out of Barcelona. It's better to rent a car for the Costa Brava portion of your trip.

If you really want to go south after Barcelona, you could fly to Malaga on the Mediterranean. We spent 2 nights there and really enjoyed it. Lots to see, such as cathedral, Alcazaba, Castle, promenade along the port, beaches, great food, Picasso Museum.

Logistically, I think Costa Brava is better than Malaga because you don't waste any time getting to your destination.

Posted by
5822 posts

I’m a fan of Spain, and if you visit Barcelona, I’d choose the Costa Brava over the Costa Del Sol if you want to visit the beach. Nick’s suggestion of Sevilla/Córdoba in addition to Barcelona is a good one. Rome is nice for 4-5 days and I haven’t been to Florence. Either choice is a good one.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks everyone for the detailed and insightful responses on both Italy and Spain. There’s no question that their both on our radar. We’re leaning towards Italy and we’ll probably review the spots we want to visit to not waste too much time traveling between destinations.

Posted by
143 posts

Another vote for Italy: Do Rome and the Amalfi Coast. It will be splendid!

I have been more than 10 times to Italy and 3 times to Spain. I guess everyone has their favorites!

Posted by
5280 posts

We were in Southern Spain in November (and I've also spent over a week in the Catalan area). I can't speak to Italy, I haven't been there because similar to you, my husband never wanted to take more than 7/8 days off from work. For us, Italy was just enough farther away to make it less appealing for a "shortish" vacation. I would suggest looking at flight possibilities and seen given your location and cost which country makes the best sense for you. I don't think you can go wrong with this choice! Right now I'm pretty enamored with Spain. It's a fascinating and beautiful country.

Posted by
12154 posts

You probably need to do Italy next. I prefer Spain but there was a lot of Italy on my list to see before Spain. I agree with seeing only two places in 7-8 nights.

Both Spain and Italy can be very hot in early September.

I like northern Italy in October and south of Rome in November (but that's not planning a "beach" vacation). For Italy, I'd suggest a classic city like Florence (for museums/art), Bologna (for food) or Milano (for modern/fashion) then substitute Lake Como for a beach destination. I've been to Cinque Terra. It's cute but not much beach going on there. I haven't been to the real Riviera except on the French side of the border. Something like San Remo might be nice.

For Spain, I'd also stay north. Barcelona, then up the coast to Costa Brava is a great choice. There are other good choices and the coast I'd prefer would be the north coast, the stretch on the Atlantic (e.g. Santander). I'm not sure I could pick one city, similar to Barcelona, to visit. Toledo is my favorite because it's just a giant medieval center. Madrid is my least favorite city (so far) in Europe. What it lacks in history it makes up for in crime. My favorite coast is Costa de la Luz (miles of nearly deserted wide sand beaches) but that's too out of the way from the north - and the south will still be too hot to enjoy touring. If you like heat, Seville and Costa de la Luz is a good combination.

Posted by
4 posts

Once again thanks for all the wonderful input on helping me plan out my next trip. This forum here is such a great platform for all of us to share information and help others explore the world! I’m still finishing up some chapters of Rick’s Italy book and then we’ll book our air and hotel based on some of the recommendations above(for locations to include). Spain sounds amazing but for 2019 it sounds like Italy for us.