Lonely Planet Writer

Is Italy better than France?

Asking should be a crime, so call me criminal. France always attracts more visitors than anywhere else -- but I've long had a sneaking suspicion that Italy was the gold-medalist for stolen hearts. We posted the cheeky question on Facebook, and -- at 254 comments, and counting -- things dipped heavily towards Italia (getting 62.6% of the vote compared to France's 24.4% -- the undecided and wisecrackers took the other 10%).


Meanwhile, I've reached out to other folks to get their take too:

Wherever you go in France, it feels different to anywhere else in the country. There are extinct volcanoes in the Auvergne, Europe’s biggest sand dune at Dune de Pyla, dramatic cliffs such as Corsica's Calanques de Piana. There’s also wide open spaces, as you find in the Camargue and in Champagne, and fascinating geography – such as the pink granite coast in Brittany and the peaks of Le Puy-en-Velay.

- Carolyn Boyd, Editor of France magazine

I think Italy has more to offer. It has more UNESCO World Heritage sites, and it lets you cross off more things off your lifetime to-do list (Rome, Pompeii, Michelangelo’s David, Pisa, Last Supper); French food is complicated on purpose, yet Italy’s simple food manages to be the best things you ever eaten. Plus Italy is a little on the raw side. Of course, that's probably what makes France easier (and therefore more popular) for tourists, but easy isn’t always better.

- Jessica Spiegel, of Italylogue.com

It comes down to one factor: Food. Italian food gets a lot of respect, but for my money, French cuisine is more varied and creative. Plus, you have wonderful patisseries on every corner, and if you get sick of creamy sauce, meat, and cheese, you can always turn to the bevy of restaurants backed by immigrants from Vietnam, Algeria, Senegal, and the various Caribbean Islands. Plus, the French women are better looking.

Taylor Holland, Paris resident from Oklahoma

With a name like Lombardi, how can I not be a tad biased? With all due respect to France (the first country I ever visited in Europe), I'd have to vote for Italy. It's the epitome of soul, superb cuisine and wine, cultural surprises, and those always entertaining, lively, unpredictable, affable Italians. France may 'work' a bit better for some (fewer strikes, fewer infrastructure curveballs) but for me, Italy is a magical place of irresistible joie de vivre.

- Ann Lombardi, of the Trip Chicks

I hate to sound cliché (isn't that French?), but French people for the most part were kind of rude to me. The Italians were very nice and I prefer a big ol' bowl of spaghetti and meatballs to frog's legs any day of the week.

- Andrew Hickey, aka Brooklyn Nomad

Technically, France should be greater than Italy--after all they claimed more copies of the Holy Foreskin (about 12 to 1) than Italy during the Middle Ages. But Italy still prevails: in soccer, in popes, in hand gestures, and in culinary myopia.

- David Farley, author of "An Irreverent Curiosity"

Is Italy better? Yes. Italy is Technicolor, operatic mayhem and drunken swoons. France is beautiful, but in that black-and-white-photo-of-a-ballerina-with-her-hair-pulled-back-neatly-in-a-bun kind of way.

- Regis St Louis, LP author with French-sounding name

France has the world's best food, wine and attitude to life. All this makes it a place to see slowly, to savour over long lunches and lazy explorations of beautiful villages, towns and cities. Throw super-fast trains and roads lined with giant plane trees and you have an unbeatable cocktail. Italy's great, but second-best on all the above counts.

- Tom Hall, LP's UK Travel Editor

Italy or France, apples or oranges? Hey, I love both. But then I have lived for a year in Paris so there is an element of ‘been there, done that.’ On a short visit to Rome last year I had the distinct feeling, ‘I could live here,’ and it’s true, I could. So for 2010 at least, Italy please.

- Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet