…and the winner is…
Wait! This is not a competition. There is no winner nor loser. France is amazing and so is Italy, therefore I suggest you visit both. However, there are extreme differences between the most popular beach destinations located along France and Italy; each catering to a different mood.
Are you seeking tranquility or company?
We adored the French Riviera and felt it was more in line with our personal tastes but we are a couple that wanted a romantic location where we could snorkel in peace. We also have already spent a multitude of vacations along the Amalfi Coast.
If you are unattached and are looking for a sizzling-hot beach location full of sexy singles, then Italy would be the choice for you. Some of the most hopping beach locations in Italy are not on the Amalfi coast. If you want to dance all day and night on a beautiful beach, you should look into going to Rimini, Riccione, Porto Cervo, Jesolo, Salento, Catania or Taormina. There are lots of hot spots in Capri as well. So if you are on the Amalfi Coast, then Capri is just a short boat-ride away.
Although France has several beach-side hot spots as well, such as San Tropez, we did not explore them. We loved the tranquility we found along the French Riviera and wish it were easier to find along Italy’s Amalfi Coast.
Showers, Beach Establishments, Litter
The French Riviera
90% of the French coast we visited were free beaches which featured fresh-water showers. The private establishments had sun loungers with plush mattresses and were placed at a distance from the other sunbathers. The public beaches were clean: no garbage, no accumulation of algae, no cigarette butts.
The Italian Amalfi Coast
95% of Italy’s coast seems to be covered in beach establishments, whose canvas sun loungers are practically on top of each other. On some beaches, the establishments divide the water itself with long cords stretching out into the distance. This is annoying if you like to swim back and forth, making you have to swim under these ropes each time. There are also no showers on any free beach that I have visited in Italy. The beaches are sometimes clean and other times they are full of algae, contain litter and cigarette butts. We had returned to one of our favorite beaches in Tuscany’s Argentario shoreline only to find that a winter storm had covered it in algae and the city had never bothered to clean it up.
The French Riviera
The French beach establishments were very chic and seemed to mostly be made up of couples and small groups of friends. However, there are many Italian beach establishments that are as hopping as a club on a Saturday night. They are packed with sunbathers who are there to tan and socialize.
Italy’s Amalfi Coast
If you are seeking a romantic location in Italy, you will have to seek lesser known spots but will still have to put up with the canvas loungers mere inches away. If you are in the mood for a party, Italy is the place for you. Since we spend every other weekend on the Amalfi Coast, we tend to sail away from the beaches in order to get some swimming space for ourselves. There are beaches that are only accessible by boat and although they are never deserted, they are as close to tranquility as you will find along la costa amalfitana.
Where the people flock…
The French beaches were rarely crowded and we were there during peak season, July-August. Only 10% of the people on the beach were actually in the water. I felt as if I had it to myself. It was heavenly.
Italy’s beaches are not only overcrowded on any sunny day but the shores are full of people playing with rackets, balls, Frisbees and children throwing rocks. Then there are always those Italians who love to talk loudly, so you are never truly at peace. For this reason, I love to go to the Italian coast when I go with a large group of friends. It turns into a party on the beach. Other times, we opt for the boat instead.
In Italy’s defense, one must realize that Italy is a much smaller country with an extensive beach-adoring population. If you ask any Italian where they plan on vacationing, 99% will say, “The beach!”. It seemed as though the French did not share this love for laying in the sun all day. Perhaps this explains the differences we found.
I rarely noticed anyone smoke in France. This actually surprised me as most of my French friends smoke. I do not know the statistics but since we are quite sensitive to the disgusting stench of poisonous smoke, I recall moving away only a handful of times during our entire stay.
In Italy, on the other hand, you will always be near a smoker, unless you hide indoors and even then there is no guarantee since I’ve noticed cigarette smoke seeping in from underneath doors and in through the windows. I have yet to see any smoker in Italy with any sort of smoking etiquette. The concept simply does not seem to exist. If you are outdoors, Italian smokers genuinely believe that their poisonous smoke magically becomes odorless. This is true in many European countries, including France. However, the fact that I rarely encountered a smoker in the south of France, made all the difference.
The deep blue sea…
The water in Italy is warm enough to swim in as early as April if you are south of Naples. I love this about Italy. The earliest I’ve swum in Italy has actually been Easter in March and the latest was Halloween.
Many areas feature jewel-tones azure seas filled with a variety of sea life that you would not want to miss. While snorkeling along the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Ponza, we have spotted such creatures such as moray eels; octopus; tuna; rare lavender sea urchins and ‘pommodori di mare’, which are red sea creatures that are attached to the rocks along the shore.
In France, the water was sparkling clean and loaded with large fish, but it was definitely much cooler and I would imagine one would have to wait for summer in order to swim. We went snorkeling on an island that is a marine reserve and practically swooned over how huge the fish were. It was glorious to swim among them.
Although Italy has some beaches located in national parks and reserves, there are too many people who ignore the strict rules, therefore diminishing the amount of large fish and the cleanliness of the water. It still is beautiful, though.
Why I love them both…
Regardless, knowing Italy’s pitfalls always motivates us to seek lesser known locations, which are always impressive. Italy is beautiful and when you know where to go and what to avoid, you can have an exquisite experience. In fact, most Italians know where to go when they want peace and quiet and more importantly, they know WHEN to go.
Italy can definitely improve on many points, but in my opinion, the pros still outnumber the cons. I have had wonderful experiences on its coast, usually in a private boat, in order to avoid the negative aspects. However, there is still magic found on its coast. We find it each time we visit the Amalfi Coast and Capri. They are simply breathtaking.
Sometimes I sense that Italy does not want to be as grand as it could be. The funny thing is that Italy is amazing, regardless. Perhaps Italy feels that it is good enough and has stopped trying. It is this lackadaisical attitude that gets on my nerves. If Italy made a little more of an effort, it would improve dramatically. Imagine that! It would be paradise.
This was our first time on the French Riviera. When you have merely researched a country and have no first-hand experience, you usually end up somewhere touristy and over-crowded. We were extremely impressed that our vacation turned out to be more than we could have ever desired. We were especially happy to realize that you do not have to be an expert in order to simply enjoy a day at the beach. We believe this outcome has less to do with our good fortune and more to do with France having their priorities right.