Mediterranean Summer Holiday Comparison – Italy or France vs Montenegro

After spending about seven weeks this summer traveling between the various Mediterranean cities and beaches of Italy, France, Montegro and Albania I think that I have a clear perspective to offer regarding a Riviera beach holiday and I thought I would do a comparison and make some recommendations.

The quick takeaway is that I now feel that for most people looking for a summer trip oriented around sun, water with some flair and culture mixed in the most exciting option at a massive value savings is to head to Montenegro.   Not to say that I didn’t love just about everywhere I went on these trips but if I were forced to choose one it would definitely be Montenegro.   I will explain and you can decide but I suggest if this type of holiday is on your radar for 2019 (or beyond) take a good look at Montenegro and what it has to offer!

Unless you have megabucks you can’t stay on Sveti Stefan but you can swim right up to it and enjoy countless other hassle free beaches in Montenegro

Let me start with what France has to offer that you won’t find in Montenegro.   The number one thing is fashion and glamour.   In addition to the relaxation of the beaches The French Riviera is a place to see and be seen.   It’s a place to see fancy cars like nowhere I have ever been.  Want to see unbelievable yachts?   This is the place especially if you take a day trip to Monaco.

Yachts in Monaco
France and Monaco win in the Yacht contest

Strolling on the boardwalk by the sea you might get confused and think that you have fallen into a fashion show or a movie premiere.   I’m not a huge materialist but I can admit I had a bit of fun and fantasy strolling in this environment for the days that I spent in Cannes and Monaco.   Very simply you will not find this in Montenegro so if this is a big part of your ideal holiday then stick with it.  If it’s not so important I left feeling that this was the only aspect that Montenegro couldn’t come close to replace.

Moving on to the Italian Riviera the piece that you won’t find in Montenegro is the colorful architecture.   The Italian riviera has a really distinct and famous bright style that you will find in Portofino, Cinque Terre and other parts.   I won’t lie, it’s photo-ops til the cows come home.   I took some of my favorite shots in a long time there.

cinque terre
You will only find this in Italy. Colorful, magical towns growing out of the rocks.

Yes, I realize I am doing a horrible job of convincing you not to go and honestly they are both great places but let me tell you what is better about Montenegro.

#1 – It’s a fraction of the cost: Everything from hotels to transport to food costs less in Montenegro.  You can get excellent quality apartment guesthouses for the same price as a dorm bed in the others.   Meals are fantastic (more on that later) and nearly half the price.   With the low cost you are sacrificing almost nothing – just the things listed above.

#2 – It’s less crowded: Don’t confuse this with “completely uncrowded”.   Montenegro sees a large number of tourists but perhaps the beaches have more space or the ratio is just better, I felt less crammed in in Montenegro (one exception is the amazing old city of Kotor which was jam packed but more on that later.

#3 – More Amazing Vistas: The geography of Montenegro and the way the roads evolved allow for better overall views of the sea and mountains than the other two countries.  This isn’t exactly to say it’s “more beautiful” but you definitely get “more views” and driving/traveling you feel a lot more like you are “driving along the sea”.

Kotor Bay
This is a done shot but you can see the road that wraps along the entire bay making a beautiful drive with all sorts of swimming and dining spots along the way.
The view of Kotor Bay driving to Locen National Park
There aren’t many views like this anywhere I have been. not to mention only 30 minutes up the road. Yes, that’s a massive cruise ship on Kotor bay.

#4 – Beautiful, unique historical architecture: The historical architecture in Montenegro is unique and interesting.  It’s not as colorful as the Italian riviera style, although it is of Venetian origin dating to the 15th century in the cities of Kotor and Budva.   Both of these old cities have been transformed into really lovely places for strolling, shopping and dining with a feel that you have been transported centuries back.   Although at times Kotor may feel a little over-touristic you can still catch yourself realizing how ancient this city that you are walking around is.

Venetian architecture from the 15th century in Kotor

#5 – Amazing food: No need to worry about missing out on culinary delights if you choose Montengro.  Although you won’t find French food I doubt you will be left missing it.   Montenegro features cuisine that is a hybrid of Italian and Slavic with a heavy infusion of seafood as you can imagine.   Delicious, fresh seafood prepared by excellent chefs.  You will have trouble deciding which restaurant to go to.  There is no lack of amazing cuisine and the cost point is perhaps half of Italy or France for similar meals.

Seaside dining by the Bay of Kotor
Seaside dining doesn’t get much better than this. Umbrella tables on the dock in Perast
I’m going to get myself in trouble by saying this Napolitan Pizza on the harbor in Budva is as good as Italy!

#6 – Better beaches, better sea: Compared to the beaches I saw in Italy and France … there is no comparison.  The  Italian beaches were small, crowded and covered with umbrellas and wall to wall people.   More or less the same in France but a few less umbrellas.   Montenegro in 2018 still gave me the opportunity to find some space, plus, many of the beaches had natural paths to go for a stroll into the rocky forest area.   As I explained the main road drives along the coast and is scattered all along with little parking lots and places to find your own spot to dive in or lie down.  I think I must have stopped at 8 different spots one day.  It was pure heaven.  I didn’t find anything like that in France or Italy.

I don’t know if the future remains the same as it becomes more popular but for now in my opinion, far better beaches, better sea.

This beach is definitely right up my alley. Perfect water and minor crowds. I could pay for a cabana if I wanted but no one stopped me from going for a swim if I didn’t.

#7 – The elusive “New culture” idea:  I will admit this one may not be everyone’s forte but I love the fact that Montenegro is a deeply Slavic culture made easy because it seems like half the population speak English.   The language is Serbian which i written in Cyrillic and for me it just adds a layer of mystique.   I have spent plenty of time in Russian speaking countries and I love seeing the signs in Cyrillic but it can be daunting in ex-soviet states because very few people speak English.  Here for me it’s the best of both worlds.  You get a small taste of the Eastern European culture but it’s completely accessible and hassle free.

Well, I’ve rambled as always.  Time to hit the road for the next adventure.   I hope I have done enough convincing to try something new, unique and amazing with a visit to Montenegro for your next European beach holiday.



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