Escaping the Crowds of Italy for the Charms of Croatia

The allure of an Italian vacation is no real mystery as its rich history, romantic vignettes, and breathtaking Mediterranean views have long been a draw to travelers. The attraction has never been more apparent than over the past couple of years, as Italy’s cities and sites have experienced an influx of tourism. The summer 2023 season saw images of cobblestone streets filled wall-to-wall with people, and visitors twenty rows deep around popular attractions such as the Trevi Fountain. Along the Cinque Terre, officials in Portofino even implemented a new “selfie,” ban with fines of up to $300 for tourists holding up the flow of traffic in certain areas. 

Italy’s draw is undeniable. The treasures of Rome’s ancient history, the romantic ambiance of Venice’s canals, and the postcard-perfect views of Cinque Terre will continue to entice visitors for decades to come… Yet, along with popularity comes consequences. The overcrowding in these iconic spots has reached a tipping point, often detracting from the image that initially drew travelers in. But fear not, for nestled just across the Adriatic lies a gem waiting to be discovered more fully. 

Croatia—a country with over 1,000 islands brimming with architecture and charm that mirrors Italy’s finest offerings while maintaining an authentic, less congested ambiance. The 2,500 miles of coastline beaches and coves along the Adriatic’s azure waters are just the beginning of what Croatia has to offer. The country’s diverse landscapes, from lush national parks to ancient ruins, offer a variety of experiences for families seeking adventure, cultural immersion, and incredible cuisine. 

For history buffs craving a journey through time, Italy’s Rome is synonymous with ancient marvels. However, Croatia’s Dubrovnik, with its preserved medieval walls and winding stone streets, stands as a testament to the region’s storied past. Dubrovnik’s Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, immerses visitors into a time long since passed. A walk atop the city’s ancient walls, circling the city, allows one to take in the city and sea from an incredible vantage point. 

In Italy, romance may thrive along the canals and tiny avenues of Venice, but the Croatian town of Trogir is also a perfect haven for a couple’s getaway. Nestled on a tiny island, connected by bridges to both the mainland and to the larger island of Čiovo, Trogir’s cobblestone streets and Venetian architecture create an enchanting atmosphere filled with quaint cafes and hidden squares. 

When it comes to old-world living and breathtaking views, Italy’s Cinque Terre is often sought after by photo-savvy travelers. Yet, Croatia’s Korčula Town—an easy day trip from Dubrovnik by ferry —offers a similar experience in miniature form. With its terracotta roofs and vine-covered stone walls, Korčula Town exudes a quaint timelessness. Making your way through the small town’s maze of medieval buildings can be done in just about an hour, allowing ample time for dining along the seafront promenade or simply taking in the views overlooking the sparkling sea. The town provides several vantage points rivaling the picturesque landscapes of Cinque Terre but with the added benefit of fewer tourists vying for that perfect photo spot. 

By no means would I discourage visiting Italy- at least once- to experience its rich culture and cuisine. Still, as the peak season crowds continue to grow, and when an off-season vacation is less desirable for seaside visits, there may be a better fit for you and your family. If you are desiring a more intimate, less congested experience reminiscent of Italy’s finest, Croatia offers a compelling alternative. 

Working with House of Travel Design brings our partnerships in and around the world to open up new and exciting destination options for our clients. Uncovering exciting options such as Croatia aligns perfectly with HOTD’s mission of helping families and small groups build deeper connections through shared travel experiences. As you think about your next vacation, we would love for you to consider Croatia—an enchanting land where history, romance, and old-world charm await.