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9 romantic countries like Italy overflowing with culture

Loved Italy but looking to spread your travelling wings? Say buongiorno to these romantic countries that will remind you of Italy.

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Fringed by a sweeping Mediterranean coastline and steeped in an ancient history that comes to life it's well-kept ruins, Italy is a land of majesty, history and beauty.

Its rugged Tuscan Coast is the kind of thing that chick-lit was made for. Take Nights in Tuscany, for example. Then, let’s not forget how we were all salivating over Neapolitan cuisine after speeding our way through Eat, Pray, Love.

If you're hungry for more but are craving a different slice of pizza, these countries have that romantic Mediterranean atmosphere, Roman ruins and homestyle meals that can satisfy. Dig in.

The countries like Italy we've totally fallen in love with


1. Spain

Think of Spain as Italy’s more exotic cousin and you’ll be right on the mark.

With its hot Iberian climate, sexy accents and Moorish influences, Spain has a similar romantic undertone to Italy with a more colourful history. Its cities are dotted with domed churches and its streets buzz with life. Like many European countries, Italy helped shape it and Roman ruins can be found throughout.

  • Best for: Food
  • Top three cities to visit: Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: The city of Merida houses the most Roman ruins of any Spanish city. It features a Roman theatre, amphitheatre, bridge and aqueduct.

Check the price of flights to Spain


2. France

World-renowned wines aren't the only thing France and Italy have in common, but it’s a good start.

Once the wine has stopped flowing you’ll start to notice more similarities between these countries. Both have a deep-set Christian history which shows in their landscapes of cathedrals and churches, both have a lifestyle of fashion and flair which can be found in cities like Monaco and Milan, and both are the epitome of romance. Paris or Venice? You decide.

  • Best for: Fashion
  • Top three cities to visit: Paris, Nice and Marseille.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: The city of Nimes features a well-preserved Corinthian temple, amphitheatre and Temple of Diana.

Check the price of flights to France


3. Greece

Where ruins meet the sea is where you’ll find Greece.

Boasting ancient architectural wonders and a Mediterranean coastline, Greece is a melting pot of history and captivating natural landscapes. While it has retained many of its own Greek ruins, some are Roman in disguise.

  • Best for: Seaside architecture
  • Top three places to visit: Santorini, Thessaloniki and Mykonos.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: The ancient city of Corinth has a mix of Roman and Greek ruins.

Check the price of flights to Greece


4. Croatia

A seemingly endless coastline of azure waters and sun-soaked beaches makes Croatia a dream holiday destination.

If you’re searching for Mediterranean climes and ancient towns similar to those in Italy, you can’t look past Croatia. Red-topped buildings line its coastal towns and island adventures are only a short ferry ride from their ports.

  • Best for: Islands
  • Top three cities to visit: Dubrovnik, Split and Zadar.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: Istria County in Croatia’s north houses some of the most spectacular Roman ruins in the country. The city of Pula in particular features the only Roman amphitheatre that has all four of its side towers and all three of its Roman architectural orders preserved in full.

Check the price of flights to Croatia


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5. Malta

From forts and underground burial grounds to sun-blessed beaches and colourful boats, Malta drips with history and culture.

For a slice of Italy that won't take you months to explore, Malta is the ultimate Mediterranean pit-stop. From here you can pop up to Italy itself by ferry to the island of Sicily, though with its coast which dips between cliff, beach and viewpoint, cobblestoned streets and historical churches to explore, you might not need to.

  • Best for: Ruins
  • Top three cities to visit: Valletta, Mdina, Rabat and Birgu.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: Catacombs, temples and underground worlds bespeckle the island nation though for a true Roman experience, visit Domvs Romana. This household belonged to a rich Roman and while little remains you can still reminiscence the past through remnants of its mosaic tiling and ornate perfume bottles.

Check the price of flights to Malta


6. Portugal

This coastal country feels like a scaled back, laid-back version of Italy.

The sweet town centres, cobblestoned laneways and whitewashed buildings of Portugal are reminiscent of townships that speckle the Italian countryside. Wine is the tipple of choice here, with layers of vineyards toppling down hillsides in places such as the Douro Valley resembling that of Italy’s Trentino region.

  • Best for: Wine
  • Top three cities to visit: Lisbon, Porto and Sintra.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: Conimbriga was the biggest Roman city in Portugal and its remains are considered to be the most well preserved in the country.

Check the price of flights to Portugal


7. Brazil

With 15% of Brazil’s population being Italian or of Italian descent, Brazil takes the gold medal for having the largest percentage of Italians outside of Italy.

For those who like numbers, that's a whopping 31 million Italian descendents living in Brazil! Searching for the most Italian city here? Check out Sao Paulo. It’s home to half of Brazil’s Italian population. Here, Italian is spoken on every other corner and Brazilian-Italian culinary creations such as Galeto, Chocotone and Bife à parmegiana can be found on every other menu.

  • Best for: Food / exploring somewhere outside of Europe.
  • Top three cities to visit: Sao Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul and Minas Gerais.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: None.

Check the price of flights to Brazil


8. Lebanon

This former country of the Roman Republic might have its own distinct personality and style, but it still retains many of its links to its Italian history.

Lebanon’s friendship with Italy goes as far back as 64BC when it was added to the Roman Republic and was Romanised. Habits, customs and knowledge were exchanged and this shows in Lebanon's unique European style of life. The country also boasts a bountiful Mediterranean landscape and world-class beaches.

  • Best for: World-class beaches, fashion and a taste of east-meets-west.
  • Top three cities to visit: Beirut, Tripoli and Tyre.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: Baalbek is one of the best known Roman archaeological sites in Lebanon. It features the Temple of Baal-Jupiter and Bacchus.

Check the price of flights to Lebanon


9. San Marino

Completely encased by north-central Italy, countries don’t get more Italian than San Marino.

At just 61km2, San Marino is one of the smallest countries in Europe. Its origins date back to 301AD and, aside from two short-lived military occupations by the Spanish and Italians, it has managed to maintain its independence throughout. It shares its language, climate and mountain range with Italy and boasts a cuisine similar to that which is found in Italy's Emilia-Romagna and Marche regions.

  • Best for: The alps
  • Top three cities to visit: City of San Marino, Dogana and Borgo Maggiore.
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: The Basilica di San Marino is built on the foundations of a 4th century Romanesque Church. Aside from this, the best place to see Roman ruins is inside the National Museum.

Check the price of flights to San Marino (Rimini)


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Bonus: California, USA

While not technically a country, California is a whole other world compared to other parts of the USA – and some regions sure feels a lot like Italy.

Take for example Napa Valley with its acclaimed wines and magnificent chateaus or Sonoma County and its rolling plains and dramatic cliffside. With heaps of cheap flights to Los Angeles available at the moment, you don’t have to overspend to feel like you’re being spoiled in the Italian countryside.

  • Best for: Vineyards and wine.
  • Top three cities to visit: Napa, Sonoma
  • Must-visit Roman ruins: None, but the Mediterranean-inspired Hearst Castle is worth a visit.

Check the price of flights to California


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