Choosing to holiday in the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre is a hard decision, but either way you can’t go wrong with these coastal destinations.
Both towns paint Italy’s steep cliffs in vibrant colors that reflect off of the crystal clear water crashing at the shores below. Each destination nestles the sun-kissed buildings and pantone orange rooftops along the shoreline in a dramatic fashion. And worlds collide as the sea merges with land and life to create these idyllic holiday destinations in the heart of Italy.
Beyond their beauty, these fishing villages are hustling and bustling with Italian culture from the fresh seafood, delectable wines and relaxing way of life.
Although both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are Italian bucket list dreams, travelers usually have to make a choice because of the restrictions of time and money. So now comes the hard decision: should you spend a holiday lounging along the Amalfi Coast or exploring the Cinque Terre by foot?
The choice is yours, but here are some key differences that may help you decide.
First and foremost, depending on your other travel plans and location, one destination may make more sense logistically. Also, do you plan to rent a car and take day trips? This will surely factor into which destination you choose.
Generally, you can find Cinque Terre along the coast of northern Italy in the Liguria region, which is a stone’s throw away from bustling cities like Florence and Milan. By train or car, Florence is only two hours away, while Milan is about a three hour commute to the sunny coast.
Cinque Terre’s geographic location is not exactly ideal for day trips, and most people actually take day trips there instead. Although nearby Levanto is a worthy afternoon jaunt for a stroll along its boardwalk that hugs the lapping turquoise waters.
And while the Cinque Terre lies to the north, you can find the Amalfi Coast resting along southern Italy in the Campania region.
If you find yourself in Naples or Rome, the Amalfi Coast is far more accessible than its northern counterpart. From Naples it’s only an hour by car or train, while Rome varies around two to three hours depending on trains and traffic.
And if you love wandering out for day trips, then the Amalfi Coast’s location is perfect for you, especially when it comes to island hopping Capri, Ischia and Procida. What more could you ask for than a picturesque home base, and access to some of the world’s most beautiful landmasses in the middle of the Meditteranean?
Visitors are drawn to these two Mediterranean destinations mainly for the beach and other outdoor activities, and the weather to go along with it. Generally, the shoulder seasons and winter months are mild, while the summers are dry and stifling. Although the Cinque Terre is always a few degrees lower than the Amalfi Coast throughout the year.
For both destinations you should expect the best weather during the summer months spanning from May to September, but the real difference lies in the shoulder seasons, and should be factored into your decision if you plan to travel during these times.
From October to April, the Cinque Terre cools down with the crowds and the rainy season, which also may impact your ability to explore the winding trails that so many people flock here for.
May and June are the best times to visit this spot because it’s not as rainy, and the perfect temperature to hike and then cool down with a soothing dip in the ocean.
During the shoulder seasons, the Amalfi Coast still holds onto some of the stifling heat that wafts from every sloping hill and wandering alley during the peak of summer.
And if you want to escape the frosty touch of winter, then the Amalfi Coast is the perfect getaway. Plus, less crowds to navigate through during this time of the year!
The transportation situation in Cinque Terre is simple, efficient and easily navigated. Essentially you have two options: train or ferry.
The ferry stops at Portovenere, Monterosso, Manarola, Vernazza and Riomaggiore. And tickets are very affordable, even during the thick of summer. And the trains careen through the villages from hotspots across Italy, including Tuscany and Milan. They even reach the little towns perched along the raised cliffs.
Traveling through the villages that link Cinque Terre is far easier than navigating the chaos of the Amalfi Coast.
To get to your final destination situated somewhere in the Amalfi Coast, you will most likely need to take a combination of planes, trains and automobiles, and maybe even a scooter too.
In the Amalfi Coast trains only stop in Sorrento and Salerno, the northern and southern points along the coast. And since they are a bit of a trek between you will have to find another way to travel through.
And the most common means of exploring the little towns scattered throughout the entirety of the Amalfi Coast is by bus. The SITA bus stops in Amalfi Town, Ravello and Positano. During the summer months, these buses are hot, sweaty and crowded, and there’s a possibility you will have to wait for the next bus.
While the buses can be hectic, self-driving a car or scooter can be daunting for those not familiar with the narrow roads that wind precariously close to the cliff’s edge.
If you’re traveling to this coastal region, then think about how you would like to travel or just stay in a central location.
While Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast are similar in geography, views and charm, they vastly differ when it comes to experience and atmosphere.
When you head off to this fishing town, you will find the relaxing pace of a beach destination, steep hiking trails and a laid back vibe. Spend mornings powering through a hike and exchange your tennis shoes for a swimming costume and an afternoon floating to the rhythm of the ocean’s hum. Then be sure to end the day with a five euro pizza big enough to feed an adventurous appetite.
This way of life attracts backpackers and travelers with little ones to all corners of Cinque Terre.
The Amalfi Coast is a jetsetter’s paradise with a luxurious expanse of five-star accommodation and restaurants, similar to the feel of France’s Monaco. Tourists dress to impress as they shop, dine and lounge in the lavish lifestyle that can be found in Ravello and Positano.
Feeling fancy? Then head to the Amalfi Coast for a five-star experience.
Imagine steep hills carved into the rocky face of Italy’s coastal cliffs that wind in and out of view from the sparkling waters below. And this is why adventurers flock to both the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast every year. For some of the world’s best hikes, snorkeling and swimming, all under the bright palate of the Italian sun.
While both destinations offer outdoor experiences for the active traveler, Cinque Terre is the ideal destination for those looking for a challenge to summit.
You can find Italy’s most incredible hikes here. And there is a plethora of options well beyond the well-traveled Sentiero Azzurro, also known as the Blue Path that strings through each little town lining the coast. Other hikes to power through follow the Sanctuary trail and the High Path, plus if you’re sick of walking you can also try out the carefully marked buoyed trail that flows along the coast just for boats. These hikes promise a well-earned postcard that captures exactly why the Cinque Terre tops bucket lists across the world.
Although Cinque Terre draws the hiking crowd, the Amalfi Coast has a few hidden gems nestled amongst the rolling hills, steep cliffs and sloping houses.
When you find yourself here and looking for a hike to later wash off in the ocean, be sure to do the Path of the Gods trek, which is known to the locals as Il Sentiero degli Dei. You begin in Bomerano all the way through Nocelle and Positano.
While the Amalfi Coast may have less hiking trails and more lounging than Cinque Terre, it still has natural wonders for you to discover hidden high above along the mountain’s ridge.
When tourists are planning their Italian holiday they look to Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast for their beach cravings. And who wouldn’t when your backyard literally extends into a horizon of blue.
While the Amalfi Coast is far more idolized in the eyes of lounging beach-goers, Cinque Terre also has plenty of options to unwind and reset under the guise of the perfect Instagrammable location. And your options are diverse in Cinque Terre. For the typical beach escape, head to Monterosso for silky sand and caressing waves.
Craving the typical Italian pebbled beach? Try the oasis in Riomaggiore. If you need a break from the piercing sun and aloe baths then spend an afternoon soaking in the Manarola cover. Other spots to consider can be found in Vernazza, Corniglia and Guvano.
The Amalfi Coast is a dream of lapping waters, lounging sunbathers and the slight rustle of pebbles shifting under the weight of luxurious sunbeds. You can’t go wrong with any of the shores lining this coastal town, especially the hidden coves of Gavitella beach and Duoglio beach.
It’s not an Italian holiday without the food, and these fishing villages are known for some of the best fresh seafood and delectable experiences. And since they’re both in different regions, they offer diverse options for every diet and need. But they still stay true to the deliciously simple recipes that locals and travelers have fallen in love with.
This northern territory of Italy is known for seafood, obviously, pesto alla genovese, focaccia and fritto misto.
As you meander through the narrow sloped streets, you can quite literally look on as the fishermen slap the day’s catch onto the shores. And you will hear the same sound as it hits your plate during an evening dedicated to the Italian aperitif and spritz. And be sure to reward any hike with at least two scoops of your favorite gelato flavors. You will never struggle to find a cheery Italian standing behind the silky smooth rainbow of sweet sustenance.
The Cinque Terre is more traditional and simple food fare, but the Amalfi Coast does food bigger, better and more luxurious than most, purely because they’re known for its dense flavor of buffalo mozzarella that perfectly tops any margherita pizza. Don’t forget that a slice of pizza in Italy is a whole pie, so be prepared to savor every last bite.
Looking for a more refined experience? The Amalfi Coast is known for its extravagance, especially when it comes to dining. From five-star to Michelin, your taste buds will explode into a firework display brighter than the buildings dotting this coastal region.
End your days with the sweet and succulent flavors of limoncello with a side of sfogliatelle, a pastury spilling over with decadence and ricotta.
You don’t need to visit Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast to know that the views are a masterpiece painting Italy’s coasts. It’s an Italian trifecta that merges ingenious architecture with the elements of land and water. Your camera roll will be filled with its beauty well before your trip comes to an end.
In comparison to its southern counterpart, Cinque Terre is a more quaint and modest fantasy. The buildings neatly nestle into the cliffs that perfectly fold over the sandy shores. And the dull drum of the ocean against this town’s rocky exterior is the sweet harmony that can be heard in the heart of Cinque Terre.
The Amalfi Coast is just so extravagantly beautiful, there are just so many places to stay. While this town’s architecture lacks the vibrancy of Cinque Terre’s structures, it comes alive as a backdrop for the pure natural beauty that radiates from the surrounding sea and impressive hillside. Plus, in exchange for the rainbow of color spilling from Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast’s foundation is so intricately designed with stunning details – just look at the Cathedral of Amalfi.
So, the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre? Either way prepare for a holiday rife with breathtaking views, natural wonders and inspiring Italian culture.
To discover more about Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast and the rest of your Italian holiday, check out Italian Breaks for where to go, where to stay and what to do.