The Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are two popular destinations in Italy that are both famous for their picturesque towns with colorful houses on a dramatic rugged coastline. Both regions are very touristy and charming at the same time. However, if you need to pick one, which one to choose? Is the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre a better choice? Here is a detailed comparison to help you decide.
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Why visit the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre is a coastal region renown for its five picturesque, small villages sitting on dramatic cliffs. Villages are very cute with their colorful houses, little harbors, surprising vineyards on steep terraces, lively vibes and delicious seafood and cuisine. Also, many people visit Cinque Terre to hike on the famous hiking trails, that connect the five villages, with some amazing scenic views.
The Amalfi Coast is also a region renown for its picturesque towns with colorful houses sitting one after another on steep hills on a beautiful coastline. Whereas, I can say a visit to the Amalfi Coast is more like “life is beautiful, enjoy the life” vibe of a trip. Scenic views, glamorous romantic hotels, beautiful sea, many cute little towns, small beaches, the freshest seafood, and everything about lemons, from limoncello to lemon decorated ceramics are only of the few of the things you would see (and love) on a trip to the Amalfi Coast.
Both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of their cultural importance and beautiful nature.
Is Amalfi Coast near Cinque Terre?
No! The Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are very far away from each other.
Cinque Terre is located in north Italy on the north western coasts, close to Pisa and Genoa. It is:
- One hour and a half away from The Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Two hours and a half on the west of Florence
- About 3 hours train ride to the south of Milan
- About 5 hours drive to the north of Rome.
The Amalfi Coast is located in south Italy on the south western coasts of the country, close to Naples. It is,
- About 1 hour trip to the south of Naples
- About 3 and a half hour trip to the south of Rome.
In other words, the Amalfi Cost and Cinque Terre are about 8 hour drive away from each other. Instead of trying to visit both of them at the same time, it is better to visit them as a part of northern Italian or southern Italian trips.
Is the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre better?
Honestly, it is hard to say if the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre is better than each other. Both of them are beautiful with slightly different vibes. For more of a backpacker trip with hiking and small villages hopping Cinque Terre is better. However, for a romantic vacation with many glorious places, beautiful vistas and with more laid back atmosphere the Amalfi Coast can be a better choice.
What is the difference between the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre?
As I mentioned above, the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are totally different regions in Italy at locations far away from each other. Also, the Amalfi Coast sells itself as a more glamorous, romantic holiday destination with turquoise blue sea and cute beaches. Whereas, Cinque Terre is a destination for hikers, instagrammers and small fishing towns admirers.
Actually, the main difference between the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre is, how large and expanse each region is. In fact, the coast of Cinque Terre is only about 10 miles long. On the contrary, the Amalfi Coast is about 30 miles long.
Definitely, Cinque Terre is more compact. Thus, it is easier to travel between the villages. What’s more, there is a regional train in Cinque Terre that connects all five villages between each other and to the cities around. So we can say, getting to Cinque Terre is much easier and it can be even visited as a day trip if you have limited time. (although I would not suggest to do so in order to enjoy its vibe deeply)
On the other hand, the Amalfi Coast covers a larger area with beautiful towns and villages to visit. Also, there is the glamorous island of Capri just off the shores of Amalfi Coast. Definitely, you would need more than one day to see the places worth visiting on the Amalfi Coast.
Which one is more crowded: the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre?
Both of the regions are extremely popular and overcrowded in high season. Other than that, since Cinque Terre is located on a smaller area and is famous as a day trip destination, it can be more packed.
People who visit Cinque Terre as a day trip use the regional train to hop between villages. They usually get off at each village, snap a few pictures and ride the next train to the next village. Indeed, it can be extremely crowded between 10 am and 4 pm, since the train is not as frequent in the evenings. That’s why, I would highly suggest to consider staying in Cinque Terre for at least one night, to be able to experience its beauty, early in the morning when it is still secluded and in the evening after day trippers have left the villages.
Whereas, since transportation on the Amalfi Coast is basically by cars and buses, it can be more challenging with the crowds. Traffic jams in high season and almost impossible parking place hunting can be furious. Also, Positano, the prettiest and the most famous town of Amalfi Coast, would have a high chance of being the most crowded place in Amalfi.
Is Cinque Terre cheaper than Amalfi?
Yes! I would say Cinque Terre is not cheap, but it is cheaper than Amalfi :). The accommodations in Cinque Terre are mostly rental apartments, guest houses or B&Bs. On the contrary, Amalfi is popular with its boutique hotels with a view which are quite expensive. Also, especially when you visit Positano, you would notice the prices generally are almost doubled or more there, compared to other touristy places.
Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast Itinerary
Here is a short summary of the places to visit in the regions to help you decide which destination to choose. In addition, I mentioned our itineraries during our Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast trips, to give an idea what other places there are worth visiting if you are planning a bigger tour around the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre .
Places to visit in Cinque Terre
The five villages that make Cinque Terre going from north to south are:
- Monterosso al Mare: The northernmost village and the only one among villages that intercity trains coming from bigger cities stop. Although Monterosso is less photogenic compared to the other villages it is quite touristy because it is the only one with an actual nice beach.
- Vernazza: It is the second village coming from the north. Vernazza is the prettiest village of all villages in Cinque Terre, meaning it’s the most popular and crowded one at the same time. The village sits around a cute natural harbor with colorful houses all around. It has lovely old town vibes with a lively main street and lots of artisanal shops around.
- Corniglia: The only village among all five without a harbor. Corniglia sits on a steep cliff over the sea. You need to climb hundreds of stairs to reach Corniglia.
- Manarola: It is the most picturesque village. You must have seen millions of pictures of Manarola. The famous view of pastel colored houses standing on a rocky cliff, facing the beautiful sea and a small harbor (the first picture of this post). It is like the summary of all the scenic views of Cinque Terre.
- Riomaggiore: The southernmost village of Cinque Terre. It sits on a narrow rock valley with a small harbor and colorful houses all around.
Places to visit around Cinque Terre
We have visited Cinque Terre as a part of our Northern Italy road trip. Ever since, I am dreaming of going back for a longer vacation at this beautiful region. On our trip, we flew to Milan airport and rented a car there. Then, our road trip route was: Genoa, Portofino, Cinque Terre, Pisa, Florence, Tuscany villages, Siena, Venice, Verona, Bellagio, Como and Milan.
How to get to Cinque Terre?
The closest airports to Cinque Terre are in PIsa and Genoa. As an alternative, you can also fly to Milan which is about three hours train ride to the villages. If you have rented a car, it is suggested to leave the car in one of the closest towns to Cinque Terre and continue with train. Since the roads to the area are too challenging and there is very limited parking place in the villages the best option is going by train.
Thankfully, the Cinque Terre has great train connections. You can ride a train from big cities to directly Monterosso (the only village where intracity trains stop). Or, you can come to Lavanto on the north or La Spezia on the south and catch the regional Cinque Terre Express from there.
Cinque Terre Express runs every 20 minutes between Levanto and La Spezia and stops in all five villages. It takes only a few minutes to go from one village to the next one by train.
How many days do you need in Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre can be visited as a day trip. However, as I mentioned above I highly recommend staying in Cinque Terre for at least one or two nights.
What is the best time of year to visit Cinque Terre?
Best time to visit the area with less crowds and a chance of a delightful hike between villages is April-May and September-October. Summer months are hot and overcrowded but if you don’t mind the crowds it is the time to enjoy the lively Cinque Terre and a dip in its sea at the same time.
Which village is best to stay in Cinque Terre?
Riomaggiore can be a good choice to stay in Cinque Terre. It is not as popular as the other villages, has beautiful scenic views and offers many restaurants to dine in. Allo Scalo Dei Mille is an accommodation (booking.com score of 9.5 for more than 200 reviews) in the center of the village with a great location and renovated rooms.
If you prefer to stay in a hotel in Cinque Terre instead of a rental apartment, Monterosso al Mare is the village where you would find many hotels to stay. Also, as I mentioned above it is the only village with an actual beach. Hotel la Colonnina (booking.com score of 9.1 for more than 400 reviews) is a good choice to stay in Monterosso with a great location, terrace, garden and continental breakfast.
Alternatively, many people choose to stay in La Spezia for a more affordable stay compared to the Cinque Terre. La Spezia is the town where the Cinque Terre Express departs, making it a great base to explore Cinque Terre. There are many places to stay in walking distance to La Spezia train station. In addition, some of them offer a parking space (generally for an additional fee) which is very convenient since finding a place to park our car was really hard even when we went in low season. For places to stay in La Spezia, please click here.
Places to visit on the Amalfi Coast
There are 13 towns and villages on the Amalfi Coast. Also, as a note, not all the town are beach towns, some are higher up on the cliffs. Going from west to east the towns and villages of the Amalfi Coast are: Positano, Praiano, Furore, Conca dei Marini, Atrani, Amalfi, Ravello, Scala, Minori, Maiori, Tramonti, Cetara and lastly, Vietri sul Mare. (I’ve put all these towns in order in google maps and it was a 64 km drive to visit all. Note that Ravello, Scala and Tramonti aren’t coastal towns but higher up inlands.)
Nevertheless, majority of people visiting the Amalfi Coast don’t go to all towns in the area. They usually visit only Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. In addition, Sorrento and Capri Island are two more places that are worth to be added to the Amalfi Coast itineraries.
- Positano: The prettiest of all towns in Amalfi. It is the iconic village of the Amalfi Coast. The colorful houses of Positano are nestled on a hill, overlooking the turquoise sea and a beautiful beach. It is a luxurious tourist destination and one of the most romantic places in all Italy.
- Amalfi: The town that the Amalfi Coast was named after. Once it was a powerful maritime republic but today it is more like a beautiful little coastal town. It is a bigger place than Positano with a lively main street, a Duomo and quite long sandy beach just in front of the town.
- Ravello: It is a town set high above the see overlooking the beautiful Amalfi Coast. Ravello is especially famous for its iconic cliffside gardens and villas with far reaching views.
Places to visit around the Amalfi Coast
- Sorrento: Actually the town of Sorrento is not located on the Amalfi Coast, but it sits on a great place to go to both the Amalfi Coast and Capri island. Sorrento is a beautiful coastal town on the Bay of Naples. It also sits on dramatic cliffs and offers some sweeping water views, a historic center and some great restaurants. Sorrento is an affordable place to stay and dine compared to its expensive neighbors Positano and Capri.
- Capri: The popular island of Capri is a luxury vacation destination. It is renown as a vacation place of many celebrities and the wealthiest people. Though the beautiful island of Capri has many things to offer other than luxury beach holiday and its exclusive vibe. Beautiful gardens, dramatic views, spectacular rock formations, beautiful villas, delightful coastal walk paths are only some of the things to do in Capri.
- Napels: It is the third largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan. Also, it is the birthplace of pizza. Naples is a place with pure southern Italian vibe and totally different from the places you’ve visited in northern Italy. It is an energetic, less polished place with characteristic, loud, passionate and proud southern Italian people. Naples is also much cheaper than the other popular places in Italy.
- Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius: The archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and also Mount Vesuvius standing behind them are located on the Bay of Naples. You can visit Pompeii with a short train ride from Naples or Sorrento.
Our Amalfi Coast itinerary
Our Amalfi coast itinerary was: Naples, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Sorrento, Capri, Naples and Pompeii.
We stayed in Positano, in Capri and in Sorrento during our Amalfi coast trip (click on the links to see more photos of our trip to those places). Indeed, Sorrento was a great base for all the places we wanted to visit during our trip. We took the Sita buses to Amalfi Coast, ferries to Capri and Naples, and the regional Circumvesuviana train to Pompeii from Sorrento.
How to get to the Amalfi Coast?
We flew to Naples International Airport and took the airport bus (Alibus) to the central train station in Naples. Then, we got on Circumvesuviana regional train and got off at last stop in Sorrento. Finally, by getting on the Sita buses in Sorrento we easily reached the Amalfi Coast and its popular towns of Positano and Amalfi.
Alternatively, you can fly to Rome, have a few days there and then you can catch a train from Rome to the Amalfi Coast. Since there isn’t train access to the Amalfi coast, you need to go to first Naples and then board on a regional train to Sorrento. Or you can choose to go all the way to Salerno or the last town in the Amalfi Coast: Vietri sul Mare and then take a bus to the other coastal villages.
How many days do you need on the Amalfi Coast?
You would need at least three to five days to visit the main places on the Amalfi Coast and around.
What is the best time of year to go to Amalfi Coast?
Early spring and fall are the best times of the year to go and enjoy the Amalfi Coast if you are not planing a beach vacation. During that time, the weather is lovely, prices are cheaper and crowds are less. If you have the budget and don’t mind the crowds summer is definitely spectacular in Amalfi.
Which town is best to stay in Amalfi?
If you are not on a budget or are visiting in shoulder season, staying in Positano is without a doubt amazing. It is the prettiest place and the reason you are visiting the region. Definitely, it deserves to be enjoyed deeply, with a romantic stay in a small hotel, aperetivos with a view and delightful meals. (If you don’t mind the expensive price tags of course.)
The town of Amalfi is a more affordable choice to stay compared to Positano. You can still enjoy the vibes of the Amalfi Coast and would have more things to do when you stay in Amalfi. For hotels to stay in Amalfi, please click here.
Sorrento is a great base to access to the Amalfi Coast, Capri island, Naples and places to visit around. It is a more affordable choice for both accommodation and to dine in the restaurants. We stayed in Hotel Antiche Mura (booking.com score 9.0 for more than 1200 reviews) in Sorrento and it was a lovely stay with an amazing breakfast. For more hotels to stay in Sorrento please click here.
Amalfi vs Cinque Terre
As a last word, I would summarize:
- If you are dreaming a romantic, laid back vacation choose the Amalfi Coast.
- If you are traveling more on a budget, you can opt in for Cinque Terre.
- For many beautiful places with many different vibes from each other go to Amalfi coast.
- For small fish town vibes go to Cinque Terre.
- If you also want to visit Florence, Tuscany and Pisa, choose Cinque Terre.
My other posts about Italy: