Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast are two of the most beautiful places to visit in Italy. You have done exceptionally well if you’ve narrowed your choices to these destinations. The Cinque Terre towns are famously pastel-colored mini-destinations that spill over rocky outcroppings to small harbors. You can explore Cinque Terre as a day tour by boat, sailing up the entire section of the coast, or you can base yourself for a few days in your town of choice. The Amalfi Coast can also be tackled as a day tour but is slightly better suited to longer stays – with plenty of luxury resorts and accommodation options.
We have visited both and despite both being beautiful destinations in their own right, there are some critical differences between the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi coasts. This guide, which is based on our visits to the region, will tell you all you need to know before making that all-important final decision.
Why Visit Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast
If you don’t have time to read this whole article, we wanted to give you a quick overview of why you should choose Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast. In an ideal world, you’d learn all the tips, tricks, and essential information, but this section is for those in a rush.
Cinque Terre is an easy place to visit, but it requires a bit more effort. Set in northern Italy, it is a feasible weekend detour from Pisa or Milan. You can take a boat tour along the Cinque Terre towns (which are much easier to access via water), catch the train, or drive around Cinque Terre.
Although, be warned, expect landslide warnings and hairpin turns. These towns are located at the base of steep cliffs, dramatically sitting on jagged rocks and spreading higgledy-piggledy on angles around their harbors. We don’t really recommend driving around Cinque Terre. There is next to no parking, the streets are narrow and it can be a hair-raising experience. You are better off taking the train or boat. If you must drive you can park at the entrance of the villages but will have to walk from there. There are some brilliant hiking opportunities, delicious seafood, and the aesthetic of pastel-colored houses in dramatic, rugged settings.
The Amalfi Coast is much easier to visit, with highly accessible towns dotted along its coastline. You can also arrange to visit by ferry. The Amalfi Coast is located in southern Italy, a reasonable 1.5-hour drive from Naples and an easy day-tripping distance of Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. It is best suited to those renting a car who want to take advantage of lots of nearby day trips or who want to stay in a resort and book guided day tours.
The coastline itself is really lush and full of beautiful beaches with lots of glitzy tourist infrastructure. Instead of a ragged aesthetic, the Amalfi Coast is massively associated with movie stars and wealth. You’ll see plenty of sleek accommodation options and luxury travel opportunities. If you are driving (like we did) just be aware that the roads along the coast are narrow and there is usually a lot of traffic including busses. This can be nerve-racking for some so just be prepared.
The Main Difference Between Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast
Now that you understand why you should choose the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, let’s dive deeper into our comparison. We love both of them, albeit for different reasons. The Amalfi Coast has that old-money, vintage car, glitzy beach aesthetic, while Cinque Terre has a more rugged draw. The difference in their ‘personalities’ is the main difference between the two destinations, especially since the ‘personalities’ most dramatically impact your experience when visiting. Let’s see how they weigh up against each other.
For the most part, Cinque Terre is all about rocky outcroppings, hiking, and boat tours. While it gets beautiful and sunny, it can be pretty dramatic on an overcast day – doused in thick fog and low-lying clouds when you reach the mountains. There are nice hiking trails to get views of the towns from above, or you can take one of the ‘five villages’ boat tours. Cinque Terre is meant to be an adventure, and its ‘personality’ is very much its unlikely rocky scenery.
The contrast between the colored houses and the jagged rock is stunning. And the train line between the towns is super handy, allowing you to hop between town after town to try delicious seafood and snap photos. Remember, if you are after a beach holiday, the only real beach is Fegina Beach; most others are all rocks. Cinque Terre’s rocky layout means it isn’t your classic beach destination.
Regarding this region’s personality, visit the Amalfi Coast if you want luxury hotels or resorts. It is much flashier, with resort town after resort town frequented by A-listers and old-school movie stars. If you want an Italian vacation that channels the la dolce vita, the beautiful sandy beaches, and ornate terraces along the Amalfi Coast fit the bill. This region offers much more of a beach holiday experience, with a swanky style of personality and a more spacious layout.
Whether you choose the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, you can clearly see the regions’ personality differences. The two offer completely different packages, so pay attention to the experience both can give you.
Best Tours in Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre have an incredible selection of tours that you can choose to experience the regions in a guided capacity. Organized tours have many benefits: they allow a less stressful experience, you don’t have to worry about transport, and they let you fit more into a smaller space. If you don’t have time to browse the options, check out these top three for the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre Tours
There are fantastic opportunities to explore Cinque Terre by kayak. As the region is best seen from water, we’d highly recommend this as an adventurous and active way to immerse yourself in Cinque Terre and its scenery. This tour is a great example.
Cinque Terre isn’t just seafood; the wine tasting is equally brilliant. The region has some delicious wine to sample, and organized tours tend to include transport.
You should definitely book a cooking class when visiting Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is known for its tasty cuisine, especially with seafood and pasta dishes. You can book a huge range of classes.
Amalfi Coast Tours
- Guided Path of the Gods hike
The Path of the Gods is the most famous hike on the Amalfi Coast. The trail runs for 5 miles and covers ancient mule routes, which initially connected different villages. You can hike this independently, but for an easier experience, a guided tour is the way forward. It takes around three to four hours to complete one way.
Like Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast is fabulous for boat day trips. Experiences like this tour take you along the coastline for a day, giving you gorgeous views and chances to swim in the sea – usually with food and drinks provided onboard. This is an excellent way to maximize your experience of the coastline, even if you just base yourself in Amalfi town.
Classes like this cooking class are a brilliant way to embrace the Amalfi Coast and the food culture in Italy. Who doesn’t love Italian food? To learn how to make dishes like tiramisu and fresh pasta, cooking classes are fantastic.
Where Is the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre – and How Do You Get There?
So, where exactly is the Amalfi Coast? And where is Cinque Terre? When it comes to deciding between Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast, it helps to be able to pinpoint them for several reasons. Do you already have flights booked? Or are you looking to combine them with a major city, like Rome or Venice? Here’s what you need to know.
Where is Cinque Terre?
Cinque Terre is a region of five small towns (sometimes called villages) connected by a train line and multiple working harbors. It is located in northern Italy on the northwest coastline just beneath Genoa. It is also situated within the Cinque Terre National Park. When it comes to setting, it is quite rural. And while you can easily access it by train, be prepared to commute from a major city like Genoa or Pisa – further south.
So, how do you get to the Cinque Terre villages from Genoa? Easy. Genoa is a massive transportation hub with many international flights. Genoa is the capital of the Liguria region, and you can just jump on a high-speed train to reach Monterosso al Mare, the first town on the Cinque Terre coast. This takes over an hour; if you wish, you can continue combining different towns in one trip. You’ll have a wonderful time navigating Cinque Terre by train, and you can simply check the schedule on Google Maps before booking tickets online.
Where is The Amalfi Coast?
In contrast, the Amalfi Coast is in southern Italy and has glitzy resort towns with beautiful beaches. The coastline is located on the southwest coast of Italy. It runs roughly between Positano and Salerno, an area covered in beaches and low-lying mountains. It is just a 1.5-hour drive from Naples, the best place to fly into if traveling straight to the Amalfi Coast. It will be useful if you get a rental car, as Pompeii and Mt Vesuvius are just a short drive away.
So, how do you get to the Amalfi Coast from Naples? That’s still an easy answer. The best way to reach the Amalfi Coast from Naples is by renting a car. The Campania region is stunning to drive around. If you are confident on big roads, you won’t have any issues driving to Amalfi after you fly into Naples. As mentioned above, it takes just 1.5 hours to drive from Naples to the Amalfi Coast – but you can easily spend a full day detouring to Pompeii. If you aren’t comfortable driving in Italy, you can book a transfer or take public transport. By public transport, it takes around 2 hours by bus to reach Positano, the first town on the Amalfi Coast.
To summarize, Cinque Terre is located on the northwest coast of Italy. In contrast, the Amalfi Coast is located in the southwest. The Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are within easy distance of a major city and international flight hub. So, when it comes to transport, which is easier to get to – the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre? And how do these destinations fit into a larger Italian itinerary?
We’d say that Cinque Terre is easiest to reach if you are using public transport, as its train line is fantastic and serves almost every village on the coastline. However, if you rent a car, the Amalfi Coast is the easiest, as the roads are easier to navigate and there are more driveable day trips. When choosing Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre based on location and how to get there, we’d consider how confident you are driving in Italy as an influential factor.
Things to Do in Cinque Terre vs the Amalfi Coast
Things to do are always helpful when choosing between two destinations. When it comes to choosing between the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, you should definitely factor in what each destination offers in terms of an itinerary. It is worth noting that both regions offer different day trips, too, such as the Amalfi Coast offering better access to the ruins of Pompeii. In contrast, Cinque Terre provides access to Pisa. These are the top attractions for both destinations.
Things to do in Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre’s best things to do are its beautiful hikes, which traverse dramatic clifftops and ancient tracks. Cinque Terre is brilliant for many things, though, and these are just a select handful of the top attractions and activities you can enjoy:
Things to do in the Amalfi Coast
It goes without saying that there are hundreds of amazing things to do on the Amalfi Coast. The coast might be known for beach days, but it is also fabulous for day trips, with access to Capri, Naples, and beyond. These are the top activities and attractions for your itinerary:
How Much Time Do You Need In Each one
How much time do you need in the Amalfi Coast vs Cinque Terre? It is a tricky question, but what helps is that the answer is similar.
You can take a day trip to the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre – you can quickly dip your toes in and briefly experience either of these destinations. Cinque Terre is slightly more suited to this, as it is a little more compact. The Amalfi Coast is usually combined with Pompeii and Vesuvius, whereas Cinque Terre is treated as a standalone attraction. As a general rule, though, you could visit either the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre in a day if you really wanted.
However, the ideal amount of time is 3-4 days at a minimum for both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre. This is because the Amalfi Coast is perfect for relaxing and having beach days, but also ideal for at least one day trip to see the archaeology at Pompeii or even a day trip to Capri. With Cinque Terre, 3-4 days is perfect because it allows you to enjoy all the hiking trails and experience the towns when the day trippers leave.
Accommodation is widely similar across Italy, with guest houses as the most popular form of budget accommodation, mid-range hotels, and some high-end luxury accommodation options. However, there are a few differences between Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast is much more luxurious and has more of a resort vibe, while Cinque Terre is more of an intimate destination in Italy. Expect more family-run businesses and independent hotels and accommodation in Cinque Terre.
Let’s look at the top accommodation choices for each budget level in Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre? Which region has accommodation that best suits you?
Cinque Terre Accommodations
Budget: Ostello Corniglia
This hostel is right in the middle of Corniglia, just a 15-minute walk from the train station. It is hassle-free and offers a mix of mixed-gender, single-sex, and private rooms. You also get a communal kitchen and dining area.
Mid-range: Pensione Sorriso
This 2-star hotel is situated in the beautiful town of Vernazza, just a short walk from the train station. For a reasonable price of around $120 a night, you get a mix of double and single rooms, plus a daily Italian breakfast.
Luxury: Hotel Porto Roca
This 4-star hotel is a beautiful luxury spot without any stiff-lipped qualities. The ‘homey’ hotel has a stunning outdoor pool with a hot tub – both of which have lovely views over the ocean. It is in the classic Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre’s main town.
Amalfi Coast Accommodations
Budget: La Cascina Camere – Bed & Breakfast
This cheap and cheerful bed & breakfast option is massively budget-friendly concerning the Amalfi Coast’s usual rates. It has free parking and a daily included Italian breakfast. So if you are renting a car, it is well worth booking.
Mid-range: Locanda Costa Diva – Praiano
This stunning 3-star hotel was once a traditional farmhouse and now serves as a pretty little hotel with an adjoining restaurant that overlooks the sea. You can enjoy villa-style aesthetics, with options to book sea-view rooms.
Luxury: Casa Angelina
Casa Angelina is hugely competitively priced compared to other luxury hotels on the Amalfi Coast, which often list as high as $2,000 a night for standard rooms. Instead, for around half the price, this classy, chic hotel offers easy access to a beach via an elevator. Plus, there is an indoor pool, gym, spa, and daily breakfast buffet. Select rooms have ocean-view terraces.
Best Time to Visit Cinque Terre vs the Amalfi Coast
We are great lovers of shoulder seasons – it is no secret. As a general rule across the board in Italy, avoiding the summer high season is a good idea. During the high season, you’ll find the most expensive prices, packed attractions, and, quite frankly, the most hectic experience of both destinations. Picking a shoulder season like April to early June or late September to early November is a brilliant hack when visiting Italy.
But what about these specific destinations?
Cinque Terre: September to November
Cinque Terre has the benefit of being more of a hiking and sightseeing destination than a beach day and swimming destination, simply as it has barely any real beaches. This means it is ideally suited to a shoulder season visit, where temperatures are still warm enough to enjoy al fresco dining and pleasant sightseeing without crowds. For this reason, September to early November are the best months to visit Cinque Terre. We vote October as the ultimate month, as the high-season crowds are gone by then. You’ll have spectacular views and many hiking possibilities, and you won’t be battling crowds to appreciate them.
Amalfi Coast: June or September
With the Amalfi Coast, you’ll likely spend lots of time on a sandy beach. For this reason, it is worth cutting your shoulder season fine to guarantee warm weather and a warm sea for swimming. For instance, visiting in early June, you’ll still narrowly avoid the primary high season, yet you’ll get the warmth and pleasant beach day vibe. September is another good option. If you care about heat and swimming, the Amalfi Coast is worth visiting as close to the high season as possible to maximize the weather.
Costs in Cinque Terre vs the Amalfi Coast
Budget is always essential to consider, and knowing what you are getting into cost-wise before you arrive is helpful. Cinque Terre and the region surrounding the Amalfi Coast are major destinations when visiting Italy, so know that accommodation gets expensive and book out quickly. With that in mind, though, let’s consider how cost can impact your choice between the Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast.
Cinque Terre Costs
Both regions can get expensive, but Cinque Terre is the better option if you have a lower budget. Cinque Terre does not have the same celebrity reputation as the Amalfi Coast, and it isn’t built based on luxury resorts and restaurants. Instead, Cinque Terre built its reputation off of being (originally) an off-the-beaten-track location. Because luxury isn’t part of the region’s identity, it doesn’t attract the same prices. It is much cheaper as a whole to visit.
That said, Cinque Terre has limited resources, which means prices can get competitive. Its towns are only small. And as the region has become increasingly popular, there have become more tourists than accommodation in peak seasons, and restaurants have also clocked on. Book in advance and avoid peak season travel if you are really budget-conscious.
Amalfi Coast Costs
Generally speaking, the Amalfi Coast is the most expensive of the two regions. It has a history of being a luxury destination and, as such, it has the accommodation and fancy restaurants to match. You’ll find lots of 5-star hotels and fine-dining restaurants with beautiful views.
The Amalfi Coast also has a caveat, though, which is that you can still visit on a budget. The same rule applies: book in advance, letting you snag the best deals. You should also get accommodation with self-catering facilities. You can take advantage of grocery shopping and cut costs with a kitchen.
Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast: FAQs
Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast is a question that passes many lips. Whether you road trip across Italy to visit Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast or a day trip to or book a short stay in just one, you’ll have a wonderful time. Both regions are stunning. As a quick final point before you go, though, check out these FAQs.
Which is better, Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast?
Both Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast offer totally different vibes. The Amalfi Coast is much more luxurious, with more space and beaches. At the same time, the Cinque Terre is a little more quirky, with a desolate allure and rugged aesthetic. We’d recommend Cinque Terre for an adventurous holiday and the Amalfi Coast for a luxurious one.
Is Cinque Terre more expensive than Amalfi Coast?
No, Cinque Terre is a little cheaper than the Amalfi Coast, so long as you book to purchase the most reasonably priced rooms before they sell out (accommodation options are much more limited). While both Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast are relatively expensive, Cinque Terre is known to be slightly more budget-friendly with adequate planning.
Which coast of Italy is better?
The Amalfi Coast is beautiful, lined with rich green space, thanks to volcanic soils and beautiful beaches. It is easy to access via car and has stunning clifftop roads overlooking the ocean. The northwest coast – along Cinque Terre – is much more rugged, with fewer beaches and more dramatically perched villages with rocky harbors. If you want beaches, visit Amalfi Coast towns. If you want dramatic scenery, Cinque Terre villages quickly take the biscuit.
What is the prettiest town in the Amalfi?
Ravello wins this title. The resort town is home to the Terrace of Infinity, which you can visit at the Villa Cimbrone. It also has spectacular architecture and more scenery from its terraced gardens.
So, the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, which will you choose? Both destinations offer a real sense of authentic culture and uniqueness in Italy. The Amalfi Coast has its luxurious personality with luxe hotels and resorts and, of course, freshly squeezed lemon juice on scenic clifftop laybys. Cinque Terre has a more rugged appeal, with romantically desolate towns seemingly perched on jagged ocean cliffs. By now, you’ll know which one best suits your travel style and upcoming trip to Italy. But perhaps the real question is, can you squeeze in both?
For more ideas, if you choose to visit the Amalfi Coast, check out this guide on the prettiest and best Amalfi Coast towns to visit in 2023. While, for Cinque Terre, see this guide on where to stay – which includes a rundown of the five villages and beyond.