Deciding whether to include Cinque Terre or the Amalfi Coast on your Italian itinerary is a tough decision. I know first hand as I had to make this decision myself when planning my first trip to Italy. I mean, both areas have a gorgeous seaside locations, incredible food, fabulous views, and great hiking trails, but they also have many differences.
The Amalfi Coast is a stretch of coastline in Southern Italy that has earned a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Its southern location means that it is an easy jaunt from Naples and allows you to visit sites such as the Island of Capri, Mount Vesuvius, and Pompeii.
Cinque Terre is both a national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is made up of five distinct villages on the northwest coast of Italy. The five villages of Cinque Terre are more remote, but they are connected by some amazing hiking trails and a dependable regional train. Cinque Terre also makes up one of the most stunning coastlines in the world.
Both are beautiful destinations in Italy and offer visitors plenty of opportunities to enjoy an incredible beach holiday, so deciding between them can definitely make for a difficult decision. That is why I have outlined the key differences between Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast. Hopefully, by the end of it, you will be ready to make your choice!
1. Airport Accessibility
Generally speaking, if you are trying to decide between the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre, you are probably including these as part of a larger Italian itinerary. With that in mind, a major factor in your decision is the flow of your itinerary.
Arriving From Rome Or Naples
If you are flying into Rome or Naples and spending a lot of time in Southern Italy, then the Amalfi Coast will naturally fit into your itinerary. From Naples, the Amalfi Coast is a little over an hour away. Transit to the Amalfi Coast from Naples can be achieved by hiring a private driver, taking a regional bus, or a ferry.
Arriving From Milan
Since the Cinque Terre is located in the Northwest portion of Italy, the closest airport is Milan, which is about 3 hours away. Cinque Terre is most easily combined with an itinerary that focuses on Northern Italy and includes Milan, northern Tuscany, and possibly the Lake Como area.
2. Beach Access
Let me start out by saying that most beaches in Italy are not stretches of soft white sand that you might find in Mexico or the Caribbean. So if that is the type of beach you are looking for, then you need to know that it is hard to find in Italy.
Amalfi Coast Beaches
The majority of Italy’s beaches are gravel, and you will find plenty of them on the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast is made up of 13 villages, many of which have beaches. You can lounge in the sun by the ocean in the Amalfi Coast towns of Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, and Maiori, just to name a few.
The Beach In Cinque Terre
In contrast to this, the only real beach you will find in Cinque Terre is in the town of Monterosso. Three of the other Cinque Terre villages are set in rocky outcroppings by the sea, and one village, Corniglia, is not built directly on the sea. You will find sunbathers on the rocky outcropping by the sea sunning and swimming, but the one true beach in Cinque Terre is in Monterosso.
3. Ease Of Getting Around
First things first, I advise you not to get a car to visit either the Amalfi Coast or the Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is closed to car traffic except for limited areas for residents only, and the Amalfi Coast is generally so crowded with traffic that it is extremely difficult to navigate, especially in the high season.
Explore Cinque Terre By Train
With that in mind, Cinque Terre is the clear winner if you want to visit several of the villages in the region. All five villages of the Cinque Terre can be easily navigated by the regional train that connects them. Within 5 minutes or less, you can be at the next village. In addition to the train, many of the villages are also connected by scenic hiking trails. Just take note that the hiking trails here can be strenuous. Most of the trails are on uneven, natural terrain, and many also contain stairs.
Expect Delays On The Amalfi Coast
Visiting several villages on the Amalfi Coast means that you have to travel by private car, public bus, taxi, or, in high season, boat. As we mentioned above, traffic is terrible on the winding Amalfi Coast roads, so expect delays when traveling by vehicle between towns.
4. Lodging Options
This truly depends on your tastes. If you’re looking for lavish living, there is a clear choice; and if you want a more personal Italian experience, there’s another.
Luxury On The Amalfi Coast
If your idea of a perfect vacation is staying in a fancy resort with a posh pool and room service, then you should choose the Amalfi Coast. The Amalfi Coast’s history as a tourist hotspot ensures that you will have your choice of luxury resorts to choose from. Of course, you can still find quaint B&Bs on the Amalfi Coast as well, especially in the lesser known towns like Ravello and Salerno.
Intimacy In Cinque Terre
In contrast to this, Cinque Terre was more recently discovered as a tourist destination. This means most accommodations in Cinque Terre are family-run B&Bs and small, boutique hotels. That doesn’t mean the accommodations in Cinque Terre aren’t nice; it just means they are more intimate, and oftentimes more economical.
When comparing the costs of the Amalfi Coast to Cinque Terre, the latter is your more affordable option, especially during high season.
Shell Out For Luxury On The Amalfi Coast
Many of the restaurants on the Amalfi Coast are 5-star, world-renowned restaurants that boast gorgeous views, meaning they come with a hefty price tag. When you combine that with the fact that the Amalfi Coast region is at capacity during high season, these restaurants can charge even more. This same law of supply and demand also applies to tours and entertainment in the area, so plan to pay more when visiting the Amalfi Coast.
Save In Cinque Terre
In contrast, generally speaking, Cinque Terre is less crowded during high season than the Amalfi Coast. And since Cinque Terre consists of more casual, budget-friendly restaurants, the Cinque Terre definitely comes in as the more affordable of the two.
During the high season, the price of accommodations in Cinque Terre comes in quite a bit lower than on the Amalfi Coast. This is thanks in part to the affordable accommodations found in Cinque Terre, plus the fact that the Amalfi Coast is generally at capacity during the high season. The demand for accommodations is greater on the Amalfi Coast during this time of year, thus driving up the prices of available rooms.
6. Hiking Opportunities
Both destinations offer sensational hiking, each with its own set of benefits and considering factors.
Hike From Village To Village In Cinque Terre
Most people flock to the Cinque Terre to hike the trails through the national park, and with good reason: They are spectacular! So if hiking is what you are looking for, then I would definitely pick Cinque Terre. Before making that decision. though, there are a few things to note. First off, the trails get extremely crowded in the high season. When you combine that with the fact that many of them are narrow with sheer drops off of a side, hiking the Cinque Terre might not top your list.
Hike The Clifftops Of The Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast also has some great hiking trails. The Sentiero degli Dei, or “Path of the Gods,” is a clifftop hike among the towns of the Amalfi Coast that boasts beautiful views. It is important to note that this is a moderately difficult hike. If you start in the towns of Positano or Praiano, then there is a steep staircase before getting to the trail, which is uneven and on natural terrain. The area has several short hikes as well.
So, in terms of which one is better for hiking, I would have to say it’s a tie.
7. Day Trip Opportunities
If you want to use one of these towns as your home base and then take day trips from there, then you should definitely choose the Amalfi Coast.
Cinque Terre Is A Destination All Its Own
The Cinque Terre is more of a destination in itself and not very conducive for doing day trips from. That being said, there are a couple of towns nearby that you could do a day trip to if you were so inclined. For instance, you can visit Pisa and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or go to the coastal town of Porto Verne to see the impressive fortress or do some diving.
Amalfi Coast Makes A Great Home Base
On the other hand, the Amalfi Coast is a great place to call home during your vacation and offers several opportunities for day trips. One of my personal favorites is the island of Capri, where you can visit the Blue Grotto and ride a chairlift to the top of Mount Solarno. Other easy day trips from the Amalfi Coast include the ancient city of Pompeii, a hike on Mount Vesuvius, or the city of Naples.
So, Cinque Terre Or The Amalfi Coast?
As you can see, it really depends on your travel expectations and your itinerary. Both regions – Cinque Terre in the north and Amalfi Coast in the south — offer travelers a unique and fun experience. Both boast impeccable views, beautiful beaches, great food, and nice hiking trails. Amalfi Coast offers more luxury and access to the rest of Italy, but that comes with a price tag. Cinque Terre is more intimate, secluded, and less commercialized, but it isn’t as established as a tourist attraction as the Amalfi Coast.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong by adding either of these areas to your Italian itinerary!
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