Last Updated on October 25, 2023 by Ingrid & Alex
Are you planning your trip to Italy and wondering which destination to choose between Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast? I’ve been to both and I will help you out with an honest comparison so that you can make the best decision.
I’ll be taking into consideration all the important things when you plan a vacation: accessibility, cost, activities, weather, and much more.
Personally, I’ve wanted to see both locations, and I think both should be on anyone’s Italy bucket list. However, because of their location – one in the Northern part, one in the Southern part of Italy – it can be a bit difficult to mix both of them together on an Italy itinerary if you want to get the best out of your trip and don’t have much time on your hands.
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Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast: which one to choose?
Before we start, let me tell you both locations are great if you are looking for:
- the Cinque Terre will offer maybe a bit more choices, and even if you only visit the villages you’ll have to expect to climb stairs and steep hills. On top of that, there are trails linking all 5 towns taking you along the sea, some more intense than others (hiking the Sentiero Azzurro for example, is the easiest thing you could do). We did the hike from Vernazza to Corniglia and it was moderate in intensity, with stunning views.
- the Amalfi Coast doesn’t run short on the trails you’ll have to explore, but the Path of Gods is one of the most famous in Italy, with easy difficulty, amazing scenery, and less than 8 km in total.
- Colorful towns
- the Cinque Terre is a more laid-back village, with colorful houses perched on the side of a hill. They are all different than one another, and you’ll get the most beautiful view from the sea. Even though it is not officially part of the 5 villages, Porto Venere is as lovely and deserves a visit, if not a stay.
- on the Amalfi Coast, you’ll find all kinds of smaller and larger towns, not all as picturesque as Positano or Amalfi itself. However, if you explore well enough you’ll see that places like Atrani or Vietri sul Mare won’t disappoint and will brighten your day with their colors.
- Natural landscapes – neither location will disappoint, especially if you go on a hike or step outside of the popular areas.
Now let’s take the most important things one by one and see which one, Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast, is better.
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Location and access
Cinque Terre is very conveniently located in the Northern part of Italy and perfectly linked by train connections to some of the largest towns in the area.
Milan is also a great idea and a perfect airport to land in. We stopped on our way from Milan to the Cinque Terre in the smaller, yet charming Genoa for a day and we didn’t regret it.
A train ride from Milan to the Cinque Terre through Genoa will take around 3 hours, the same for Bologna, while getting from Florence will take you roughly 2 hours. Book your tickets in advance here and get the best prices and timetables.
In my opinion, getting to the Amalfi Coast is a bit more challenging, even though not very difficult.
However, it is worth knowing that the Southern part of Italy is not as well linked when it comes to train transportation. But there are other ways of getting around.
As you can see from the map above, you can get to Amalfi from Rome, Naples, Sorrento, or Salerno. I’ve been twice and for the first trip, I made my way from Naples by taking the train and a hop-on-hop-off bus from Sorrento to Amalfi.
The second time I drove all the way from lovely Puglia, through Salerno.
For me personally, driving on the Amalfi Coast was a huge hassle, with all the winding roads, too narrow for buses and cars to pass on both ways, and super difficult to find a parking space (an expensive one).
If however, you choose to rent a car, check out Discover Cars, an aggregator that will help you find the best offer out there, and save you up to 70%.
When you don’t want to drive, you can book a private transfer from Naples to the Amalfi Coast, take the ferry from Sorrento or Salerno, or take the train from Naples to Sorrento, and then the bus all the way to your destination on the Amalfi Coast.
Easier to get to: the Cinque Terre
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One thing is sure, you won’t find many luxurious hotels in the Cinque Terre. Even though most accommodation options are in apartments or B&B’s, that doesn’t mean they are not quite lovely.
As a matter of fact, during our stay there, we chose Riomaggiore as our base camp and booked a lovely entire apartment with a balcony overlooking the whole village.
It was a perfect stay despite the many stairs we had to climb every day to get there.
But that doesn’t mean that you won’t find hotels in the Cinque Terre as well. You’ll just need to stay in La Spezia, or the lovely Porto Venere, only a few minutes away by train or ferry.
From my experience, it is much easier to find affordable accommodation in the Cinque Terre.
Since this is the place where many people go to celebrate special occasions such as honeymoons, but also because there are many upper scale villas and hotels on the Amalfi Coast, you’ll see it is hard to find an accommodation on the lowers side.
That’s why, if you choose the Amalfi Coast, be prepared to stay in stunning places, but also to pay the price tag that comes along with that.
But that doesn’t mean you cannot find more affordable options, you’ll just have to move a bit further away from Positano. Staying in Sorrento is always a great option, but we found a nice Airbnb with a stunning view in Vietri sul Mare. Check it out her.
Luxury accommodation: Amalfi Coast
Affordable and more low-key: the Cinque Terre
Getting around the Cinque Terre is super easy and fast since the 5 villages are linked by a train that goes from Levanto to La Spezia stopping in every village.
You can buy daily tickets for the Cinque Terre Express or choose to pay for every independent ride.
On the other hand, there are ferries linking all the towns, and I suggest doing a mix of these means of transportation because seeing Riomaggiore or Vernazza from the sea is priceless.
The Amalfi Coast is serviced by the SITA bus and you can find the bus timetable here. It is worth knowing that you shouldn’t plan your trip to the minute when you choose to travel around by bus, especially during peak season.
We waited for more than 30 minutes for a bus, and bearly made it in once it arrived.
Buy your ticket in advance from the tabaccheria in any town and validate it on the bus.
Renting a car and driving around would be another option, but that’s not for the less experienced drivers. On top of that, finding a parking space will prove to be challenging and expensive.
One of the best options, with good timeliness, is the ferry. There are plenty of daily ferries departing from Salerno, Positano, or Amalfi. And the trip will be faster than the one on the road.
Check out prices, timetables, and book your ticket online here. Just note that the ferries run only from the 1st of April to October 31st.
Cinque Terre: easy to get around by train and ferry
Amalfi Coast: the ferry is the fastest and easiest way to get around
You can easily hike your way from one village to the other, explore La Spezia, Porto Venere, spend time on the beach in Monterosso a Mare, and hunt for the most Instagrammable places in the Cinque Terre.
On the other hand, you can go on wine-tasting tours, go kayaking, take a day trip to Florence, or even take the train and explore the famous and picturesque Portofino.
While I never seem to have enough of those Positano views, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of that, the Amalfi Coast has much more in store.
From boat day trips to luxurious Capri Island to the intense turquoise of the Blue Grotto, or the stunning views from Villa Rufolo. Schedule day trips to Pompeii or Sorrento and learn about the history of these places.
Both locations will offer lots of options to fill your days.
Don’t expect to find sandy beaches or even large stripes of them. The best beach is in Monterosso, but it is a pebble one.
Another option and town where people come for vacations at the beach is Vernazza. The small beach in town is pretty crowded, so you might want to look for the beach behind the cliffs, just 2 minutes away from the town.
The beach in Manarola, which is not actually a beach, is made out mainly of cliffs and crystal blue water.
If however, you want a larger beach, look for Levanto and Bonassola.
With the beach in Positano as the most famous one in Italy, and even in the world, there are also many other beaches on the Amalfi Coast.
Even better beaches you’ll find in Vietri sul Mare, Erichie, Furore, and Maiori. You’ll notice these are not particularly famous destinations you heard of when talking about the Amalfi Coast.
Better beaches: Amalfi Coast
With plenty of options for day trips, Cinque Terre is perfectly located if you want to explore Tuscany and its vineyards, Florence, La Spezia, Pisa, but also smaller hidden gems like colorful Rapallo, Genoa, Lucca, Montecatini Terme.
These are only a few places you can see on day trips from Cinque Terre, but you can explore the smaller towns, which are more authentic and beautiful.
When you choose to stay in Positano you’ll be perfectly located for day trips on various islands such as Capri or Ischia, but also famous historical sites like Pompeii or Herculaneum.
Sorrento is also perfect for a day trip, but you can go to the South and visit Salerno.
Both destinations offer plenty of day trip options.
Countless delicious food options are available in the Cinque Terre.
You simply cannot leave without tasting the famous pesto Genovese which they use with fresh pasta, but also with focaccia. Here is where I’ve tried the lemon, mint, and basil ice cream with its amazingly refreshing taste.
Located by the sea, you won’t miss fresh seafood, especially misto fritto – the daily catch deep-fried.
Famous for its lemons, this ingredient couldn’t miss from all the dishes available on the Amalfi Coast. Taste limoncello at almost every meal, and go for the freshest fish and seafood.
While food in Amalfi is fresh and delicious, the Cinque Terre has a huge display of incredible food!
Due to its location to the North of Italy, the weather in Cinque Terre is a bit colder during winter and might not be an option to visit.
However, the perfect time to visit is from the second part of March up to the beginning of June, and from September to November. Summer is really hot and crowded, thus I would avoid it.
We’ve been in May and it was perfect!
Note that when you choose to go early in March or late in November, some trips might not be available.
With a warmer climate, the Amalfi Coast could actually be visited year-round. However, many hotels, tours, and ferries will only function between the 1st of April to the 31st of October.
Even though I visited during August, I wouldn’t suggest doing that, because prices are the highest during that month, and also the weather is really hot.
Go to Amalfi for warmer temperatures year-round
Why you should choose Cinque Terre
I would go for Cinque Terre if you are looking for a more affordable destination, with plenty of hiking options and beautiful natural landscapes.
The vibe is more authentic, and you will have the chance to live for a few days in a local house and taste some delicious Ligurian cuisine.
Why you should choose the Amalfi Coast
Choose the Amalfi Coast for a special occasion in your life, for glamorous hotels with stunning views and colors, when the budget is not a concern.
I’m happy I got the chance to see both destinations because I couldn’t have possibly chosen between the Cinque Terre or Amalfi Coast.
Each has its charm and particularities, and while in Cinque Terre you will experience a more authentic Italy, on the Amalfi Coast you’ll feel in paradise.
Check out these great vacation options:
- Italian Adventure – Naples, Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi
- Best Amalfi Coast vacations
- Cinque Terre: Hike, bike & kayak
- Cinque Terre villages tour
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