Skip to Content

Which Italian Coast: Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast

Which Italian Coast: Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast

If we got to pick one country in Europe to explore for another month, it would probably be Italy. But, since most of us are working with limited time and budgets, we have to make hard decisions. And one of the hardest decisions when traveling to Italy is Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast. Both are stunning coastlines with delicious food, jaw-dropping views, amazing hiking, and crystal clear aquamarine water to dive into. We managed to squeeze in both these past few months, so we’re breaking down the pluses (and a few minuses).

Positano, Italy | Beautiful views on the Path of the Gods

1 Location

Amalfi Coast (AC): The Amalfi Coast is in the Campania region, with Naples as its closest major city. The train ride from Naples to Sorrento, the northern gateway to the coast, is about an hour. From Rome, add another one to three hours depending on which train you take.

Cinque Terre (CT): The Cinque Terre is in the Liguria region in the northwest of Italy. It’s about an hour train ride from Pisa and about two from Florence.

2 Atmosphere

AC: Positano is a place to be seen. As we hiked into town down from our path on high (Il Sentiero degli Dei, or the Path of the Gods), I felt severely underdressed in hiking shorts and tennies as I trailed an older lady in a crisp white crepe pant suit and Ferragamo loafers. It didn’t get much better as we hit the boardwalk and a young lady was flip flopping in Valentino’s.

Positano and Ravello are posh, but the smaller towns have a much more laid back feel. We loved exploring some of these less visited towns, like little Cetara, where we seemed to be the only ones not fluent in Italian.

CT: None of these coastal towns are the remote fishing villages they once were, but the Cinque Terre has much more of a relaxed, backpacker feel. You’re more likely to be following someone in hiking boots than high-end Italian shoes.

3 Beauty

AC: Italy is beautiful. Its coasts are beautiful, its towns are beautiful, and the Amalfi Coast is a crown jewel. The towns are more whitewashed than colorful, and my favorite part was the domed churches decorated with majolica tiles. For twenty stunning photos of the Amalfi Coast, check out our post here.

CT: The Cinque Terre feels more quaint and more colorful. The towns have distinct endings and beginnings, perfectly nestled into their spot in the cliffs. For a photo guide to the five lands, see our post here.

Positano, Italy

Vernazza, Italy | The Cinque Terre

4 Beaches

AC: While the Cinque Terre is more popular for hiking, the Amalfi Coast is more popular for swimming, or more accurately, lounging. Most of the pebbly beaches are covered in sun beds and brightly colored umbrellas, which you can rent for about €10 a day. The water is warm and clear, perfect for swimming as the water is typically quite calm.

CT: Monterosso features the best typical beach, with a large stretch of soft sand and bright blue waters. Other places to enjoy the water include the harbor area in Vernazza, Guvano beach, a nude beach just outside of Corniglia, a small, sheltered swimming cove in Manarola, and a rock beach just a few minutes away from the harbor in Riomaggiore. If you’re looking for more sand to stretch out on, Levanto, one train stop north of Monterosso, also has a large beach and boardwalk.

Beach in Positano, Italy

Monterosso, Italy | The Cinque Terre

5 Hiking

AC: The main hike in this area is Il Sentiero degli Dei, or the Path of the Gods. The path starts in Bomerano (which is great, because the little bakery near the center of town, Panificio, has the most delicious pastries). It winds through Nocelle, and then leads you down 2,000 steps into Positano. There’s a number of other hikes too. One of the coolest walks was going down the mountain from Ravello to Minori on a stair path through the houses that hug the steep hillside.

CT: The Cinque Terre has some of Italy’s best hiking, with so many options beyond the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path). All of the trails we trekked along the cliffs offered breathtaking views of the deep blue Italian sea and the colorful towns that dot the coast. See our post here for more information on hiking in the Cinque Terre. 

Amalfi Coast, Italy | Beautiful views on the Path of the Gods

Cinque Terre Italy Corniglia Italian Riviera trekking Sentiero Azzurro or blue path

6 Food

AC: Italy is one of those countries where it seems you can’t really go wrong with the food, as long as you’re not in a total tourist trap. As part of the Campania region, you’ll find DOP buffalo mozzarella for pizza margherita, large, juicy lemons for limoncello, and the freshest seafood and pasta for spaghetti alla puttanesca. The Amalfi Coast, and especially Positano, is known for its five star hotels and fine dining. With plenty of Michelin star restaurants to choose from, you’ll be sure to have an amazing dining experience. But, you can still find plenty of good eats if you’re on a budget. With our serious sweet tooth, we loved the regional pastries like sfogliatelle, flaky pastries filled with sweetened ricotta, and pasticciotti, warm custard and cherry encased by buttery pastry dough.

CT: The five towns that make up the Cinque Terre are part of the Liguria region of Italy. It’s know for pesto alla genovese, focaccia, and being on the coast, seafood. After hiking the first leg of the Sentiero Azzurro, we indulged in every little osteria in Vernazza, snacking on amazing focaccia, bruschetta and fritto misto. In the evenings, we dived into simple but flavorful dishes, like giant bowls of clams cooked in butter and lemon and gnocchi with pesto.

Seafood Pasta on the Amalfi Coast, Italy

Focaccia in the Cinque Terre, Italy

7 Transportation

AC: Getting around the Amalfi Coast is kind of an ordeal.


Trains only reach the edge towns of Sorrento in the North and Salerno to the South, so on land you’re stuck dealing with the roads in a bus, car, or scooter to reach the towns in between.

To get to Sorrento from Naples, use the Circumvesuviana trains. The Circumvesuviana station is just beneath the Naples Central Train Station (Napoli Centrale), and it takes a little over an hour to get to Sorrento. You’ll need a NA5 Ticket – €4,50 (valid for 180 minutes). You can also use the 3 day  Campania Arte Card Tutta la regione for transport. In the Campania region (which includes Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Amalfi Coast) this card covers buses, the metro, funiculars and the Circumvesuviana trains.

If you’re coming from Rome, you must first take a train from Rome to Naples, then the Circumvesuviana train from Naples to Sorrento.

To get to Salerno from Naples, use the TrenItalia trains from the Napoli Centrale. Tickets cost around €4, and you can also use the 3 day Campania Arte Card .


Once you’ve reached Sorrento or Salerno, your only option for public transit on land to reach the towns in between, like Amalfi Town, Positano and Ravello, is the SITA Bus. The roads are narrow and windy with sheer cliff on one side. Before whipping around a curve, the local SITA bus drivers only give a quick honk and glance in the mirror before plowing through. There was no way I was driving on those roads, so we stuck to the bus, which was inconsistent and overcrowded. There were several times when the bus was simply too full, so we had to wait for the next one to come.

The buses from Sorrento and Salerno both end in Amalfi. This means that if you want to go from Salerno to Positano, you must first take the bus from Salerno to Amalfi Town, then another bus from Amalfi Town to Positano. Due to the irregularity and overcrowding, this can make travel along the coast very time-consuming. If you’re planning on exploring the Amalfi Coast by bus, the most convenient home base is Amalfi Town as it’s the main connection for the buses.


If you drive (and heaven help you), you’ll have the added nuisance of trying to find parking, which I’ve heard is extremely difficult even in the winter.


A scooter would’ve been a fun option, but wasn’t practical for us with a baby. I just hope you have fast reflexes to dodge the buses zooming through!

If you want to opt out of the roads entirely, you can rent a boat or take a ferry.

CT: Compared to the Amalfi Coast, transportation in Cinque Terre is a breeze.


There’s a train that shuttles you through the cliffs to connect all five towns, sandwiched by La Spezia to the south and Levanto to the north. For more information on which train pass to buy, check out our blog post here.

Trains come frequently from Florence and Pisa to La Spezia, where you can make a quick transfer and head off to the tiny town of your choice.


Cinque Terre also has a convenient ferry option, that stops at Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, Riomaggiore and Portovenere. It skips Corniglia as this village is on top of the cliff. A daily ticket for the whole line is €30, while roundtrip fares between villages start at €7.

8 The Weather

AC: As the main draw in the Amalfi Coast is the sea, the best time to visit is April through September. We visited in the middle of August, when almost every Italian hangs up their “in vacanza” sign and heads to the beach. Despite the crowds, we were still able to find a spot on the pebbly spiagge and enjoy the views from up above while hiking.

CT: If you’re visiting for the water, then mid-May through mid-September is ideal. If you’re there for the hiking, you can stretch it from mid-March to mid-October. Both regions have a Mediterranean climate, but the northern coast tends to be a few degrees cooler than the south.

The region swells with visitors in the summer months, and is largely a ghost town (or 5 little ghost towns) during the winter months. We visited the Cinque Terre in May, which was a great combination of being cool enough to hike yet warm enough to jump in the water (though it was a bit chilly). Plus, it was not totally overrun with tourists yet, which makes for a much more relaxing and enjoyable experience.

9 Day trips

AC: There are almost an endless number of amazing day trips from the Amalfi Coast. While Capri may be touristy, we could easily forgive the crowds to enjoy the beautiful views, great swimming, and the absolute best gelato we’ve had in Italy at Gelateria Buonocore (and we’ve eaten a LOT of gelato in Italy). The other islands of Ischia and Procida are also fun to visit. If you feel like adding in a bit more history, Pompeii, Vesuvius and Herculaneum are reachable. We think Naples deserves more than a day trip, but still worth a visit if you’re short on time.

CT: Cinque Terre tends to be a place to day trip to instead of a place to day trip from. It’s worth spending a few days there, and if you want to explore other parts of Italy, you’re probably better off finding a more convenient base. That said, close day trips that aren’t technically Cinque Terre are Levanto, with its large beach and boardwalk, and Portovenere.

See more of our photos here: Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast or the Cinque Terre? We managed to visit both, so we're breaking down the pluses (and a few minuses).Which Italian Coast? Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast | We've been to both, so here are the pluses (and a few minuses) of each stunning coast.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Monday 3rd of December 2018

This is a terrific post, coming at an excellent time for me. It has long been my dream to travel to Italy, and my husband and I are finally going this coming July to celebrate turning 50! I am a teacher, so summer travel is really our only option, unfortunately. I do not love crowds, but I understand that is just a given in Italy in the summer. My husband is leaning heavily toward AC because we are starting in Rome. We will be looking into Airbnb's or Homeaway properties rather than hotels. Do you have any experience with these types of lodgings on the AC? On the websites, they all look so great, but I've never rented a place overseas, so I am a bit nervous. Thank you for any input!


Tuesday 11th of December 2018

Hi Britt! We visited the Amalfi coast in August, which is probably the busiest month all year since most Italians are on holiday, and we still loved it. We've used Airbnb often when traveling in Europe and specifically Italy. Whether it's a hotel or an Airbnb, I just make sure to read through the reviews and look through the traveler photos if there are any! We've had great experiences that way! Hope you have a wonderful trip!


Thursday 26th of July 2018

Hi ! I am so glad I found this thread. My partner and I are trying to decide between CT and Amaphi Coast as well. We are traveling mid- August, during the busy season (unfortunately !). We are well-seasoned travelers who love a bit of adventure, swim, and hike and try the local food. We will not be renting a car. We are looking to stay in one place and take day trips. We have two weeks so lots of time to get to know the area. I am reading through all the comments and appreciate any suggestions you have! Thank you !!

Kelly Barcus

Monday 30th of July 2018

There's so much to explore in the area, I'm sure you'll keep busy! So glad this post helped!


Tuesday 24th of July 2018

Hey guys, fab bit of info you've included. Thankyou. Was hellbent on going to AC but my Italian partner has convinced me CT so looking forward to that now in next coming weeks. I know that AC is more suave with the fashion from what I've heard but are any of the towns of CT worth checking out for some clothes/shopping sprees? Thankyou :)

Kelly Barcus

Monday 30th of July 2018

Hey Stephanie, I don't think you'll be disappointed. The Cinque Terre is amazing! CT isn't really known for its shopping; there is a Friday morning market in La Spezia that has household goods and clothes, but I've never been so I'm not sure how good it is! It's located close to the train station in Piazza Garibaldi. What airport are you flying in to? If you're flying into somewhere like Pisa or Milan/Bergamo, you may have better luck planning a day of shopping there.


Thursday 12th of July 2018

Hi guys! I was just wondering if you had recommendations when to visit Rome, Florence, and the Amalfi Coast. I prefer cooler weather to hot-would March, May, or October be my best bet?

Thanks for this article! It was really helpful!


Monday 16th of July 2018

Hi Pamela, so glad you found the article helpful! If you prefer cooler weather I would opt for March or October. The weather does start to heat up considerably in May in those areas; we've been to Rome at the end of May and it was scorching. Plus, summer is peak tourist season, so it's pretty packed! I think shoulder seasons are the best; it's usually nice weather and smaller crowds. March and October would be great for Rome and Florence, though you may find some of the Amalfi Coast shut down by that time and it would be pretty chilly for the beach. But, you could still enjoy the incredible views! Hope that helped a bit. Safe travels! -Kelly


Wednesday 11th of July 2018

Awesome piece about AC and CT! We’re planning a trip next June w our 18 and 15 yr old daughters. Doing Sicily for 7 night, AC for 4, Rome for 4... we could take a night off of either Rome or the Amalfi coast. We will be flying into Naples from Catania, thus we are thinking of visiting Pompeii on our way to where we stay along the coast. Any thoughts on this? We are eyeing Positano or Amalfi town… Mostly because of the ferry service and also general amazing this. Thought about one of the smaller towns for a more budget friendly option. Any thoughts on Praiano? Do you think a day trip to Capri is a must? Is 4 nights more than we need? Thanks in advance for the advice!


Monday 16th of July 2018

Thanks so much, Tracy. Sounds like you guys are in for an amazing trip! I think both Naples and Pompeii are great stops to make.

If I were to visit the Amalfi Coast, I'd try to stay in a central spot. I think Positano, Amalfi or Praiano are all good options, especially if you're planning on relying on public transport like the SITA bus. If you're renting a car, you can be a lot more flexible with where you stay. You'll just have to deal with where to park after that! Four nights is enough time to see most of the towns. The best part of the Amalfi Coast is just enjoying the beautiful setting, so you don't want to rush through it! And in June, I'm sure you'll want to spend some time at the beach.

Capri is absolutely beautiful. Even though it's touristy I wouldn't miss it.

I'm sure you and you're family will have a great time!


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.