Last updated on June 20, 2023 by Wandering our World
Italy has a very long list of picturesque vacation destinations, with the island of Sicily and the Amalfi Coast standing out as two of the very best places to go when you want to get away from it all and enjoy wonderful weather, beautiful beaches, and exciting activities.
Both of these locations can offer idyllic conditions for rest and relaxation, with lovely sandy spots and charming towns to explore and enjoy. But, for all of their similarities, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast are quite different places…
Home to multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the famous Mount Etna and extraordinary Pantalica Necropolis, Sicily is a haven of history, culture, ancient ruins, and nature, with lots more things for travelers to see and do compared to the Amalfi Coast.
In contrast, the Amalfi Coast has a jet-set vibe and far fewer cultural attractions and historic landmarks. But it makes up for that with an abundance of luxurious hotels, fantastic restaurants, and gorgeous sandy expanses with stunning scenic views all around.
There are plenty more ways in which these two Italian destinations differ, and that’s where we can help!
We know Sicily and the Amalfi Coast well, so right here we’ll highlight some of the big similarities and differences between the two.
We’ll show you which has the better beaches, activities, which is better for families, couples, hiking and more. All so you can make the right holiday decision!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Best For Beaches?
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Hiking?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Which Is Better For Shopping?
- Which Has The Best Accommodation?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Better For Families?
- Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
- Which Is Better For Backpackers?
- Which Is Cheaper?
- Which Is Easier To Get To?
- Which Is Easier To Get Around?
- Which Is The Best Choice?
A Quick Overview: Sicily vs Amalfi Coast
Sicily: A Quick Overview
Sicily, known as Sicilia to Italians, is a large Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea.
It’s actually the biggest island in the Mediterranean, with an area of almost 10,000 square miles, and it’s situated southwest from the Italian peninsula, separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina.
Approximately 5 million people live on the island of Sicily – which is around 9% of the entire Italian population – and people have been living here for thousands of years, with various empires ruling over the island throughout the ages, from the Greeks to the Romans and the Byzantines.
The island is well-known for its distinctive culture, which many travelers describe as unique and separate to the rest of Italy.
Sicily has a rich history of art, philosophy, and architecture, with some stunning landmarks to see and cultural experiences to enjoy.
It’s also a foodie’s paradise, even being nicknamed ‘God’s Kitchen’ due to its fabulous wines and dishes.
Sicily is also famed for its geography. Around 25% of the island is made up of mountains, with another 60% covered in hills.
This results in some dramatic and impressive landscapes, and the island is well-known as the home of Mount Etna – the biggest active volcano in all of Europe. With such interesting terrain, Sicily is a great place for outdoor activities like hiking and cycling.
Amalfi Coast: A Quick Overview
The Amalfi Coast is a region of southern Italy, over 200 miles directly north from Sicily.
It’s named after the town of Amalfi, which is the main hub of the region, but there are 13 towns and villages in total along this coastal stretch. The towns themselves have very small populations, but the area bursts with life during the summer as a very popular tourist hotspot.
Travelers have been flocking to the Amalfi Coast for many years. Even as far back as the 18th century, wealthy and noble Europeans would stop off at Amalfi and the surrounding towns for long and indulgent summers, soaking up the sun and relaxing on the many beaches of this beautiful coastal zone.
With several centuries of touristic development, the Amalfi Coast is now regarded as one of the trendiest and most luxurious resort areas in all of Italy.
There’s many boutique hotels, high-end restaurants, yacht-filled ports, and lively nightlife destinations for visitors from around the world to enjoy.
It may not have quite so much to offer in terms of authentic culture and history when compared to places like Sicily, but the Amalfi Coast is still a fabulous place for family vacations and couples’ holidays.
After all, there’s plenty to see and do here, from boating experiences and cooking classes to zip lines, museums, winery tours, and more.
Which Is Best For Beaches?
The Amalfi Coast is famed for its wonderful beaches, but with more than 600 miles of coastline, Sicily also has plenty of beautiful sandy spots where you can swim, sunbathe, and relax.
But which location is best for beach lovers?
Well, overall Sicily has much larger beaches where you can escape the crowds and have your own private slice of sand. The island’s beaches are also more numerous, as well as generally being quieter and more natural.
Wile those of the Amalfi Coast are better-suited for those who like to have hotels, restaurants, bars, and other amenities all close-by.
Below we take a look at the beaches in more detail so you can see which destination may suit your vacation the most!
Sicily: The Beaches
As the biggest island in the Mediterranean, Sicily has no shortage of beaches, and there’s a whole lot of diversity here, from soft, golden sands with mountain views to secluded coves and rugged rocky spots where you can watch the sun go down.
San Vito lo Capo is one of the island’s prettiest beaches, with an almost Caribbean-like atmosphere.
Here, a long, curving stretch of sand stretches out to the horizon, with shallow waters for swimming and a few hidden grottoes for those with an adventurous spirit to explore.
For something totally different, you could head to Scala Dei Turchi, famed for its almost otherworldly white cliffs and stunning turquoise waters.
Or take a trip to Calamosche to escape the crowds – this beach is part of a pristine nature reserve, with peaceful waters and a calm, romantic atmosphere.
Other popular beaches include the snorkeler’s delight of Isola Bella, the family-friendly Mondello, and the golden dunes of Sampieri, and there are many more beaches to uncover as you make your way along the island’s coast. With so many options, you’re sure to find the perfect beach for you.
Amalfi Coast: The Beaches
Running for around 34 miles in total, the Amalfi Coast can’t quite compete with Sicily in terms of the quantity of beaches, but it can still boast of some of Italy’s prettiest coastal landscapes.
Plus, many of the beaches here are exceptionally-maintained, with lots of local amenities and comfortable sun loungers to relax on.
Positano’s Marina Grande is a perfect example of what the Amalfi Coast has to offer.
Set on a backdrop of towering cliffs and looking out over clear blue waters, this 300 meter beach is a lively and popular spot. Celebrities are sometimes spotted here, and you’ll need to arrive early if you want to claim a lounger.
Most of the Amalfi Coast’s beaches are quite small, but Maiori Beach bucks the trend, running for around half a mile in total.
With so much space to spread out, this beach doesn’t feel as crowded as the others, and it’s an ideal spot for families to have some fun.
The tiny cove of Gavitella Beach is a great place to enjoy the sunset, while Amalfi’s Marina Grande is perfect for some simple sunbathing, people watching, or relaxing with a good book.
There are also some romantic gems to discover, like Erchie Beach, with 16th century medieval towers at either end and cute, colorful fishing boats sitting in the water.
Which Is Best For Activities?
As well as spending time on the beach, you might like to fill your travel itinerary with a range of other activities during your stay in Sicily or the Amalfi Coast.
With more history and tradition, Sicily tends to be the better location for authentic cultural experiences and immersion. But the Amalfi Coast still has a lot to offer, with a very diverse range of activities to suit people of different tastes and ages.
Both of these areas have an impressive array of activities and attractions to enjoy, so we’ll take a look at several examples of things to do in both Sicily and the Amalfi Coast to see how they compare.
By doing so, you can see which destination has the activities that may suit your preferences the best!
Sicily: The Activities
Home to seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Sicily certainly isn’t lacking when it comes to cultural experiences.
History buffs will adore the archaeological site of Agrigento, which is home to some wonderfully well-preserved temples. More Roman ruins and remains of the past can be found in the city of Syracuse, and the Pantalica Necropolis is an absolute must-see.
Art lovers will want to check out the Villa Romana del Casale, home of the biggest collection of Roman mosaics on the planet, while those who appreciate beautiful architecture can take a tour of the Late Baroque towns of the Val di Noto.
Sicily also has hundreds of castles and towers, along with gorgeous towns and cities, like Palermo – the island’s capital – and Messina.
Since the island is so large, there’s something for everyone here.
Cefalu feels like a family-friendly coastal resort, for example, while Taormina is a hilly haven, filled with history. Each town is unique, with cathedrals, theaters, museums, markets, and more to enjoy – you could spend several weeks exploring this island and still have so much to see on your next visit.
Then, there’s the natural landscape of the island, with a myriad of nature preserves, forests, hiking trails, and, of course, Mt Etna itself.
There are several ways to explore this iconic volcano, including a 3-hour cable car ride and various full-day or half-day guided hikes and jeep tours.
Festivals are also a big part of Sicilian culture, and, depending on the time of year you happen to visit, you might be able to participate in one of the island’s many celebrations.
There are some great Carnival parades in spring, for example, as well as a fabulous summer arts festival in Taormina. A lot of the towns also have special days to celebrate their patron saints.
Amalfi Coast: The Activities
Despite being much smaller than the island of Sicily, the Amalfi Coast also has lots of fun and interesting things to keep visitors entertained.
And, with 13 different towns and villages to explore, from Positano in the west to Vietri sul Mare in the east, you can see something new and different each and every day.
All of the towns have their own distinctive features and attractions.
Positano, for example, is a terrific resort town with great boat tours, local wineries, and a beautiful 12th century church, while Furore is a haven for nature lovers and adrenaline addicts with its incredible fjord and thrilling zipline to Conca dei Marini.
Outdoor adventurers can also enjoy various other activities up and down the Amalfi Coast. From kayaking in Amalfi itself to cave exploration in Conca dei Marini and hiking in Scala or Positano, there are plenty of ways to stay active and engage with the amazing landscapes of the area.
The Amalfi Coast is also home to multiple castles too, like the Castle of San Nicola de Thoro Plano, as well as centuries-old churches, like the Church of Santa Trofimena.
Many of the region’s towns also have fabulous viewpoints for snapping some selfies or simply admiring the majestic views all around.
You’ll find several museums dotted along the coast, along with old Roman villas, rooftop gardens, and several spas for those who simply want to relax.
And those who dare to rent a car might also like to ride along the famous Amalfi Drive, one of Europe’s most breathtaking coastal roads.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
Clearly, Sicily and the Amalfi Coast provide plenty of fun ways to spend your days, but how about the nights?
If you like to stay out late sipping cocktails with your friends or enjoying live music and entertainment until the early hours, you’ll want to know how the nightlife scenes of these two destinations compare, and which one is best.
Sicily has some great nightlife spots in the main towns of Palermo and Catania. Palermo is particularly popular with students and young people in general, with lots of trendy bars and lively clubs.
There are some super beach bars in the city that keep the party going until sunrise, as well as more subdued lounges to relax with a good drink.
The Amalfi Coast also has an excellent nightlife scene. The iconic Music on the Rocks club in Positano is one of the best places to party, and there are some great discos and beach bars in Amalfi and other towns, too.
Lots of coastal restaurants also stay open late, giving the area a lively and dynamic feel, even after dark.
Plus, since the Amalfi Coast is smaller, it’s easy to get from one club or bar to the next, which isn’t always the case on Sicily. Because of this, the Amalfi Coast takes the win in this category and will definitely appeal to nightlife lovers.
Which Is Better For Hiking?
With Sicily and the Amalfi Coast having such gorgeous scenery, hiking is by far one of the best things to do in both of these locations. After all, this gives you the chance to explore the landscapes on your own two feet and enjoy some awe-inspiring views along the way. But which one is best?
Well, with so much hilly and mountainous terrain, Sicily is a hiker’s paradise. Whether you’re tackling a tough, day trip trek up Mount Etna or enjoying the coastal trails of the Aeolian Islands, Sicily has some of Italy’s very best trails, and there’s so much diversity.
You can enjoy wildlife walks across the plains, family-friendly hikes in the forest, or intense explorations of steaming volcanic craters.
There are even certain hiking trails in Sicily that pass by historic ruins in places like La Rocca, giving you lots of different options to choose from.
The Amalfi Coast also has some pleasant trails, like the famed ‘Path of the Gods’.
Hikers can find some great coastal walks in the Amalfi Coast and even a few paths that take you inland to explore forests and find secret waterfalls. But the options simply aren’t as numerous or varied as those in Sicily.
Which Is Better For Food?
Food lovers won’t be disappointed in either the Amalfi Coast or on the island of Sicily, as both of these locations can offer excellent Italian cuisine and some delicious local specialties, like the limoncello liqueur of Amalfi and the creamy, ricotta-filled cannoli of Sicily.
Sicilian cuisine is well-known around Italy and beyond, with the island being famed for its rich dishes and decadent desserts.
Pizza lovers will definitely want to sample sfincione with its thick crust and locally-grown toppings. Pasta and rice are also popular here, and Sicily makes many of its own cheeses, as well as producing its own wines.
Indeed, most of the food that you’ll eat on Sicily will be made with local ingredients, so it’s a terrific place to enjoy authentic, traditional recipes and meals, and each town has its own specialty dishes or desserts.
Speaking of desserts, Sicily has some of the tastiest sweet treats in all of Italy, like donut-style braccilatte and buccellato cake.
The Amalfi Coast also has some traditional dishes and delights. You’ll see lots of lemon groves in this area, and lemons are featured in many local recipes.
Seafood is also very popular and of very high quality in this region, with several seafood bars to choose from in almost all of the towns and villages.
There are several gourmet-grade, Michelin-starred restaurants in the Amalfi Coast, as well as more casual eateries. However, the range of options isn’t as diverse as the eateries of Sicily, so you may have more interesting and memorable culinary experiences over on the island.
Which Has the Best Shopping?
Want to take some souvenirs back home at the end of your Italian vacation? Or perhaps you’d like to buy some fancy designer attire or intriguing gifts for your loved ones? In either case, you’ll want to know which of these two destinations has the best shopping experiences.
Sicily is a great place to shop, offering everything from traditional town markets with local crafts and produce to outlet malls and fancy designer stores.
Palermo is a great place to grab some souvenirs and gifts, while Catania is arguably the top spot for designer shopping, with the Corso Italia being lined on either side with high-end boutiques.
Shopping can also be fun in the Amalfi Coast, and there are some up-market boutiques to be found here, along with a great selection of traditional coastal gift shops. Popular products to buy include bottles of locally-made limoncello and ceramics from towns like Vietri sul Mare.
Overall, Sicily is the better location for shopping, with a wider range of options, but the Amalfi Coast isn’t bad if you just want to buy some simple souvenirs.
Which Has the Best Accommodation?
In terms of places to stay, Sicily has a broad selection of options.
Sicily has glamorous coastal resorts, chic boutiques in the big towns, and even some hostels for budget-conscious travelers, as well as various traditional guesthouses and B&Bs for those who are craving an authentic Sicilian stay.
In contrast, the Amalfi Coast is famed for its luxurious range of resorts and hotels. Many of the places to stay here are very highly-rated and uphold exceptional standards of cleanliness and comfort, with lots of amenities to make your stay as pleasant as possible.
There are some cheaper guesthouses here and there on the Amalfi Coast, but they’re not as common as on Sicily.
Overall, Sicily definitely has a wider range of accommodation styles to suit almost every kind of traveler. But if you want maximum levels of comfort and class, then the Amalfi Coast is arguably the better place to stay.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget?
Budget: Hotel Le Terrazze sits right on the coast with fantastic, unobstructed sea views. Wonderfully decorated and with direct access to a beach via a flight of stairs, this hotel – considering its location and looks – has one of the best price/quality ratios we’ve come across. See photos and rates!
Luxury: Caruso, A Belmond Hotel, may just be one of Italy’s most spectacular hotels. From the rooms fit for a celebrity through to the huge infinity pool, breathtaking sea views, and world-class service, this is easily one of the best hotels in Europe. See photos and rates!
Budget: Located in the historic centre of the beautiful town of Castellammare del Golfo, B&B Nencioli offers lovely rooms in a wonderful location. The views from the terrace are fantastic – especially considering the budget-friendly cost of staying here – and the host, Anna, is fantastic to deal with. No wonder this is one of the highest rated accommodations throughout Italy. See photos and rates!
Luxury: The Grand Hotel Timeo in Taormina sits opposite the Greek Theatre and has incredible panoramic views of both Mount Etna and the Sicilian Coast. With the outside pool, exceptional rooms and unique setting, a stay at this five-star hotel will be unforgettable. See photos and rates!
Which Is Better For Families?
If you’re planning a family vacation, there are advantages to both Sicily and the Amalfi Coast.
Sicily’s castles and historic sites should interest most children, and it also has astounding hiking and cycling routes for active families.
There are adventure parks, water parks, donkey rides, and volcanoes to be found on Sicily too, sure to excite kids of all ages.
The Amalfi Coast also has a super selection of family-friendly activities.
The beaches on the Amalfi Coast are really safe and family-friendly, with good swimming conditions, and kids can also enjoy local museums, playgrounds, the Furore zipline, and boat trips.
For those with a sweet tooth, the Amalfi Coast towns also have some incredible gelato shops.
Overall, there’s no wrong choice when it comes to family vacations.
But those with younger children might appreciate the more compact nature of the Amalfi Coast, while those with older and more active kids might prefer the hiking trails and adventurous vibes of Sicily.
Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
If you’re heading to Italy with a special someone by your side, it can also be quite a challenge to choose between the Amalfi Coast and the island of Sicily.
Ultimately, the right choice for you and your partner will mostly depend on your personal preferences.
Sicily has the advantage of being a larger place, with a lot more to see and do.
Couples can spend their time driving around, visiting the various towns, hiking the trails, making their way up Mt Etna, or relaxing on any of the island’s many breathtaking beaches.
The Amalfi Coast, meanwhile, has the advantage of luxury.
The accommodation here is fabulous, many of the restaurants are excellent, and the overall experience is very relaxing and indulgent, ideal for couples who want to enjoy the very best that life has to offer.
Which Is Better For Backpackers?
If you’re planning a backpacking trip to Italy, Sicily is a great place to get started.
The island is generally much more budget-friendly than the Amalfi Coast, and there are multiple accommodation options to suit backpackers, like hostels in Catania and Palermo.
Plus, public transport is easy to use, so you can get around quite conveniently and cheaply.
The Amalfi Coast, meanwhile, is more of a chic and glitzy destination with quite high prices. It’s not the most suitable place for a backpacking adventure, and it lacks the long hiking trails and outdoor adventures that backpackers tend to favor.
For that reason, Sicily is definitely the better destination to choose.
Which Is Cheaper?
When it comes to prices, Sicily is by far the cheaper option of these two destinations.
As stated earlier on, there’s a wide range of accommodation options here, including many budget-friendly places to stay, and the same can’t be said of the Amalfi Coast.
Food also usually costs less around Sicily, and even the tourist attractions and tours are relatively cheap if you shop around, compare prices, and book in advance.
Along the Amalfi Coast, everything tends to cost a little more, from seafood to souvenirs.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
Depending on where you’re traveling from, you may find that it’s a lot easier to get to one over the other.
Sicily has several airports, with Catania and Palermo being the two largest and most-utilized.
Both of these airports in Sicily have plenty of direct connections with cities all over Europe, although there aren’t direct flights to the US.
If you’re heading to the mainland first as part of an extended Italian vacation, you might also like to take a ferry to Sicily from cites like Naples or Salerno.
The Amalfi Coast has one small local airport, but most travelers will fly directly into a nearby big city, like Naples airport or Rome – both of these airports have direct links to the US – and then drive or use public transport to get to the coast.
The most convenient route to the Amalfi Coast is usually a direct flight to Naples and then a pleasant hour-long train, bus, or ferry ride around to the coast.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
You’ll also need to consider how you’re going to get around once you’ve arrived at your destination of choice, and this is an area in which Sicily and the Amalfi Coast have some pretty big differences.
In Sicily, one of the best options is to rent a car and drive around yourself. Traffic and parking can cause some issues in certain areas, but the island has a pretty good road network in general, and a car gives you the freedom to go wherever you want to go.
There’s also a great rail network connecting the island’s cities, along with cheap and plentiful buses.
Over on the Amalfi Coast, it’s a different story; most travel experts advise against renting a car in this area as parking is expensive and the main coastal road can get very congested due to the high numbers of tourists.
Instead, you’re better off avoiding land travel altogether and relying on ferries and boats to get between the various villages.
Thanks to its more car-friendly nature and wider range of accessible, affordable public transport services, Sicily is the easier location to get around.
However, it’s important to remember that Sicily is significantly bigger than the Amalfi Coast, so you may have to spend much more time getting from place to place.
Sicily vs Amalfi Coast: Which Is The Better Choice?
Overall, while Sicily and the Amalfi Coast have some similarities, they’re very different places in a lot of ways and can appeal to different sorts of people.
The Amalfi Coast has the chic, jet-set vibes that make it a prime destination for indulgent R&R, while Sicily has more to offer in terms of tradition, culture, and history.
When it comes to choosing a winner, Sicily takes the crown.
Thanks to its much larger size, Sicily has a more diverse array of activities and advantages, appealing to everyone from families with young children to active couples and groups of friends. It’s a very special place with a culture that is fully worth experiencing and some of the finest food in Italy, too.
At the same time, the Amalfi Coast is definitely worth considering if you’re looking for somewhere with great beaches, fun nightlife, comfortable accommodation, and an impressive array of charming towns to explore.