Last updated on August 1, 2023 by Wandering our World
Italy is widely-regarded as one of the most beautiful countries in Europe, and nowhere is this more evident than among its extraordinary coastal villages, like those of the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre.
Both of these wonderful locations can boast of spectacular views, azure waters, dramatic cliffs, and charming towns with colorful homes and buildings gazing out across the Mediterranean Sea.
Yet, despite the fact that they have several things in common, the Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast also have some notable differences in terms of accessibility, activities, beaches, hotels, costs, weather, and even the general vibes.
For example, the Amalfi Coast tends to be a more luxurious destination with fantastic beaches and lots to do. Whereas Cinque Terre is arguably the prettier destination, better for hiking, and has a more rustic Italian charm.
Of course that’s just the beginning when it comes to how different these two spectacular Italian destinations are.
That’s why in this guide, we’ll take a detailed look at Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast and show you which is bets for activities, nightlife, food, accommodation, which is better for families, couples and lots more!
- A Quick Overview
- Which Is Best For Activities?
- Which Is Better For Beaches?
- Which Is Better For Nightlife?
- Which Is Better For Hiking?
- Which Is Better For Food?
- Which Has the Best Accommodation?
- Where To Stay According To Your Budget
- Which Is Better For Day Trips?
- 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 Has The Best Weather?
- Which Is The Better Choice?
A Quick Overview: Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast
Cinque Terre: A Quick Overview
The Cinque Terre, which translates to ‘Five Lands’ is a coastal area in north-western Italy. It’s made up of five villages built into the cliffs – Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore.
These villages and the surrounding landscapes form the Cinque Terre National Park, which has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The area has history going back thousands of years, but it wasn’t until the 15th century that the five towns had been built and the ‘Cinque Terre’ title was first years.
In the years that followed, these coastal villages were often targeted by pirates, so locals constructed forts and defenses, some of which are still standing today, like Castello di Riomaggiore and Doria Tower.
The area wasn’t much of a tourist destination until it was discovered by the wider world in the 1970s.
Since then, these once-sleepy fishing villages have seen a high increase in visitors, drawing in travelers from around the world and gaining their UNESCO status. The local economy has also evolved to rely much more on tourism nowadays.
However, despite becoming a very popular tourist location, the Cinque Terre has managed to retain a lot of its original charms and authenticity. You won’t find big brand stores, chain restaurants, or fancy skyscraper hotels here.
The villages themselves are also car-free, offering a peaceful and pristine experience of Italian coastal life.
Amalfi Coast: A Quick Overview
The Amalfi Coast is a coastal region in southern Italy, around 350 miles from the Cinque Terre.
Thirteen villages can be found along this coastal stretch, and it’s more than twice the size of the Cinque Terre, with a larger population.
It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Italy’s most-visited locations, drawing in some huge crowds during the summer months.
While the Cinque Terre was only recently discovered by tourists, the Amalfi Coast has been a popular travel destination for a very long time.
Even in the 18th century, wealthy Europeans used to come here in large numbers, and the area has even earned the nickname ‘Divine Coast’ due to its beauty and appeal to the jet set crowd.
Fittingly for such a touristic hotspot, the Amalfi Coast has been well-developed over the years to cater to travelers, with lots of luxury hotels, plenty of great restaurants, excellent shopping areas, and quite a lively, active nightlife scene, too.
There are also lots of tourist tours and activities to try, from boat rides to gastronomic experiences.
With so much to see and do, the Amalfi Coast has rightfully earned a spot among Italy’s top travel destinations.
It’s a great place for indulgence and relaxation, although some travelers may feel that the summer crowds and overly-developed nature of this area has taken away some of its authenticity, giving it a very different vibe to the Cinque Terre and other areas.
Which Is Best For Activities?
Both of these destinations offer a range of fun and pleasant ways to spend your time, but you may find that the attractions of one location are a little more suited for your tastes than the other.
In general, the Amalfi Coast has much more to do. It’s a bigger place, with more towns to see and more touristic development.
So travelers there can enjoy a range of arranged touristic tours and experiences, as well as visiting various beaches, museums, churches, and other interesting landmarks in places like Positano and Furore.
While the Amalfi Coast is a glitzy and glamorous place that has a lot to offer for lively and adventurous travelers, the vibe in Cinque Terre is totally different.
Cinque Terre is much more of a laid-back sort of place where the main ways to spend time are either hiking, wandering slowly around the five little villages, or just sitting and soaking in the beauty of this amazing part of the world.
Below we look at the activities in each destination below, so you can see which suits your holiday preferences the most!
Cinque Terre: The Activities
With the relaxed vibes of the Cinque Terre and the stunning scenery all around, one of the best things to do here is simply take it all in.
You can take slow and steady walks around the various villages or rest a while on the beach in Monterosso al Mare to soothe your body and mind, far from the hustle and bustle of big city life.
Lots of travelers to this area make it a priority to visit all five of the villages, and it’s definitely worth seeing them all, as each one is unique.
Corniglia, for example, has a gorgeous Gothic-style church to discover and dramatic cliffside scenes, while Vernazza is arguably the prettiest and most colorful of the five, with pink, red, and yellow homes all stacked together.
As you roam around each town, you can interact with locals and appreciate the unique culture of this place.
Of course, it’s far more touristy now than it was in the past, but the Cinque Terre is still a fabulous place to experience some true coastal culture while dining at a local restaurant, watching the sun go down from Monterosso, or heading out on a boat tour with a local guide.
There are some interesting landmarks dotted around, including the ruins and remains of various castles, towers, and other fortifications, as well as churches and some pleasant weekly markets in Vernazza and Monterosso.
Cinque Terre is also a terrific place for hiking, with some magical trails and a few very strenuous hikes for those who like a challenge.
Amalfi Coast: The Activities
Over on the Amalfi Coast, you’ll have more options in terms of what to do and how to spend your time.
You could, for example, opt for a totally relaxing vacation and simply while away the hours on the area’s well-maintained beaches, or you could take a totally different approach and do something different every day, from gardens to museums, boat tours, and more.
Just like in the Cinque Terre, the towns and villages of the Amalfi Coast are all special and worth calling at.
Tramonti, for example, has some fabulous wineries and a charming old town with its own 8th century chapel, while Ravello is a tranquil treasure with some of the best views on the coast.
Then, there’s Amalfi itself. As the biggest town in the area, Amalfi tends to attract the most tourists.
This town boasts a magnificent cathedral, charming winding streets, some great kayaking and snorkeling experiences, fabulous eateries, and some great places to shop, as well. It’s also a good place for tourist activities like cooking classes or food tours.
The options go on and on, with everything from a Museum of Paper in Amalfi to a breathtaking fjord in Furore and even a gorgeous grotto in Conca dei Marini that has been dubbed by locals as the Eighth Wonder of the World!
Churches, castles, zip lines, hiking trails, boat tours, and wine tastings are also available along this super stretch of coastline.
Overall, with far more activities and attractions, the Amalfi Coast is the better place to choose if you like to have a full travel itinerary with lots of different things to look forward to each day.
You may need a full week or even more to truly appreciate this area. In contrast, it’s possible to see most of the Cinque Terre within just a few days.
Which Is Better For Beaches?
Since both the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast are situated on the coast, travelers might assume that there are plenty of beaches within easy reach of both of these locations.
However, in reality, the Amalfi Coast does indeed have more than a dozen brilliant beaches, but the Cinque Terre only has one proper beach, in Monterosso.
The Monterosso beach is the only sandy spot in the entire Cinque Terre area, so if you like spending time by the sea or sunbathing on the sand, you might be a little disappointed there.
However, despite a lack of traditional sandy beaches, Cinque Terre still has some great rocky spots to soak up the sun, as well as some good swimming opportunities when the water’s are warm in summer.
The Amalfi Coast, meanwhile, has a long list of impressive beaches with majestic views of the surrounding scenery and a mixture of sand and pebbles underfoot.
The Marina Grande in Positano is one of the area’s best beaches, and you might even spot a celebrity here at certain times of year. Maiori Beach is another gem, and Erchie Beach is remarkably picturesque.
From the rocky outcrops of Gavitella Beach to the amazing mountain views of Amalfi’s Marina Grande, there are lots of super places where you can lie back and relax or dip your toes in the water.
Plus, since the weather and water are both warmer in Amalfi too, it’s definitely the right choice for beach lovers.
Which Is Better For Nightlife?
If you like to spend your evenings sipping cocktails, dancing to live music, or otherwise having a good time with your friends and fellow travelers, you might like to know how these two destinations compare in terms of their nightlife scenes.
And when it comes to clubs and bars, the Amalfi Coast has Cinque Terre beat hands-down.
You can find some pumping clubs and lively nightlife spots along the Amalfi Coast. Positano has some particularly great clubs, like Music on the Rocks, which has been running for more than 40 years and attracts a lot of jet-setters and famous DJs.
There are also beach bars and dance clubs in Amalfi and other towns, giving you more than a few options to choose from.
In contrast, the Cinque Terre simply doesn’t have much of a nightlife scene. Nightclubs and live music don’t really fit with the vibes of these coastal villages, and the place generally feels pretty sleepy after dark.
However, you can find a couple of bars that will stay open late in Monterosso and Riomaggiore.
Which Is Better For Hiking?
Since the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre have such spectacular scenery, one of the best ways to truly appreciate these places is to get out there and do some great hikes among the hills and along the cliffs.
But which of these two areas has the best hiking opportunities?
Well, in this category, the Cinque Terre might just take the win. The Cinque Terre is a famous hiking region, with lots of little paths and trails linking the various villages.
You can walk the entire way from Monterosso al Mare to Riomaggiore along a 7-mile stretch called the Blue Trail, and there are various other small paths throughout this national park area, offering some truly mind-blowing views of the villages, the sea, and the cliffs.
Some of the trails are easy and accessible for almost everyone, while others are very narrow and even a little dangerous in places, requiring a good level of care and attention, as well as reasonable fitness levels.
The paths can get pretty crowded in summer, too, so you’ll need to be prepared to cope with the crowds if you visit during the peak tourist times.
The Amalfi Coast is no slouch when it comes to hiking, either. There are some fabulous trails here that offer wonderful views and are sure to satisfy the adventurous appetite of any outdoor enthusiast.
The so-called ‘Path of the Gods’ is one of the best trails to try and has history dating back to the 8th century.
Other good trails in the Amalfi area include the Valle delle Ferriere, which takes you into the forest to see rushing streams and even a waterfall, as well as the Punta Campanella, which passes by the ruins and remains of various old temples from the past.
In terms of sheer beauty, the Cinque Terre has Amalfi beat, but Amalfi’s hiking paths are more diverse and numerous.
Which Is Better For Food?
Italy is famed for its food, and you can find some exceptional things to eat in both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre regions. But which one is best? Well, that will most likely depend on your own personal preferences, more than anything else.
The Cinque Terre is a great place to try some authentic Italian dishes and local delicacies.
Focaccia has been a big part of the area’s culinary scene for centuries, and you can grab a slice of this tasty bread with various toppings from local restaurants and cafes.
You can also sample freshly-caught seafood here, as well as locally-made olive oil and limoncello.
As the larger of the two areas, the Amalfi Coast has more eateries and a more diverse range of food options, too.
There are seafood bars, pizzerias, luxury restaurants, street food sellers, and more.
The pizza there is fabulous, along with the seafood, and Amalfi is the home of limoncello, so it’s one of the best places in Italy to sample this famous lemon liqueur.
Which Has the Best Accommodation?
When planning any kind of trip, you have to think about where you’re going to stay. The Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre both have some excellent accommodation options to choose from, but there are some key differences here.
Since the Amalfi area is famed for being quite a luxurious and glamorous kind of place, with a long history of tourism, it has many more high-end hotels compared to the Cinque Terre.
You can find truly indulgent 5-star accommodation here, as well as lots of B&Bs, guesthouses, and coastal resorts with their own private beaches.
In contrast, the Cinque Terre hasn’t had as much tourist development, meaning that it doesn’t have those same expansive hotels and resorts.
Instead, most of the accommodation in Cinque Terre takes the form of family-owned B&Bs and rustic guesthouses. It’s less luxurious, but much more traditional and usually a lot cheaper, too.
Where To Stay According To Your Budget
Budget: Situated in Corniglia inside the Cinque Terre National Park is Affittacamere Le Terrazze, a gorgeous accommodation that feels like it costs far more than its budget price point – especially as some rooms have balconies with sea views. See photos and rates!
Luxury: A stay at Affittacamere San Giorgio in Manarola is all about the view. These lovely rooms have balconies that look out – unobstructed – on the sea and coastal cliffs. You’ll be waking up and going to sleep with the sound of the waves. Bliss. See photos and rates!
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!
Which Is Better For Day Trips?
Most visitors to the Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast will spend the majority of even all of their time in those areas. However, you might like to take one or two days out of your trip to see somewhere different, and there are a few interesting day trip opportunities from both of these locations.
From Cinque Terre, you can hop on a train and make your way to the port city of La Spezia. This city has an interesting seafaring past, with a great Naval Museum and castle.
You could also take a trip to Pisa to see its famous Leaning Tower, or head northwest to the Ligurian capital of Genoa, with its beautiful old town and awesome cathedral.
The Amalfi Coast arguably has even better day trip potential. You can take a boat ride over to the paradise island of Capri, for example, or head to the city of Naples for world-class pizza and pasta.
It’s also possible to book a day trip to the ruined city of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius from Amalfi, and if you set off early enough, you can even make it all the way to Rome.
Which Is Better For Families?
If you’re planning a family vacation, the Amalfi Coast is probably the better place to go.
It’s got lots more family attractions and activities than the Cinque Terre, such as the various beaches, museums, boat trips, and even a couple of adventure park and play areas where kids of all ages can have fun.
In contrast, the Cinque Terre, while being a very beautiful place, isn’t the most family-friendly part of Italy.
Kids of a certain age may appreciate the aesthetics of Cinque Terre, along with its hiking trails, but very young children may get a little bored by the lack of activities. Little ones may also struggle on some of the area’s tough hiking trails.
Which Is Better For Couples & Honeymoons?
For couples, it can be particularly tough to choose between the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre.
The right choice for you will depend mostly on your budget and personal preferences, but you can have a magical and romantic time in either one of these locations.
Of the two, the Cinque Terre is arguably the most romantic. It’s quieter, smaller, and more peaceful, providing the perfect backdrop for special moments with a loved one.
Many happy couples can be spotted wandering the streets of Vernazza or relaxing on the beach at Monterosso.
Over on the Amalfi Coast, couples can experience a little more luxury and excitement. There are fancier hotels, more restaurants to choose from, lots of beaches, and a wider range of activities.
But it’s also a more crowded place, so the atmosphere isn’t quite as romantic. Yet it can appeal to couples who like to do lots of different things.
Which Is Better For Backpackers?
The Cinque Terre is often described as one of the best places to backpack in Italy.
These simple, authentic villages are ideal for those who want to pack their bags and hit the trails without worrying about costly hotels or overpriced activities.
Cinque Terre is definitely the most budget-friendly option, and you can spot lots of backpackers trekking from village to village.
In contrast, the Amalfi Coast has more of that jet-set vibe and isn’t exactly a prime backpacking destination.
Accommodation can be quite costly at the Amalfi Coast, although there are some cheap B&Bs if you book in advance. However it can be harder and more expensive to get around too.
So, if you’re planning a backpacking adventure, Cinque Terre is the place to go.
Which Is Cheaper?
Let’s talk cash. Which is the cheapest between the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast?
Well, it’s important to note that the price of any trip to either of these locations will vary enormously based on where you’re flying from, which hotel you choose, what time of year you visit, and so on.
However, if we focus purely on average costs, Cinque Terre is definitely cheaper. It has simpler and more affordable accommodation with its B&Bs and guesthouses, while Amalfi has a lot of pricey resorts.
The costs of food, activities, and local transportation also tend to be lower in the Cinque Terre.
Which Is Easier To Get To?
Before you start booking any hotels or planning out your travel itinerary for the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, you’ll need to think about how you’re going to get to these locations.
Cinque Terre has no airport, and while there is an airport in the Amalfi region, it’s quite small and doesn’t offer many flights.
So, if you want to reach either of these destinations, you’ll most likely need to fly into a nearby city and then travel onward with the aid of taxis, trains, or other modes of transport.
The easiest way to get to Amalfi is to fly into Naples, as the coast is only an hour away by train. You could also fly to Rome, which is around two hours from the Amalfi Coast.
The most common way to get to Cinque Terre is to fly into Milan’s Malpensa airport. From there, you’ll have to travel around three hours to get to the villages.
You could also fly into Genoa or Pisa, but these airports aren’t as big or accessible as those of Mila or Rome, so it’s generally a little trickier and longer to get to Cinque Terre compared to the Amalfi Coast.
Which Is Easier To Get Around?
Another area in which the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre differ is in terms of local transport.
It’s not recommended to hire a car in either of these locations, for very different reasons – in Amalfi, traffic can be awful and parking is very difficult during the summer, and in Cinque Terre, it’s not even possible to drive in the villages!
So, how can you get around?
Well, Cinque Terre’s villages are conveniently connected via a regional train line. You can hop on the train and make your way to the next village along the coast in a matter of minutes, and it’s a really pleasant way to get around. There are also plenty of walking trails that allow visitors to get from village to village.
In the Amalfi Coast, you’ve got a few more options to get around.
There are some local buses that can take you from town to town, like Sorrento to Amalfi, as well as ferries between places like Salerno and Positano.
Traveling by water on the ferries – or private boats, for those who can afford them – is favorable in this area, due to the heavy traffic on the roads.
Overall, Cinque Terre is much simpler to get around. You can conveniently get onto the train whenever you want to head further along the coast, or walk your way from village to village via the trials.
The Amalfi Coast has a wider range of options, but it usually takes longer and costs more to travel around.
Which Has The Best Weather?
You’ll also need to consider the weather when choosing which of these two locations to visit, and since the Cinque Terre is in the north of Italy and the Amalfi Coast is situated to the south, the weather conditions can be quite different between these two places.
As the Amalfi Coast is situated to the south of Italy, it has warmer weather and higher average temperatures all year round.
It can be really hot here during the peak summer months, and even the shoulder months like May and September are very warm and pleasant, with generally clear skies and a low risk of rain.
The Cinque Terre villages are a little cooler. Summers there are still very warm and pleasant, but those who visit in spring or fall will need to pack some extra layers of clothing to stay warm.
In addition, the heavy rains of October and November can wash out the hiking trails, making the Cinque Terre a less pleasant place to be at this time of year.
Cinque Terre vs Amalfi Coast: Which Is Better?
Overall, choosing between the Cinque Terre and Amalfi Coast really isn’t easy.
The good thing is that you can’t really make a bad choice, as both of these locations are gorgeous and memorable in their own special ways, but it’s still important to consider all the factors listed above and decide on the right place to suit your tastes and needs.
In general, when we weigh up all of those factors, from activities and beaches to food and accommodation, the Amalfi Coast just about takes the win.
Thanks to its larger size and wider range of hotels, eateries, and attractions, the Amalfi Coast can appeal to a broader range of travelers, including families, groups of friends, and couples.
With that said, it’s impossible to ignore the unique appeal of the Cinque Terre.
The Cinque Terre villages are all so pretty and picturesque, and this is definitely one of the best places to go if you’re looking for a more intimate, authentic, and laid-back pace of life, while Amalfi has more appeal as a typical vacation destination with beaches, bars, and boutique hotels.