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Morning view of Amalfi cityscape on coast line of mediterranean sea, Italy

Sorrento vs Amalfi: An Honest Comparison To Help You Choose!

Italy has some of the most scenic and spectacular coastline in all of Europe, with glamorous towns, breathtaking beaches, and beautiful blue waters, just waiting to welcome you in. And if you’re planning a coastal getaway in Italy, Sorrento and Amalfi are two of the very best destinations to consider.

These two coastal havens are quite close to one another – it takes a little over an hour to drive from Sorrento to Amalfi, or vice versa – and they share a lot of common features, like high numbers of tourists, pretty architecture, a great range of top quality hotels, and plenty of fun things to see and do.

However they also have some notable differences. Sorrento, for example, is often cited as the most budget-friendly place to stay in the area, with more affordable hotel rates.

Meanwhile, Amalfi may have higher prices, but also has a wider range of activities, with all the famous towns of the surrounding Amalfi Coast region just short drives or boat rides away.

In other words, despite being quite close to one another, Sorrento and Amalfi offer quite different experiences, and it’s important to weigh up the pros, cons, and key features of each location before deciding which one you’re going to visit. 

That’s what this guide is here to help with. Below, we’ll put Sorrento up against Amalfi in several key areas, analyzing the attractions, beaches, nightlife scenes, food, hotels, and other key aspects of both of these fabulous destinations.

By the end, you should have all the info you need to make the right choice for your next Italian getaway!

CONTENTS:

  1. A Quick Overview
  2. Which Is Best For Activities?
  3. Which Is Better For Day Trips? 
  4. Which Is Better For Beaches? 
  5. Which Is Better For Hiking? 
  6. Which Is Better For Nightlife? 
  7. Which Is Better For Food? 
  8. Which Has the Best Accommodation? 
  9. Where To Stay According To Your Budget
  10. Which Has The Best Shopping? 
  11. Which Is Better For Families? 
  12. Which Is Better For Couples? 
  13. Which Is Better For Backpackers? 
  14. Which Is Cheaper? 
  15. Which Is The Better Choice?
An infographic pitting Amalfi vs Sorrento and showing some of the key differences that will be discovered later in the article.

A Quick Overview: Sorrento vs Amalfi

Sorrento: A Quick Overview

Sorrento is a coastal town in Southern Italy, looking out across the Bay of Naples. It’s situated on the Sorrentine Peninsula, which juts out into the Tyrrhenian Sea, and it’s just south of the city of Naples.

Around 17,000 people live in the town of Sorrento, but the population swells each year, especially during the summer months, with tourists arriving from around the globe.

The origins of Sorrento go back many centuries. Various people have passed through and ruled over the area, from the Ancient Romans to the Ostrogoths and Byzantines. The town also has a connection with mythology, with legendary tales telling of sirens or mermaids living in the nearby waters.

In the modern era, Sorrento is famed as a prime touristic location and one of the most-visited spots on Italy’s long coastline.

Countless travelers head here, enjoying the town’s relatively affordable accommodation rates and handy location between the city of Naples and the various towns of the Amalfi Coast.

As well as having a convenient location, making it a fine base for trips and adventures, Sorrento is also a charming town in its own right, with pastel-colored homes, majestic views across the water, charming old churches, and a beautiful historic center, with winding alleys and romantic cafes, perfect for people-watching. 

Spectacular view of Sorrento coast, South of Italy
iStock.com/yanta

Amalfi: A Quick Overview

Amalfi is the name of both a town and commune in Southern Italy. The town is situated in the Salerno province in the Campania region, and it sits at the base of a mountain named Monte Cerreto.

With a population of a little more than 5,000 people, Amalfi is less populous than Sorrento, giving it a slightly quieter vibe, but still gets very busy with tourists in summer.

Like Sorrento, Amalfi has a long history, dating back many centuries. Its prime coastal location helped it develop into a prosperous town, with good trade links to the island of Sardinia and beyond.

Indeed, it was once quite a powerful and influential location, but its influence waned over the years, especially after a 14th century tsunami wiped out most of the town.

In more recent times, Amalfi has emerged as a popular touristic hotspot. In the early 20th century, for example, it became popular with British upper class travelers and other wealthy adventurers around Europe, gradually building its reputation as a charming and beautiful destination, along with the surrounding towns of the Amalfi Coast region.

Amalfi is considered the main town of the Amalfi Coast, with plenty of unique attractions and activities to enjoy.

It stands out for its dramatic cliffs and surrounding scenery, fabulous food, and glamorous hotels, and many visitors to the Amalfi Coast choose to base themselves here, enjoying the local sights, beaches, and festivities.

Morning view of Amalfi cityscape on coast line of mediterranean sea, Italy
iStock.com/Aleh Varanishcha

Which Is Best For Activities?

One of the big ways in which Sorrento and Amalfi differ is in terms of their local activities and attractions.

Despite both being small coastal towns, they offer quite different touristic experiences, with Amalfi having a wide mixture of beach activities and cultural locations to check out, while Sorrento is popular for its charming historic center.

Sorrento: The Activities

If you’re heading to Sorrento, you won’t want to miss out the town’s charming historic center, or centro storico in Italian.

There, visitors can wind their way along the narrow, maze-like alleyways, admiring the beautiful old buildings, stopping off at local stores to grab some handcrafted souvenirs, and letting the town’s uniquely relaxing vibe wash over them.

In terms of local landmarks, the Cathedral of Saints Philip and James, or Sorrento Cathedral, is absolutely worth checking out.

It was first constructed back in the 11th century, but underwent a big rebuild in the 1400s, and stands out for its pleasant Romanesque design and pretty interior, with lots of wonderful artworks to admire on the inside.

The Piazza Tasso is another must-see spot in Sorrento. It’s the town’s top meeting place and a spectacular people-watching spot.

Just grab a seat at one of the local bars or restaurants, order a glass of locally-made limoncello, and watch the world go by. It’s easily one of the most relaxing ways to spend an Italian afternoon.

There are also two ports to walk around in Sorrento, known as the Marina Grande (big port) and Marina Piccola (small port), along with a couple of little museums.

Travelers are also encouraged to check out the dreamy gardens of the Villa Communale, admiring the wonderful waterfront views and snapping a few photos to send to friends and family back home.

Restaurant with views to the sea and Vesuvius volcano. Sorrento, Italy.
iStock.com/Maxim Morales

Amalfi: The Activities

If you’re heading to Amalfi, one of the best ways to spend time is on the beach.

The town has several beaches to choose from, including the famed Marina Grade beach, which stretches out quite a long distance, with lots of umbrellas and sunbeds for your comfort and convenience. This is a big difference to Sorrento, which doesn’t have a beach of its own (more on that below).

When you’re finished sunbathing or splashing in the sea, you can set off to see the town’s main sights, starting off with Amalfi Cathedral.

It’s even older than Sorrento’s cathedral, with its origins dating back to the 9th century, and arguably more impressive, with its unique blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Arabic architectural influences.

The Museum of Handmade Paper is another local must-see attraction. It’s situated in Amalfi’s modern town, honoring the area’s paper-making traditions – Amalfi was actually one of the first paper-making centers in the whole of Europe.

The Arsenal of the Maritime Republic is also worth checking out, with this ancient medieval structure housing intricate model ships and an array of old relics.

Beyond the beaches and museums, Amalfi is a beautiful city to simply roam around, with plenty of great bars, shops, and restaurants to discover.

It’s also nicely-located near a couple of super hiking trails, like the famed Path of the Gods and the Path of the Lemons – you may have to hop on a boat or bus to reach the starting points for these trails, but it shouldn’t take too long to get there.

Overall, both Sorrento and Amalfi have some terrific attractions to check out.

However, Amalfi definitely takes the crown in terms of its wider range and greater number of local activities, with beaches, hikes, museums, and more.

Because of this, Amalfi is better-suited for a longer stay, while visitors may find that they’ve seen all of Sorrento in just a few days.

Shot of two unrecognisable women enjoying the view of the Mediterranean sea during their holiday in Italy
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Which Is Best For Day Trips? 

Clearly, there’s plenty to do in both Sorrento and Amalfi to keep you busy. But you might like to see a little more of Italy before heading home.

Indeed, many visitors to these two towns typically spend at least a couple of days exploring the surrounding areas and enjoying day trips to nearby destinations.

Sorrento is particularly well-placed for day trips. It’s got a great location in between Naples and the Amalfi Coast.

So, if you feel like a day out in the big city, you can easily head up to Naples to taste world-famous pizza. Or, if you prefer beaches and glamour, simply head along the coast towards Amalfi. The ancient ruins of Pompeii are also easily accessed from Sorrento.

Meanwhile, if you’re based in Amalfi, it’s also possible to visit Sorrento, Naples, and Pompeii, but it’ll take longer to reach them.

Instead, most travelers prefer to do their day trips along the Amalfi Coast, visiting the other charming towns here and enjoying the unique attractions, like the Fjord of Furore, the stunning villas of Ravello, and the Path of the Gods hiking trail in Positano.

Overall, both cities are well-placed for day trips. Sorrento definitely offers a little more variety, with big city experiences, historic ruins, and beach areas easily accessible, but Amalfi is perfect for those who want to enjoy the best coastal experiences.

Ancient walls in Pompeii with volcano Vesuvius in the background
iStock.com/dbvirago

Which Is Best For Beaches?

Of course, if you’re heading to the Italian coast, it’s highly likely that you’ll want to spend plenty of time on the beach, soaking up the sun’s rays, enjoying the warm weather of the area, and feeling the soft, silky sands beneath your feet. But which spot is best for sea, sand, and sun out of Sorrento and Amalfi?

Well, it’s actually important to note that Sorrento doesn’t have much of a beach to speak of. It has a couple of swimming areas and private platforms where you can sit on a sun lounger and admire the view.

There’s also a little bit of sand by the marina, but Sorrento cannot truly be classed as a beach destination.

Fortunately, it’s only a short drive away from some great sandy spots. There’s the charming and quaint Spiaggia della Pignatella, for example, which offers super sunset views and lovely romantic vibes, as well as the Piano di Sorrento Beach, with its fascinating volcanic sands.

The Bay of Ieranto is another nice spot – like many beaches in the area, it’s quite small and secluded.

In Amalfi, it’s a totally different story. You won’t need to leave the town to enjoy brilliant beach experiences, and you can most likely walk right from your hotel to the water’s edge.

The town’s main beach is Marina Grande, with its colorful umbrellas and row after row of sun loungers. It’s a great spot for sunbathing and relaxing.

The Lido delle Sirene, or Mermaid Beach, is a quieter spot with great amenities and super views of the Amalfi cliffs, while the cute Porto beach is another great spot to sit and admire the boats.

It’s also got quite shallow waters, perfect for splashing around with the kids. You can also easily hop from Amalfi to neighboring towns for more beach fun in places like the Marina di Vietri in Vietri sul Mare.

Overall, the beaches of Amalfi and its local coastal towns are definitely bigger, better, and more accessible than those of Sorrento. So, if you’re planning to spend lots of time by the sea, Amalfi is the place to be.

Morning view of Amalfi cityscape on coast line of mediterranean sea, Italy
iStock.com/Aleh Varanishcha

Which Is Better For Hiking? 

The coastal towns of Southern Italy are also great spots to hike, with plenty of terrific trekking trails to uncover along the Amalfi Coast and Sorrentine Peninsula.

If you’re in Sorrento, you’ll need to head out of the town to find the best local hikes. There are many trails to choose from, from the challenging trek up Mount Faito to the more family-friendly coastal walks along the Bay of Ieranto.

The circular Sentiero delle Sirenuse path is also a relatively accessible route, with magical views over the water and local islets.

Amalfi also has some top options, just a short walk or ride out of town. The Path of the Gods is one of the best-known routes of the region, running along the coast. It takes around five hours to walk in its entirety, or you can just pick little sections, hiking from town to town and admiring the dramatic, spectacular scenery along the way.

Overall, both locations work well for hiking fans and outdoor enthusiasts in general.

The trails near Amalfi are a little more impressive and easy to access, but there’s a very diverse range of routes to check out on the Sorrentine Peninsula.

Family look on boats and yachts at Positano on Italy's Amalfi Coast.
iStock.com/ASphotowed

Which Is Better For Nightlife? 

In terms of nightlife, Sorrento is certainly a livelier, more vibrant place to be than Amalfi after dark. It has a good range of bars and restaurants, many of which stay open late, along with an array of nightclubs for dancing and live entertainment venues, too.

So, if you want to stay out late and have fun, rather than heading back to the hotel, Sorrento is a top spot to choose.

In contrast, Amalfi generally tends to be quite quiet and sleepy once the sun sets. There are still a few bars and eateries to choose from if you want to stay out a while, and the town is quite pleasant to walk around in the evening.

However, it’s not a major nightlife hub, and you may have to head elsewhere along the coast if you’re looking for a wild time.

Expert barman is making cocktail at a bar.
iStock.com/santypan

Which Is Better For Food? 

The food in South Italy is simply sublime. It’s one of the best places in the world to enjoy high quality meals with fresh, local ingredients, every time.

And, since Sorrento and Amalfi are quite close to one another, the menus are pretty similar in both of these towns, with plenty of focus on seafood, pasta, pizza, and the local liqueur specialty: limoncello.

You’ll eat really well in both towns, although Amalfi has a slightly wider range of options and more gourmet-grade meals. It also has higher prices.

So, if you want budget-friendly food of excellent quality, pick Sorrento, If you don’t mind spending a little extra for even more magical meals, opt for Amalfi instead.

Italian food with seafood
iStock.com/Rawpixel

Which Has The Best Hotels? 

You’ll also need to think about where you’re going to stay during your time in either Sorrento or Amalfi.

And this is one of the main areas in which the two towns differ, with one being more budget-friendly and the other offering more luxurious accommodation.

In Sorrento, it’s definitely easier to find a cheap place to stay. There’s a nice mixture of locally-owned B&Bs and guesthouses, along with a small selection of boutique hotels for those with bigger budgets.

Over in Amalfi, there are fancier and more beautiful accommodation options to pick from, including private sea view apartments, high-end hotels, and glamorous, resort-style accommodation. 

So, if you’re looking for the highest standards of comfort, pick Amalfi. If you don’t mind something simpler and cheaper, choose Sorrento instead.

beach holidays and travel, relaxation in luxurious hotel, young happy woman tourist resting near swimming pool
iStock.com/anyaberkut

Where To Stay According To Your Budget

Sorrento

Budget: Capo Santa Fortunata is a farm-stay like accommodation, but expect a good dose of luxury considering the classy nature of the property, huge garden, sea view and outdoor pool. See photos and rates!

Luxury: Sorrento Dream Resort is a small, boutique resort set with one of the best sea views around. Couple that with the outdoor pool, jacuzzis, sauna and a garden where you can pick your own lemons, and you have the perfect stay. See photos and rates!

Amalfi Coast

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!

Image of couple drinking cocktails when relaxing on chaise-lounges by swimming pool
iStock.com/DragonImages

Which Has The Best Shopping? 

Shopping is another fun activity in coastal towns like Sorrento and Amalfi. Both of these towns are ideal for those who want to buy some unique souvenirs, handmade crafts, or local specialty goods to take back home.

In Sorrento, the best place to shop is in and around the Piazza Tasso. That’s where you’ll find a great range of independent stores and a few big brand shops selling everything from fashion and jewelry to limoncello.

In Amalfi, the Via Lorenzo D’Amalfi is the top spot for shopaholics. It’s actually one of the best places to shop in the whole of the Amalfi Coast, with lots of lovely cafes, fashion boutiques, handcraft stores, and more.

Overall, both towns are fun for shopping, but Amalfi may just have a slight edge.

beautiful view of the town of Positano from antique terrace with flowers, Amalfi coast, Italy. balcony with flowers
iStock.com/samael334

Which Is Better For Families? 

If you’re jetting off to Southern Italy as a family, there are many reasons to visit both Sorrento and Amalfi, and it’s best to try to visit both towns during your stay, if you can. If you’re only able to visit one, Amalfi is arguably the better choice.

Amalfi has a few more things to do compared to Sorrento, with its museums, historic buildings, and cultural activities. It also has more of a touristic vibe, along with easy access to multiple beaches where kids can play, swim, and splash around.

Sorrento also has fun things for families, like the Baths of Queen Giovanna swimming area and the town’s cathedral.

However, younger children may get a bit bored of this town after a few days, so you might have to consider taking day trips to Pompeii or Naples to keep the whole family entertained.

Family on beach at sunset
iStock.com/SHansche

Which Is Better For Couples? 

Many couples struggle to pick between Sorrento and Amalfi, and it’s easy to see why, as they’re both such beautiful, charming places.

Of the two, Amalfi is arguably more scenic, romantic, and visually impressive, with its wonderful cliffside surroundings and long, luxurious beaches. It also has fancier hotels and restaurants for romantic moments with your partner.

Sorrento can also provide similar romantic days and nights, but isn’t quite as jaw-dropping as the Amalfi Coast.

However, it does have the advantage of being easier to get around, as well as providing a great base for exploring the surrounding areas. So, couples who plan to do a lot of day trips and exploration may prefer Sorrento over Amalfi.

Full length shot of an affectionate young couple sharing an intimate moment at the beach
iStock.com/PeopleImages

Which Is Better For Backpackers? 

Sorrento is a super spot for backpacking along the Italian coast. It’s got a great location, just an hour away from both Naples and the heart of the Amalfi Coast, so you can head in either direction and find lots to see and do.

It also has cheaper accommodation and food than Amalfi, making it the best backpacking choice.

With that said, Amalfi is still a possible option for a backpacking adventure. Even though it has higher average costs, there are still some affordable places to stay and eat.

Plus, it’s got a great location, only a walk, drive, or boat ride away from other Amalfi Coast towns like Conca dei Marini, Vietri sul Mare, Ravello, and Praiano.

San Francesco d'Assisi Church in Sorrento, amalfi coast, Italy
iStock.com/Balate Dorin

Which Is Cheaper? 

In terms of cost, Sorrento is notably cheaper than Amalfi. In fact, it’s usually cheaper to stay in Sorrento compared to all the towns along the Amalfi Coast. So, if you want a budget-friendly getaway, Sorrento is the place to go. 

Accommodation, food, and public transport all cost more in Amalfi. It’s a more luxurious and comfortable destination in some ways, but you’ll need a bigger budget to really make the most of it and have the best time. Low-budget travelers may struggle here.

It’s also worth noting that Amalfi can be quite pricey to get around. The main coastal road is usually very busy, so many travelers hop on boats to visit the other Amalfi Coast towns, and those boat rides often cost a lot.

So, if you want to see all the sights of the Amalfi area, you will need to factor in the extra expense of local transportation.

Sorrento place , Italy,cliff and beach
iStock.com/EdwardDerule

Sorrento vs Amalfi: Which Is The Better Choice?

So, which town is best between Sorrento and Amalfi? Well, the answer to that question really depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for.

Some travelers will definitely have a better and more fulfilling time in Amalfi, while others will favor the unique benefits of Sorrento.

For the majority of travelers, Sorrento may be the better choice. It doesn’t have quite as much to do as Amalfi, but it’s cheaper, a lot easier to get to, and has a fantastic location, with Pompeii, Naples, and Amalfi Coast towns like Positano just a short ride away. It’s also got livelier nightlife and super shopping and dining, too.

However, if you don’t mind the somewhat chaotic local roads around Amalfi and the higher costs, it’s a fabulous place to go.

Amalfi has more cultural and historic sites of interest, and a wider range of activities compared to Sorrento, so it can appeal to travelers who simply want to stay in a lovely hotel, spend lots of time on the beach, and leave their worries behind.

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