You have a problem. You’re planning a trip to Italy and you’re stuck having a mental debate: Amalfi Coast vs Cinque Terre. If you’re having the internal battle of Amalfi Coast vs Cinque Terre, we got you. If you’re asking whether the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre is better, we won’t be answering that question. We will, however, hopefully, help you decide which you’d like to visit depending on a few variables.
Both coastlines are insanely beautiful, both are picturesque, both have similar climate, both have a delicious sea-inspired version of Italian food and both are on the west coast of Italy, so you can enjoy sunsets every evening. But how do you decide which is best for your trip? We have visited both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre several times, and typically our decision to visit one over the other depends on a few variables.
The Amalfi Coast is a 50 KM stretch of coastline along the western coast of Italy. Sitting about a 90-minute drive from Naples along the Sorrentine Peninsula, the Costiera Amalfitana is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has gained significant popularity as a holiday destination for visitors over the last few years. The Amalfi Coast is enveloped by cliffs that seem to reach the heavens, lemon groves, and wine vineyards that provide much of the culture and taste of the Amalfi Coast.
Cinque Terre is a stretch of seaside villages on the Ligurian Coast of Italy that consists of 5 (cinque) beautiful lands/towns (terre). The hillsides are stacked with water colored structures, precariously atop stunning rock faces jutting over the Mediterranean Sea. Years of incessant exposure to saltwater, rain, and the beating sun have faded the colors to those one could only hope to replicate with a 152-count box of Crayons. Vivid Tangerine, Macaroni and Cheese, Dandelion, Granny Smith Apple, Sea Green, Aquamarine, Cornflower, Tickle me Pink, and Apricot all come to mind. Cinque Terre is the heart of the Ligurian Coast; an Italian region that is famous for pesto!
This is probably unlikely, but are you planning to travel to Italy ONLY to visit either the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre? Typically travelers visit Italy’s historic cities of Rome, Florence, Milan, and Naples and add a trip to Cinque or Amalfi onto the itinerary. However, if you’re visiting Italy ONLY to travel to one of these coastal stretches, we vote for the Amalfi Coast. You can easily fly into Naples and drive the 1.5 hours to the Amalfi Coast. Even if you have to fly into Rome, you can train from Roma Fiumicino to Roma Termini and then on to Napoli Centrale where you can rent/hire a car. So, Cinque Terre vs Amalfi coast straight up….
However, it’s more likely that you’ll also be visiting Florence, Rome, Milan, or Naples as most travelers we speak to visit these cities when traveling in Italy. Depending on where you’re traveling from, Milan or Rome will be the cheapest airports for your arrival.
Typically, we take a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre while we are visiting Florence, and we coordinate a trip to the Amalfi Coast to coincide with time spent in Rome, Naples, the islands, or the southern regions of Italy like Sicily.
There are absolute gems in close proximity to both Cinque and Amalfi. Just off the Amalfi Coast and accessible by a 30-minute ferry is the gorgeous island of Capri. The Amalfi Coast is also a short drive from historic sites like Pompei, and of course the birthplace of pizza, Napoli!
Cinque Terre is a short train ride from famous Ligurian coastal towns like Rapallo, Santa Margherita, and Portofino! You can also reach the home of pesto – Genoa – from Cinque by train in about an hour.
Cinque Terre has 5 towns that all have delicious food options. The Amalfi Coast has 13. When we visit Cinque Terre there is a delicious cantina called Nessun Dorma where we usually have lunch in Manarola, a gelateria where we have afternoon gelated in Vernazza called Gelateria Vernazza, and a hole-in-the-wall ridiculously delicious restaurant in Monterosso. Yes, we intentionally left the name out – there are only 4 or 5 tables there and I don’t want you taking one from us when we return! Haha, sorry, but some of our favorite hidden gems don’t get covered on the blog.
The Amalfi Coast has Michelin quality food in every town we have visited and Positano happens to have one of our top 3 favorite restaurants in the world: Da Vincenzo. Yes, you can have the name of that one, because it’s already super popular. We have dined here probably a dozen times, so we have become great friends with the family that owns the restaurant. We simply message them on Facebook to catch up and book our reservation months in advance when we plan to return to Positano!
Both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre have restaurants that offer delicious handmade pasta, fresh local fish, and regional wine, but if we had to choose one winner here, we would go with the Amalfi Coast because of the plethora of options and the mere presence of Da Vincenzo.
You’d imagine that both the Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre would offer the same activities and entertainment if both are Italian coastal towns, right? Well, to a certain degree, they do.
Hiking, sailing, kayaking, swimming, cliff jumping, sunbathing, drinking wine, eating delicious local cuisine, etc. are all available to you both in Cinque Terre as well as the Amalfi Coast. Both towns are sleepy at night, although, there is a club/party in Positano that is quite popular called Music on the Rocks. For the most part, if you’re visiting either destination, you probably want to enjoy the day exploring and relaxing and then spend the night being a glutton over dinner, wine, and gelato. Invariably, we fall asleep early in both regions and wake up for sunrise and espresso!
Both locations have great hikes! The hike between Monterosso and Riomaggiore is known as the Via dell’Amore. It is one of the most spectacular hikes we have ever done, but the Path of the Gods is THE most spectacular hike we have ever done.
If one destination has marginally more to do, it would be the Amalfi Coast. This is only because you can drive between the towns at night whereas in Cinque Terre you’d have to hike. Train and boat are the only non-pedestrian forms of transportation between the villages, so at night you’re essentially stuck in whatever village you’re in after the last train. On the Amalfi Coast, you can go have dinner in a neighboring town, visit adjacent wine bars, etc.
Both Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast are architectural masterpieces. To so perfectly engineer and architect buildings that complement the natural aesthetic of their respective coastlines was a magnificent feat.
Each town along the Amalfi Coast is unique while there seems to be a bit of symmetry in terms of color and theme across the villages of Cinque Terre. The Amalfi Coast seems like 13 separate towns, while Cinque Terre seems like 5 unified, brightly colored villages. Both have amazing architecture and Positano has a pretty incredible/historic cathedral, but this one goes to Cinque and her bright colors.
The Amalfi Coast has much finer resorts than Cinque Terre. Check out places like Le Sirenuse and Hotel Marincanto. There is no argument here. Next.
This one is going to depend a lot on where else you’re visiting in Italy and how you define “ease of accessibility.” Part of the ease of traveling across Italy can be attributed to the great train system (they’re sometimes late or canceled, but they’re generally quite good), but the only way to access the Amalfi Coast that we are aware of by public transportation is by taking a train to Vietri Sul Mare.
VSM is located at the southernmost point of the Amalfi Coast, so if you’re trying to reach Positano or Amalfi, you’re in for a 1 hour 45 minute to 2-hour bus/car ride. It can be done. We have done it. It just isn’t optimal.
Anytime someone asks us how to get to Positano we recommend flying or training into Naples, renting a car, and driving. Either that or flying/training into Naples and hiring a private car to drive the 1.5 hours.
Hire a car with Positano shuttle
Cinque Terre, however, is quite the opposite. You will not drive into Cinque Terre, but you can train between all 5 villages. Regardless of the fact that you can’t drive to Cinque and won’t be able to really commute between the towns at night, 5 Terre wins this one simply because you can drink wine on a train and indulge in the scenic ride rather than worrying about driving.
During the summer/high season, Italy’s most popular destinations can be a clusterfuck. Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast have both seen a massive spike in tourism over the years and large crowds are becoming a serious concern for both towns.
We have felt most impacted by the crowds in Cinque Terre because the Amalfi Coast is simply more expansive. Although, the crowds do thin out in Cinque Terre at night. Regardless, this one goes to Amalfi.
Assuming you have time to spend a week or 2 in Italy, why not visit both!? Naples is the birthplace of pizza and genoa is the birthplace of pesto, but you know what is a great combination? Pesto pizza! So let’s discuss how you can visit both Cinque AND Amalfi.
If we were going to visit both Cinque Terre and the Amalfi coast we would search for a multi-city flight and choose the cheapest option between:
These are likely the 2 cheapest options that also make your commute on either end not overly strenuous. IF you don’t mind spending a bit of extra money, it’s probably easiest to:
Regardless, whether you start in the north or the south, you can get to Cinque Terre from the Amalfi Coast a couple of ways:
If you want to drive from Positano to Cinque Terre, you’ll drive through one of the most beautiful countrysides on the planet, but you’ll also be in the car for 8 hours.
Rather, you can drive from Positano to Naples (1.5 hours), and train from Naples to Cinque Terre in about 5.5 hours. So, you’ll save about an hour and you’ll be able to sit on the train, drink wine, and relax. Plus, the train is the more affordable option.
**Be conscious of the fact that there is no “Cinque Terre” train station. If you’re purchasing a train ticket to Cinque, you’ll need to purchase a ticket to La Spezia. From there, you can purchase a ticket to Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, or Monterosso al Mare.