The Amalfi Coast and Cinque Terre are two comparable and very popular destinations along the coast of Italy that travellers generally have difficulty deciding between. Both towns are situated on the edge of the cliffs hanging over the Mediterranean Sea, however a couple differences separate travellers either in one direction or the other. I am fortunate enough to have been able to experience both towns and I will use my experiences to differentiate the two.
First of all, you have to ask yourself what you want from your experience. What activities do you enjoy the most? What kind of people do you like to surround yourself with? Cinque Terre is known for their intricate hiking trails that give you amazing views of the towns and oceans. Although you must be careful, if the weather is not in your favor some of the trails may close (for safety reasons). Positano (one of the biggest towns along the Amalfi) has many roads strictly for pedestrians. A lot of walking and hiking must be done here as well, yet the town does not have many trails that are simply for hikes, most of the hiking is done during your daily activities such as getting to the beach and going shopping. For the ladies who enjoy their shopping as much as I do, the Amalfi Coast is the better route for you. There are many shops lined very close to each other that allow you to see a lot in one street. The types of things they sell are; linen men’s dress shirts, beach throws, bathing suits, art, and some unique fancy boutiques. In Cinque Terre there are a few shops that are directed towards tourist attractions and artifacts.
Another factor I would consider is; what other destinations you would like to see in Italy and which one is closest to it. Being logical and realistic can save you a lot of time and money when travelling Europe. Cinque Terre is located in Northern Italy while the Amalfi Coast is in Southern Italy. In the summer months both locations are very warm, however geographically it would make sense that the Amalfi would be slightly hotter. The vibes in each town are quite different which is often the deciding factor for travelers. Cinque Terre is a lot smaller in size then Positano and there are many more activities in Positano. If you want to stay for more then a day or two I would recommend going to Positano as it has double the amount of beaches, shops and restaurants. It is popular for its fine dining, day trips to Capri and boat rentals. The Amalfi Coast has an older, wealthier crowd while Cinque Terre is great for backpackers and younger people looking for a relaxing night.
The food is exceptional anywhere in Italy, but each city has their own food they are known for. Cinque Terre is notorious for their pesto and anchovies! While I was there I had the best pasta with tomato sauce and pesto (so rich in flavor). White wine is their wine specialty; you will be amazed at how many vineyards are along these big cliff sides. The Amalfi has the best variety of seafood you have ever tasted which includes lobster, crab, muscles, clams, squid and octopus. Either option you will not regret, as they are both very scenic and relaxing places to visit!