Italy is one of the most lusted travel destinations, not only in Western Europe but the world at large. From its ancient history and landmark art to its colorful seaside towns and revered cuisine, Italy is a country of refinery and allure, and the Sorrentine Peninsula is no different.
The stomping ground of the rich and famous, and rightfully reserving a firm place on everyone’s travel bucket list, Italy’s southwest coast is synonymous with images of winding coastal roads marked by elegant villas, and rugged shorelines dotted with quaint pebble beaches and pastel-colored fishing villages. But which town should you visit, Amalfi or Sorrento?
Although often grouped under the same umbrella, Sorrento isn’t on the Amalfi Coast, with both villages tucked away on opposite sides of the Sorrentine Peninsula. That said, they’re just 30 kilometers apart and alike in their dramatic settings, colorful streets, and spectacular sea views. Find out what separates the two and which is better in our guide. Let’s get into it.
Amalfi or Sorrento: General Vibe
Both found in the southwest, Sorrento and Amalfi are two seaside towns nestled on the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Campania Region of Italy. Although often grouped as part of the iconic Amalfi Coast, Sorrento actually sits on the northern Sorrento Coast of the peninsula, facing the Bay of Naples while Amalfi looks out across the Gulf of Salerno.
Both towns are known for their busy marinas and tourist appeal, but the Sorrento Coast generally stands in the shadow of Amalfi, which can be oppressively crowded even though Sorrento is equally as picturesque.
Italy is the fifth most visited country in the world, with around 65 million tourists flocking to its shores every year, and the Sorrentine Peninsula is one of the most popular spots in the country. Over six million international tourists visit southwestern Italy annually. Even though Sorrento has a larger population, with 16,000 inhabitants compared to Amalfi’s 5,000, Amalfi is actually the more popular of the two towns, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing.
With Amalfi overshadowing the Sorrento Coast, the untrodden beaches and laid-back atmosphere of Sorrento can stand out to visitors. Sorrento itself has plenty of attractions and hundreds of tourists passing through every day, but with Amalfi being smaller than Sorrento, it can feel cramped with all the tourists, not to mention, it can be very expensive to find somewhere worthwhile to stay.
Amalfi or Sorrento: Getting There
They’re only an hour apart by car, but the accessibility of Amalfi and Sorrento could make all the difference when choosing which one to visit. The Sorrento Coast is generally considered easier to get to than Amalfi from most parts of Italy. This is mainly to do with the local “Circumvesuviana” train station in the center of Sorrento. Sorrento is also closer to the Naples Capodichino Airport, the only international airport in Campania.
The truth is, if you’re based in Sorrento, you’re conveniently located close to Naples, Pompeii, and the Amalfi Coast, while Amalfi is more than an hour’s drive from Pompeii, and almost an hour and a half from Naples. The train from Naples to Sorrento takes just 50 minutes in contrast and delivers you straight to the center of town. There’s also the Curreri bus, which takes a bit longer but only costs 10 euros.
Amalfi can also be reached by bus, but it is an extra hour and a half from Sorrento. Nevertheless, the scenic and winding coastal roads are straight out of a James Bond movie and an exciting bucket list experience for your trip to Campania. You can also hop on a ferry from Naples to Amalfi, taking the same amount of time, but the ferry ride from Naples to Sorrento takes just 35 minutes and costs a fraction of the price.
Amalfi is still a good central hub on the Amalfi Coast even if is further away, and provides ample opportunity for shorter day trips in the region. One of the main differences between Amalfi and Sorrento is the size. This means that Amalfi can be easier to get around, especially since Amalfi is flatter, without the steep alleyways and neverending stairways that are synonymous with Sorrento and other popular Amalfi Coast towns like Positano.
Amalfi was designed in such a way as to confuse potential invaders with plenty of narrow streets that are exciting to explore. But without the endless steps to reach landmarks and your accommodation like you’ll find in Sorrento, Amalfi can seem more accessible if you have small children or mobility issues. That said, Sorrento also has busses, but as the bigger town, it can still be more cumbersome to get around.
Amalfi or Sorrento: Beaches
Italy’s 7,500 km of Mediterannean coastline is known for its great beaches, and the Sorrentine Peninsula is no different. However, while Sorrento is in reach of some sumptuous sands, Amalfi is decidedly better known for its beach access and pebbled bays. Being perched atop cliffs, Sorrento has great views over the Tyrrhenian Sea, but the town isn’t directly on the water like Amalfi.
Sorrento sits above its bustling marina, while Amalfi is set on Spiaggia Grande, the main beach and most extensive on the Amalfi Coast. It might be busy, but it’s for good reason. The beach is annexed to the port and located right in front of the center of town.
A sea of sun beds engulf the pebbly shores, owned by restaurants and beach clubs that line the seafront, but there’s also a free area where visitors can lay their towels on the sands and take a dip in the crystal clear waters without a fee.
Plenty of beaches dot the jagged Amalfi Coastline, but Sorrento is less known for its seaside with rocky shores and plunging cliffs being characteristic of this side of the coast. There are a few swimming spots around Sorrento and small hidden coves, but Amalfi is the undeniable winner when it comes to having beach fun.
Amalfi or Sorrento: Things to Do
Still, it’s not all about frolicking in the Med and catching a tan, especially when these towns are steeped in history and culture. Italy is a foody’s paradise, but the Sorrentine Peninsula is particularly great for seafood and culinary delights. You can find similar cuisine in both towns, but Sorrento is the place to go for authentic Campanian dishes without the tourist price tags. Sorrento is also the lemon region and savoring the local Sorrentine Limoncello as an after-meal digestif is a must.
You can’t visit Sorrento without dedicating a full morning to getting lost in the streets of the old town. Sorrento has been conquered by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, French, and Spanish, and each civilization has left its mark on the town. Also be sure to dip in and out of the boutique shops and charming cafes, grabbing a souvenir or Sorrentine pastry, before sitting down for an afternoon espresso in the grand Piazza Tasso.
There are a lot of great day trips to do from Sorrento too to make up for the lack of beaches. Whether you want to tour Pompeii, hike around Mount Vesuvius, or relax on a beach, Aperol Spritz in hand, most of the highlights of Campania are within an hour’s drive from Sorrento.
Still, Amalfi is the winner when it comes to art and history with a good dose of beach relaxation on the side. It’s further from regional highlights like ancient Pompeii, but there’s plenty to do in the town itself, despite its small size. The Duomo can’t be missed, along with the Chiostro del Paradiso, St. Andrew’s Fountain, and the Maritime Museum in the old armory.
Places like Positano in Amalfi, best known for their celebrity clientele, are also worth visiting just down the coast. Still, Amalfi is the cultural heart piece of the coastline and offers the best of all worlds.
Amalfi or Sorrento: Places to Stay
The accommodation on offer in both Sorrento and Amalfi varies from humble family-run B&Bs to sea-view apartment rentals and luxurious five-star hotels. However, as the bigger town of the two, Sorrento is much more diverse and has more variety than Amalfi in terms of places to stay, especially when it comes to budget-friendly options.
There are around 150 hotels in and around Amalfi, compared to more than 500 around Sorrento. Likewise, there are more than 200 homes up for short-term holiday rental in Sorrento, compared to just 65 in Amalfi.
Have a look at some of our top picks for every budget below to see what you type of accommodation you could be looking at depending on where you choose to stay:
Holidays Baia D’Amalfi ($$) – Located just 200 yards from the center of town and two minutes from both a private and public beach, this budget hotel boasts air-conditioned rooms, a sea-view terrace, free wifi, and colorful tiled floors. Doubles start at €105 a night.
B&B Il Porticciolo di Amalfi ($$) – Set in a renewed historic building, facing Amalfi’s central beach, this quaint hotel offers neat rooms with basic amenities, a sweet buffet breakfast, and a communal sea-view terrace. Double rooms start at €170 a night with breakfast included.
Divino in Centro Holiday Home Cioffi ($$) – Divino is a beachfront property just 350 yards from Marine Grande. This apartment boasts a private kitchen, two single beds, and one double bed in one bedroom, as well as a seating area and communal lounge. Prices start from €188 a night.
Palazzo Confalone ($$$) – This impressive five-star hotel comprises the historic Palazzo Confalone and a design annex with an expansive garden, antique interior, grand and decadent ceilings, and sweeping sea views from its clifftop location on the edge of Ravello. Rooms start at €465 with an exceptional breakfast included.
Hotel Marina Riviera ($$$) – With a sprawling deck overlooking the sea, a Turkish bath, and a terrace restaurant, Hotel Marina Riviera sits on Amalfi’s main seaside promenade just 250 yards from the cathedral. You’ll find elegant rooms throughout, synonymous with Amalfi’s refined style, and a rooftop pool with sea-facing deck chairs. Rooms start at €540 a night.
Oasi Madre Della Pace ($) – Located just outside the center of town with a private garden and sun terrace, Oasi Madre Della Pace offers simple accommodation within a historical monastery set to the breathtaking views of Mount Vesuvius. Rooms start at €84 a night with breakfast included.
Ostello Le Sirene ($) – Situated just 450 yards from the train stations and five minutes from Piazza Tasso, this convenient budget hostel offers private rooms, dorms, and multiple occupancy dwellings for families and groups with private bathrooms, free breakfast, and partner deals at nearby restaurants. Private twin rooms begin at €88 a night.
Maison Marie ($$) – Nestled in the center of the city, just 650 from Piazza Tasso, these clean and modern studio apartments are equipped with air conditioning, flat-screen TVs, kettles, and refrigerators with the option of a mezzanine level bedroom. Rooms start at €204 a night, with a super breakfast included.
Hotel Villa di Sorrento ($$$) – Set within a property dating back to 1854, Villa di Sorrento is located just meters from Circumvesuviana Station, with a private rooftop terrace, elegant rooms, and great breakfast. Rooms start at €255 a night.
Hotel Plaza ($$$) – Four-star accommodation with a stylish deck, rooftop pool, in-house restaurant, and central location. All the rooms are clean and modern with plenty of amenities like air-conditioning and free toiletries. Prices start from €300 a night.
Amalfi or Sorrento: Price
Sorrento might be decidedly cheaper when it comes to finding a good deal on accommodation, but can the same be said for everything else?
Sorrento might have more budget-friendly options for finding somewhere to stay, but the average cost of a hostel for one guest is €72 a night in Sorrento, and just 7 Euros more in Amalfi. Likewise, the average double occupancy room in Sorrento goes for €145 a night, while the cost for the same room in Amalfi is not much higher at €158 a night. Still, this is the only cost where these two towns are really on par.
The average daily cost, based on the spending of other travelers, is around €110 in Sorrento, but upwards of €160 in Amalfi. Local transport costs an average of €6 a day in Sorrento, but thanks to Amalfi’s more isolated location, you could spend €53 a day on taxis and ferries when exploring nearby towns.
It’s also cheaper to reach Sorrento since it is closer to the sprawling city of Naples and its international airport. The train from Naples to Sorrento is only around €15 each way, for example, while the ferry from Naples to Amalfi can cost between €30-60.
The average traveler can get by spending €30 a day on food in Sorrento, but you’ll need close to double this in Amalfi, with meals for one person for one day averaging at €55. You could get a pizza from a local pizzeria for €6 in Sorrento, a casual lunch for €12 and a sit-down dinner for two for €43. While, in Amalfi, you’ll struggle to find bar snacks for less than €4-6, an inexpensive meal starts at €15, and a dinner for two at a mid-range restaurant will cost at least €50. The same can be said for alcohol, with the average holidaymaker spending less than €10 in Sorrento per day on a drink, but closer to €25 in Amalfi.
You might end up spending more on tours in Sorrento since there is so much to see outside the town, but choose to visit Pompei, Vesuvius, or Capri from Amalfi and all of these trips will cost more. Plus, you should expect to fork out at least €15 for a sunbed on the beach.
Amalfi or Sorrento: The Conclusion
Both these lusted Italian destinations are sure to impress – Amalfi with its beaches and history, and Sorrento with its laid-back vibes, attractive prices, and close proximity to Campanian highlights like Pompeii and Naples. Amalfi can be overwhelmingly crowded, and with high numbers of tourists come high prices. It’s one of the most expensive places to visit in Italy, and while accommodation in Sorrento doesn’t come dirt-cheap, it could be a great alternative to the star-studded Amalfi Coast if you’re trying to stick to a budget.
If you can afford to do Amalfi properly, its reputation will precede it. Amalfi is truly one of the most picturesque places in the world, but, Sorrento is just as beautiful and it’s easy to visit Amalfi on a day trip from the better-connected hub on the Sorrentine Coast. We know which one we’d pick, but is it Amalfi or Sorrento that will get your vote?