It’s no secret that we love Italy – in fact, it was our most popular trip destination in 2019! And the thing we love most about Italy is that there’s something for everyone and always something new to discover. You don’t have to join the crowds in Venice or at the Colosseum; you can have your own Italian adventure off the beaten path.
One of the most popular places in Italy is the Amalfi Coast. For years, travelers have been flocking to the Amalfi Coast, a stretch of coastline along the Sorrentine Peninsula, south of Rome and Naples. And while the area is undeniably gorgeous, it’s also incredibly crowded, especially in the summer months.
Once a celebrity hotspot, the Amalfi Coast is now drowning in tourists causing prices to soar and sightseeing to become claustrophobic. Don’t get us wrong – it’s still a gorgeous spot! But if you’re looking for beautiful landscapes, stunning beaches, and charming towns without the high price tag or large crowds, check out our five alternatives to the Amalfi Coast!
The Cilento Coast
One of the best Amalfi Coast alternatives is its neighbor to the south, the Cilento Coast. The Cilento Coast has everything Amalfi has – a jaw-dropping coastline, bright blue waters, delicious seafood – and none of the crowds. This slice of Italian paradise is under the radar – for now!
Home to over 60 miles of sandy beaches, Italy’s best kept secret, Cilento, is a slightly less polished version of the Amalfi Coast. While the Amalfi Coast is well known for long days of drinking cocktails by rocky beaches, the Cilento Coast offers a bit more. If you don’t want to sit on the beach all day, this is the place for you!
Head to Paestum, home to some of the best preserved ancient Greek temples, and home to wild buffalo, whose milk is used to produce Italy’s famous buffalo mozzarella. You can even visit the farms and pick up some fresh mozzarella for yourself! There’s also Velia, another archaeological site perfect for exploring, and Vallo di Diano e Alburni, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cilento National Park.
Wander the castle ruins of Castellabate for the best sea views; visit the seaside village of Acciaroli, where Hemingway once wrote; visit the museums of Pioppi to learn more about the Mediterranean way of life; discover caves in the Cape of Palinuro, including Cilento’s own Blue Grotto; and trek around the mountain town Pollica.
Another Amalfi Coast alternative we love is Procida. Procida is located just a short ferry ride from Naples and offers visitors the feeling that they’re enjoying the real Italy, instead of a tourist version of it. Sure, it’s not as glamorous as the Amalfi Coast, but it is more affordable, less crowded and just as scenic! Plus, it’s a lot easier to get to, making it an easy addition to a trip to Rome or Naples.
Start your visit at the picturesque Marina di Corricella. Here you can watch the fishermen coming and going, sunbathe on the beaches, wander the narrow streets and watch the sun set over the sea. This beautiful stretch of land was even included in the movie The Talented Mr. Ripley, serving as a lost-in-time, beautiful, old town.
Walk up to the Abbey of St. Michael for a view over the marina and don’t miss Chiaia, Procida’s best beach!
Heading north along the Italian coast, you’ll reach the postcard perfect village of Portovenere. Portovenere is a great base for exploring coastal Italy with so much to do, and a great spot for travelers of all budgets. As a larger town, Portovenere is able to cater to both the yachting crowd with luxury hotels and the more budget-conscious visitors with local B&Bs.
Check out Portovenere’s take on the candy-colored coastal houses of the Amalfi Coast at the Palazzata, where Portovenere’s own colorful buildings are built into the rocks. Shop local artisans along the Via Capellini and take in the epic views from Doria Castle, San Lorenzo Church or San Pietro Church.
Explore Arpaia Grotto, also known as Byron’s Grotto for Lord Byron, who used to live in town and enjoy swimming in the waters. Another bonus of Portovenere? Island hopping! You can visit the islands of Palmaria, Tino and Tinetto located in the gulf around Portovenere.
Intrigued by the island hopping opportunities in Portovenere? Why not take your Italian vacation to the beautiful island of Ponza? Ponza is a small island off the coast between Rome and Naples. Here too you’ll find beautiful waters and pastel-colored houses. And, of course, you won’t find any of the crowds you would see in the Amalfi Coast.
In fact, this island doesn’t see much foreign tourism at all. Which makes it the perfect place to escape and spend some days relaxing and recharging. We can’t think of anything better to do after a few days of go-go-go sightseeing in Rome than relaxing on a beautiful, peaceful, Italian island.
Spend your days on Ponza sailing around the island. You can rent your own wooden boat and sail over to the nearby island of Palmarola. Walk along the where you can shop for souvenirs and pick up the fresh catch of the day from a local market. Sunbathe at one of the beach clubs at Frontone or enjoy the sandy beach, Cala Feola. Walk up the via Panoramica Tre Venti to take in views over the cliffs of Chiaia di Luna. Explore the hamlet of Santa Maria where the island was first inhabited.
Another one of Italy’s best kept secrets is the coastal town of Sperlonga. Located between Rome and Naples on Italy’s west coast, Sperlonga is a favorite amongst Italian vacationers and has even been frequented by A-list celebrities. But outside of the Italian holiday month of August, Sperlonga is almost empty.
In Sperlonga you’ll find whitewashed houses, reminiscent of those you’d find on a Greek island, and some of the best beaches along the coast. Once a medieval fortress, Sperlonga is now a charming seaside village, made up of many stairs taking you from beach to viewpoint and back again. To the north and south of the Sperlonga headland, you’ll find beautiful beaches. But the south is where you’ll really want to go.
Stroll along one of the loveliest beaches in Italy, where both paid beach clubs and free beach areas lie. The beach ends at the Grotta di Tiberio or the Cave of Tiberius. You can also visit the villa of the Emperor Tiberius, which now houses the Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale). Once you’re done exploring, head back into the picturesque old town for a dinner of fresh seafood.
Hidden spots along the Amalfi Coast
If you still want to visit the Amalfi Coast, here are a few villages where you might be able to avoid the crowds (and prices!) the Amalfi Coast is famous for.
Atrani is one of the lesser known of the Amalfi Coast’s 13 villages. This fishing village will make you feel as if you’re stepping back in time. Without the glitz of some of Amalfi Coast villages but with all of the charm, authenticity, beautiful views and delicious seafood that you could need – that’s Atrani!
One of our favorite spots on the Amalfi Coast is Praiano. It’s perfectly situated between the busy towns of Amalfi and Positano, but far enough away from the crowds and high prices. It’s a secluded village and the perfect place to catch sunset on the beach.
Conca dei Marini
Conca dei Marini is another one of the Amalfi villages that is unknown to most visitors. Just east of Praiano, this village is best known for being destroyed by pirates in the 16th Century. Today it offers a more peaceful refuge to Amalfi Coast visitors complete with a secluded beach and hidden grotto.