When most American tourists think of the vibrant blue waters of the Italian coastline, they immediately go to the Instagrammable Amalfi Coast. But there’s another side to Italy that goes beyond the allure of the postcard-worthy destinations you’ve probably seen on social media. With destinations like the Amalfi Coast being so popular on social media, this area of Italy quickly becomes overcrowded and touristy, especially in peak seasons.
We’ve seen many travelers make the mistake of choosing a location for their Italian vacation for the destination rather than the experience. While the Amalfi Coast certainly has awe-inspiring views that are worth seeing, the actual experience may prove lackluster to some, with overcrowded beaches, overpriced meals, and numerous tourist traps.
Want to know the best-kept local secret? When Italians go for a beach holiday, they don’t flock to the Amalfi Coast. They travel to Puglia to enjoy the laid-back, quiet beach towns, seaside cliffs, and breathtaking grottos!
If you want a coastal vacation rich with ancient history and an authentic Italian experience, Puglia should take one of the top spots on your travel bucket list. Both the Amalfi Coast and Puglia have benefits and drawbacks you need to be aware of before planning your Italian adventure, and to help you choose the best location for your next trip to Italy we’re leaving no stone unturned in this guide.
Scenery & Landscape
You’ve more than likely seen photos of the brilliant azure waters of the Amalfi coast, adorning towering cliffs lined with a mosaic of pastel houses. But those photos don’t show you the umbrella-line beaches packed with tourists during peak season. While the landscape is beautiful, the Amalfi Coast may not give you the authentic Italian experience you’re looking for.
Pro Tip: Many beaches in Italy are quite pebbly rather than sandy! Look into purchasing water shoes for your day at the beach.
Luckily, the Amalfi Coast isn’t the only beautiful coastline in Southern Italy! There are so many once-in-a-lifetime, breathtaking landscapes in Italy, meaning you don’t just have to choose the most popular location you see on social media. Select locations in Puglia can serve as a less touristy alternative to the Amalfi Coast, with equally breathtaking coastline views and charming beachy towns.
The region also offers a diverse landscape with rolling hills, sprawling vineyards and olive groves, and serene countryside which produces the essential summer cheese, burrata. The coastal areas, particularly along the Adriatic Sea, boast pristine beaches and hidden coves, offering a more laid-back and tranquil seaside experience. Read more about the best blue flag beaches of Italy to escape the crowds!
The choice between the two ultimately lies in your preference for your desired experience. Do you want the more rustic, laid-back, authentic Italian vibes of Puglia, or is the tradeoff of dealing with overcrowding worth the postcard-perfect views of the Amalfi Coast? Either way, we recommend you choose your Southern Italian destination based on the experience, not just the scenery.
Both the Amalfi Coast and Puglia promise a unique cultural experience that showcases the diversity and richness of Southern Italian culture. The narrow streets of Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello are lined with medieval churches, grand cathedrals, and local art galleries, offering a more refined, elegant side of Italy. Art enthusiasts can admire the works of renowned painters and sculptors in the local galleries.
Puglia offers a more down-to-earth cultural experience, where you’ll find local craft festivals deeply rooted in the folklore and traditions of the region and charming towns and villages where local Nonnas make orecchiette on the streets! Puglia is also home to the UNESCO-listed trulli of Alberobello, the Baroque architecture of Lecce, and the whitewashed city of Ostuni. All three locations are worth a spot on your itinerary, among several other hidden gems. Discover Puglia’s Top Seven Hidden Gems by clicking here!
The Amalfi Coast generally has a more “glamorous” and sophisticated vibe, which certainly doesn’t come without a price. If this is your preference for your Italian adventure, it’s important to know ahead of time that you will pay a premium for many things in the region, whereas Puglia offers much more affordable options for travelers in activities, accommodations, and dining. But keep in mind that as Puglia is becoming more known, and is beloved by the Italians, when you come in high season you still will encounter a premium in select areas.
Affordability and Accessibility
The Amalfi Coast has a reputation for luxury and exclusivity, which tends to come with a higher price tag. Accommodations, particularly in towns like Positano and Amalfi, can get expensive, even in the off-season. The tourist popularity of these locations can also make it extremely difficult to book accommodations in the first place. Other costs, such as meals, are generally higher than other regions’ prices. While this isn’t a setback for everyone, it’s important to note that you are paying a premium for the destination itself.
Puglia offers many more reasonable pricing options, with accommodations and meals coming in at a more average Italian rate than the Amalfi Coast. Accommodations in the smaller towns and countryside are often much more affordable than those on the Amalfi Coast, and most local trattorias serve authentic Puglian cuisine that caters to a range of budgets.
Additionally, Puglia has a well-connected train network along the coast. Allowing you to visit many of the seaside villages by train. Read a local’s guide to traveling Italy by train! However, should you want to get the full Puglian experience, you will need to also travel by car to reach the many must-see hidden gems of Puglia’s interior.
In general, it’s important to be aware of hidden costs on your Italian vacation that you may not have considered before getting on the plane. But what if you didn’t have to worry about additional costs for the duration of your trip to Italy? Guests with the Italian on Tour® pay an all-inclusive rate that includes all activities and accommodations on select tours!
Why not let a local expert help you, save your precious time, logistical mishaps and NEVER worry about pulling out your wallet for the “extras” not included in the price? As local Italian residents and travel experts, we vet each and every experience on our itinerary for your once-in-a-lifetime Italian vacation. Take the guesswork and stress out of planning your trip to Italy and choose your itinerary!
Which One Should You Choose?
The choice between these iconic destinations ultimately depends on your preference, travel aspirations, and tolerance for crowds. While Puglia is not immune to tourism crowds, it typically provides a more authentic, rustic Italian experience that will capture your heart and leave you feeling good about your Italy trip.
The Amalfi Coast may be the ideal choice for those seeking the drama of dramatic cliffs, upscale boutiques, and refined cultural experiences with a high tolerance for crowds. However, if you yearn for the tranquility of olive groves, unique trulli houses, and a more wallet-friendly adventure, Puglia beckons with its down-to-earth appeal.
Ultimately, it’s important to consider your impact as a tourist. Excessive tourism has hurt the quality of life for many Italian locals, with skyrocketing rent and cost of living emerging as consistent issues. The Amalfi Coast is not immune to this issue, and it’s important to consider why you want to visit and how you can leave a positive impact.
Visiting lesser-known areas in Puglia can support locals by easing the weight of crowds in more popular locations and give you a unique experience where you’re more immersed in local culture, contributing to local businesses and families. Read more on other ways to have a better trip to Italy!
You truly can’t go wrong with a visit to Italy, but if you’re seeking an off-the-beaten-path adventure into Italy’s hidden regions with experienced local guides on your side, consider signing up for the waitlist for our 2025 Passport to Puglia and be the first to know about exclusive bonuses!
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