You may have heard the notion that in Italy the further south you go, the more intense your experience.
“If you like Italy as far south as Rome, go further south. It gets better. If Italy is getting on your nerves by the time you get to Rome, think twice about going further. Italy intensifies as you plunge deeper.” — Rick Steves
So choosing between Lake Como or Amalfi Coast means first understanding which Italy you want to experience. Are you hoping to check things off your sightseeing wish-list (more of these things found in the north), or are you looking for a deeper dive into the Italian experience?
Rome, conveniently situated in the middle of the country, offers a jumping off point to either. One thing I know for sure, if your time is limited, you may need to pick one over the other, and plan to visit a different destination on future trips. Rather than listing pros and cons, I’ve provided you with a list of things to consider when planning your itinerary, because chissà (who knows?) one person’s con might be another person’s pro.
Lake Como Area
Hands-down I can say one of the most peaceful stretches of time spent in Italy was the week we started our trip in Bellagio, on Lake Como. We flew into Milan, easy to do from the states and a scenic route over the Alps, before landing at an airport much calmer than Rome’s Fiumicino. Once settled in to our small and storybook hotel in Bellagio, where we were well cared for, we hibernated and took in only the sites accessible on foot or by ferry for the next week. It was a gentle entry into Italy, and, with plenty of English spoken, a good way to warm up my Italian brain.
Lake Como Area: 10 Things to Consider
- Flight into Italy via Milan
- Storybook scenery (think Switzerland, a very close neighbor) with Italian flair
- Not the best jumping off point to other places, although a day trip to Milan is do-able.
- Plenty of English spoken here
- Visit all the charming lake towns, accessible by ferry (Como, Bellagio, Tremezzo, Menaggio, Varenna)
- Train station (although unmanned) in Varenna, 1.5 hours to Florence
- Water activities: swimming, boating, windsurfing, fishing (and more)
- Golf course in Menaggio
- A little more affordable than other dense tourist destinations
- Easy to start or finish the Florence/Rome/Venice circuit here to ricaricare la batteria — ‘recharge your battery’
Click here for more Lake Como love.
Amalfi Coast Area
If Lake Como is for relaxation plus some adventure, then the Amalfi Coast area is the opposite — plenty of adventure with the options of enjoying a beach day, should you chose.
Every time I venture south of Rome, my feelings are a mixed bag. With Rome metaphorically in the rear view mirror, I feel pinpricks of trepidation. Traveling south, there’s a sense of jumping into the unknown. Returning from what is always a fantastic and unique experience, I feel very accomplished.
Amalfi Coast Area: 10 Things to Consider
- Easy train access from Rome to Naples or Sorrento
- More intensely Italian experience
- Less English spoken here
- Visit the social media darlings of Amalfi, Positano, Capri, Sorrento (be ready for high season crowds, though)
- Plenty of ancient ruins to explore: Pompeii, Herculaneum, Paestum
- Important to have a bit more travel awareness
- Less accessible to the typical tourist attractions of Italy
- Opportunity to explore authentic coastal towns
- Sun, sunshine, beach clubs, boat cruises
- Birthplace of limoncello (Sorrento) and si mangia bene qui — (here (one eats well!)
So back to the original question: Lake Como or the Amalfi Coast…. which Italy would you pick?
This post first appeared on Prayers and Piazzas, ©Stacy D. Pollard 2019