Especially in the peak tourist months, the Amalfi Coast is bumper to bumper tour buses and its towns are chock full of tourists stepping on one another's toes. I wouldn't dream of driving the Amalfi Coast in summer--it was crazy enough in October when we were there! And I wouldn't want to rely on the sporadic local bus schedules--waiting for an hour just to get on, and then standing for an hour or more just to get to a destination. The cause? A blood-curdling drive going around hair-pin, cliff-hanging curves at the blazing traffic jam speeds of a mere 6 miles an hour.
As for beaches... well, there really aren't many true beaches to speak of on the Amalfi Coast. Some of the towns can be overwhelmingly crowded in summer. As example, Amalfi-town is a kitschy, touristy hell that you're forced to drive through, but I don't recommend stopping. Towns like Atrani, Minori or Maiori are much more laid back. But, If you still looking for cute colored houses, clinging to rugged cliffs over the sea, then I have a suggestion: Instead of going to Amalfi, go where the tour buses aren't dumping off thousands of tourists--Cinque Terre in the northern Italian region of Liguria!
The Terre's rugged coastline rivals the Amalfi Coast in beauty and its five villages along with the surrounding cliffs are part of the Cinque Terre National Park and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The advantage of visiting Cinque Terre is that cars (as well as tour buses) can't reach the villages. They are only accessible by local trains, by foot paths (old donkey paths) running between them or by boat-taxis and ferrys. While the Amalfi Coast is invaded by tour buses from cruise ships and has more tourists because of its proximity to Naples, Sorrento, Capri and Pompeii, the Cinque Terre villages stand on their own. If you are staying in Cinque Terre, there are very doable day trips to Genova, Portofino, Pisa, Lucca (our favorite) and even Florence if you have the extra time to take a train or rent a car.
Want to experience even more of the less-touristy areas of Cinque Terre? Then start at the top, overlooking the the Five Lands. There are many small villages, like Groppo and Valostra, which are all interconnected by hiking paths. To start, you can actually drive to Valostra, park your car in the free lot, and hike from village to village to your heart's content. The villages above Five Lands are definitely less touristy. The views of the sea from over 1000 feet elevation are something you'll remember your whole life. When you get a bit tired, you can always hop on a shuttle bus--they are all over this area.
Bottom line? Cinque Terre can be much less touristy than the Amalfi Coast if you don't visit in the high season, has less of that chic element and more of the backpacker feel, and is more suited to serious hikers, walkers and lovers looking for a more intimate getaway.