“Sorrento and its surroundings make the ideal base for a sunny Italian getaway.” - Reviewed by Lisa
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Sorrento is a welcoming city that has a summer holiday air all year round. It offers heavenly views across the forever-changing blue Mediterranean as far as the famed Li Galli and the Isles of Capri. The natural light here is splendid as is most of the architecture, especially the elegant, majestic buildings lining the cliff tops. Once the summer homes of southern Italy’s nobility, they now double as boutique hotels, rental homes and – in some cases – are still the cherished family getaway.
Sitting on a golden bluff above the ocean, this charming and welcoming city was originally settled by the ancient Greeks. In fact, this area is often identified as the land of the sirens – the beautiful maidens of the sea whose song lured mariners to their doom. Later, the city became the Roman town of Sorrentum. A few relics from these times can be seen in the town museum.
Tagged back in the 70’s and 80’s as a great charter flight getaway, the city still appeals to the tourist but at a different level of tourism. The wide main street, Corso Italia, and the lovely Piazza Tasso, a café-lined square, imbue the city with an elegance enhanced by sophisticated shops, cafés and boutiques. But it’s the narrow 14th-century lanes and alleyways that are the most fascinating – offering the casual tourist many happy hours of wandering and shopping.
Shopping in Sorrento is definitely about locally-made or produced items. Family stores, boutiques and speciality shops sell local delicacies like locally-made limoncello, chocolate-covered Sorrento lemons and oranges as well as fresh almonds and pistachios. Leather goods, too, are prevalent – many shops still have sewing machines buzzing away as Grandma runs up a quick leather bag or a new pair of handmade sandals.
Shopping is one aspect of life in the area, but the lanes also offer history and plenty of it! The narrow alleyways filled with churches and antiquity-filled, sleepy plazas and meeting spots conjure up a different, simpler way of life.
Visitors can walk and wander for miles in Sorrento and at some point will be drawn to Marina Grande, the old fishing quarter, with its nostalgic air, sleepy charms and pretty, pastel-coloured houses. Here’s where you can expect to find fishermen mending their nets on the quayside and locals and tourists alike tucking into fritto misto at the waterside restaurants.
Really, the Sorrento of today doesn’t look all that different to when Sophia Loren and Vittorio de Sica filmed Scandal in Sorrento here back in the 1950’s.
The peninsular of Sorrento is totally untouched by developers. It still retains its rugged, rustic simplicity, yesteryear charms and wild countryside dotted with small villages and hamlets just ready for discovery.
It’s said that this is where Italians come for their holidays. Far from the bumper-to-bumper traffic of the Amalfi Coast, this is a region that holds on strongly to its roots. Here, olive oils, pastas and jams are all bursting with flavour – robust and true to their origins. A land still with few visitors, reasonable prices and jaw-dropping views.
The area surrounding the city of Sorrento offers one eye-popping natural vista after another. As the topography winds its way upwards and south towards Amalfi, the views at every twist and turn are pure magic.
Sitting high above the city – but only short drive away from all the action – are villas and hotels offering sweeping views, magnificent shade trees and marvelous pools and gardens.
Sorrento and its environs make a great base for exploring Campania. Not only is it close to the international airport, it is also only a short drive from the famed ruins and UNESCO Heritage Site of Pompeii and just a leisurely drive south to Positano and the Amalfi Coast attractions.
- Sorrento, central Italy
- 2-1/2 to 3 hrs to Naples International Airport
- About 20 minutes by train to Pompeii
- About 75 minutes by train to Naples
- Sightseeing – The preserved ancient Roman city of Pompeii is only a short train ride away. This UNESCO Heritage Site provides a fascinating glimpse at what life was like in Roman days. Walkers might tackle the old footpath from Sorrento Positano, a panoramic 3 to 4-hour trek over the mountains.
- Gastronomy – With 4 Michelin 2-star restaurants in the Sorrento area alone and many local pizza shops and trattorias, this destination offers a myriad of choices to suit all budgets. Dinner is usually eaten late, with popular spots taking reservations until 10 and 11 p.m.
- Wine– One of the distinct pleasures of traveling in a wine-producing country (if, of course, you enjoy wine – as I do with great gusto!) is the incredible diversity of local wines. The quality is usually surprisingly good and most often with small production incredibly reasonable.
- Visit Capri – Capri’s breathtaking landscapes and rocky caves as well as its glamorous hotels, chic boutiques and upscale dining, all contribute to making the island it into a destination you won’t want to miss. Take a day trip and revel in this lovely Italian jewel.
- Shopping – Chic boutiques and Italian linen clothing shops vie for clients alongside ceramics shops and local food products like olive oil, limoncello and citrus items.
- Beaches – The Sorrento peninsula offers a number of pebbly coves and a few sandy crescents in addition to man-made docks/jetties and cliff fronts that have been etched out to create sunbathing platforms with ladders leading to the clear waters.