The resort town of Sorrento is one of the crown jewels of Italy's Amalfi Coast. Drive along dramatic cliffs, enjoy some of the freshest seafood in the world, and experience la dolce vita southern Italian style.
Sorrento, which was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC, is perched atop a scenic cliff on the Bay of Naples. The town was an important trading center in medieval times, and Sorrento's historic harbor still retains much of its maritime flavor. Today, Sorrento's main industry is tourism, with travelers from around the globe coming to enjoy the beautiful weather, relax in the laid-back atmosphere, and taste the region's distinctive liqueur, limoncello.
Sorrento also makes a great base for exploring the many attractions of the Amalfi coast, including the scenic town of Positano, the ancient Greek ruins of Paestum, and the island of Capri, which was a famed hideaway for Roman emperors.
The Italian tradition of la passeggiata, which is a leisurely evening stroll, is especially appealing in Sorrento, where you can walk through fragrant lemon groves, encounter altars to the Virgin Mary in ancient alleyways, or simply enjoy a refreshing gelato on Sorrento's main promenade.
Lemons are everywhere in Sorrento - locals tend their lemon groves more carefully than they do their children, according to a popular saying - and you can't leave the town without a taste of limoncello, a distinctive liqueur made from lemon rinds, alcohol, and sugar. You can get a sample and a bottle to take home at I Giardini di Cataldo, a lemon grove that is open to the public.
The winding highway that hugs the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento to Positano is one of the most scenic drives in the world. You can grab a ride on one of the many tour buses that regularly drive the route or, for a more personal experience, hire a taxi for the trip of a lifetime.
Sorrento's ancient harbor, the Marina Grande, was said to be the haunt of pirates in seafaring times, and the neighborhood still has a a funky vibe all its own with fishermen tending their nets, children playing in the surf, and some of the Amalfi Coast's best seafood restaurants.
Sorrento is an ideal base for exploring the Naples region. From there, you can travel to the village of Amalfi to purchase some handmade Majolica tiles, visit the volcanic ruins of Pompeii, or experience the famous Blue Grotto on Capri.
While the Amalfi Coast is not such a secret treasure anymore, the Marina of Sorrento has retained its local charm and peaceful qualities. Here, staggering cliffs drop right into the sea, dotted with charming houses. Admire the variety of boats, small and large, and enjoy the comings and goings of fellow vacationers along the pier. The smaller Marina Piccola across town maintains just as much charm, and no matter where you go the cafés will blow your mind.
On the way from Marina Grande to Marina Piccola, these public gardens overlook the Bay of Naples in sweeping views. Wander from one perfect bed of flowers to the next, all under the refreshing shade of a diversity of trees. Turn your gaze inland and the infamous Mount Vesuvius stands stoically overlooking the small city. These grounds surround the St. Francis Cloister, well worth a visit, and another lovely café awaits just outside.
A true local museum, the Correale is set within a balmy citrus grove that overlooks the majestic and unspoiled Bay of Naples. The gorgeous building was originally a villa home to a prestigious family, complete with a Belvedere terrace and lavish interiors. Beneath chandeliers and among gold-plated decor, the art collection highlights the Neapolitan masters among treasures from all over the country.
The legendary city of Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of the Vesuvius in the 1st Century, and its eery yet moving remains are a window far into the past. The foundation of this ancient civilization was preserved by volcanic material. The paved streets lead to residences, temples, amphitheaters and even a brothel - identifiable not only thanks to architectural evidence, but also to the casts of perished bodies found within, on display throughout the ruins.
Thanks to the warm Mediterranean breezes, Sorrento has wonderful weather throughout the year. However, visiting the town during the height of the summer tourist season is not recommended because of higher hotel rates and the crowds of day trippers that pack the town center. Instead, visit during the spring or fall. The weather is still warm, and you won't be jostling for elbow room during la passeggiata.
Most international visitors to Sorrento will arrive via Naples International Airport (NAP), which is 33 miles north of Sorrento. If you are heading directly to Sorrento from the airport, take a shuttle bus operated by Curreri Viaggi Coach Service. The tickets cost EUR10 and you'll be treated to beautiful views of Mount Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast on your drive.
The Circumvesuviana train runs between downtown Naples and Sorrento every 30 minutes. Tickets cost EUR3.30, and they are sold at train stations, newsstands, and tobacco shops.
Sorrento is easily accessible by car via the Naples-Salerno autostrada. Get off the highway at the Castellammare exit and then follow the signs to Sorrento. There are taxis that will take you to Sorrento, but be advised that they can be very expensive, costing up to EUR40 for a 10-mile trip.
There is a local bus system that runs between the towns on the Amalfi Coast. Tickets are sold in time increments beginning at EUR2.20 for 45 minutes.
Budget travelers will want to check in at the picturesque Hotel Desiree on Via del Capo. There's great seaside views, clean rooms, a continental breakfast, and a friendly staff. A good choice for families is the Casa Elena on Via Nastro Verde. This guest house offers three comfortable apartments in a quiet neighborhood that is close to the city center. The luxurious Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria on Piazza Tasso offers guests movie-star treatment and magnificent oceanfront views.
Piazza Tasso - Sorrento's town square embodies southern Italy's unhurried charms with quaint shops, fruit stands selling locally grown lemons, and authentic Italian eateries. Enjoy an evening stroll with the locals or simply sit and watch the time pass in the Mediterranean sunshine.
Marina Grande - Sorrento's ancient harbor still has loads of seafaring charm. Meander among the brightly painted fishing boats, chat with the friendly locals, and enjoy freshly caught seafood in one of the neighborhood's eateries.
The red and orange EAV buses run five routes in Sorrento. The tickets cost EUR1.20 and must be purchased in advance at the bus station or tobacco shops.
Taxis are widely available in Sorrento with the going rate of EUR10 for a trip from Piazza Tasso to Marina Grande. Most taxis also include a EUR4 surcharge for each piece of luggage.
If you are brave enough to navigate Sorrento's narrow, winding streets then a rental car is an affordable option. Sorrento has offices from international companies like Avis, Budget, and Hertz. The prices range from EUR6.68 for an economy car to EUR44.86 for a luxury SUV. There is quite a bit of parking in Sorrento compared to other towns, but it isn't free. The cost is EUR2 per hour or EUR24 per day.
The Piazza Tasso is Sorrento's main shopping street. There you will be able to purchase souvenirs like bottles of limoncello, handmade leather, and Virgin Mary tchotchkes. The Corso Italia offers a variety of high-end fashion boutiques and shoe stores. Sorrento is a tourist town, so the prices, especially for limoncello, are a bit higher than what you would find in the rest of Italy.
There are two American-style supermarkets in the Piazza Tasso neighborhood, Supermercato Pollio on the Via degli Aranci and Standa on Corso Italia. You'll pay around EUR5 for milk, EUR2 for a loaf of bread, and EUR3 for eggs.
You won't go hungry in Sorrento, where the average price of a meal is around EUR20. For traditional southern Italian cuisine and world-class hospitality, head to La Favorita-O' Parrucchiano on Corso Italia or, if you're looking for a good seafood place, you can eat at Trattoria da Emilia on Via Marina Grande, where the fried seafood is a favorite of actress Sophia Loren. The best way to spend la passeggiata is with a scoop of gelato from Gelateria Davide on Via Giuliani. They serve dozens of homemade flavors, including profumi di Sorrento, which is made from locally grown citrus.