While visiting Italy back in 2012 we were lucky enough to spend 7 nights on the Amalfi Coast, where we based ourselves in beautiful Sorrento. We rented an apartment in town only a short stroll to local cafes, restaurants and to the water. It was divine! We chose Sorrento as it makes a good base for exploring the region’s highlights: to the south is the best of the peninsula’s unspoilt countryside, to the east is the Amalfi Coast, to the north lie Pompeii and other archaeological sites, and offshore is the fabled island of Capri.
A popular tourist destination, it can be reached easily from Naples and Pompeii as it is at the south-eastern end of the Circumvesuviana rail line, although we had hired a car in the North of Italy and driven it down to the Amalfi Coast where we left it on our arrival. Getting around the area is easy with buses, trains and ferries taking you to popular destinations, including a day-trip we took to Positano.
The Sorrentine Peninsula has views of Naples, Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri. The Amalfi Drive, connecting Sorrento and Amalfi, is a narrow road that threads along the high cliffs above the Tyrrhenian Sea. The name of the town derives from a Greek word meaning “Flowing” due to the form of the town which appears to flow over the limestone tuff on which the town stands, defining the edge of the cliffs.
Sorrento’s charm lies in part in its sun drenched rustic simplicity. Quaint artisan workshops packed together onto a maze of medieval alleys, with the inevitable mix of locals and tourists bustling through the centre.
The long shadows cast across uneven cobbled streets from overhanging balconies and terraces which almost meet overhead. Just enough space remains for washing to be strung out to dry Italian style from above, spanning the street in the Italian afternoon sun.
Much of the charm of a visit to Sorrento is in simply wandering through the streets. The central area (on top of the cliffs) is very tourist-friendly, with pedestrian-only areas lined with shops and restaurants. There are a few small museums in Sorrento, and some lovely churches, but the main attraction here is a combination of the nice weather, the beautiful views over the water, and the pretty town itself.
Winding along a cliff above a small beach and two harbours, the town is split in two by a narrow ravine formed by a former mountain stream. To the east, dozens of hotels line busy Via Correale along the cliff—many have “grand” included in their names, and some indeed still are. To the west, however, is the historic sector, which still enchants. It’s a relatively flat area, with winding, stone-paved lanes bordered by balconied buildings, some joined by medieval stone arches.
The central piazza is named after the poet Torquato Tasso, born here in 1544. This part of town is a delightful place to walk through, especially in the mild evenings, when people are out and about, and everything is open. Craftspeople are often at work in their stalls and shops and are happy to let you watch; in fact, that’s the point. Music spots and bars cluster in the side streets near Piazza Tasso.
Sorrento is one of the towns that’s famous for producing limoncello, that sweet and syrupy lemon liqueur, and you’ll find it all over town, both on menus and in stores. There’s more than just the standard limoncello, however, so try out all the different flavors to see which you prefer. Limoncello is a digestif which is made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar. Other agricultural production includes citrus fruit, wine, nuts and olives.
In the evening, people fill cafés to nibble, sip, and talk nonstop; then, they stroll and browse through the maze of shop-lined lanes. It has been this way for centuries, ever since Sorrento became a prescribed stop for Grand Tour travelers, who savored its mild winters while sopping up its culture and history.
Having a chance to relax, and indulge in some Italian produce and culture was exactly what we wanted out of our stay in Sorrento. We cooked meals in our apartment and dined alfresco on our balcony with a bottle of italian wine. It was everything we imagined it would be! If you have a chance to spend more than a few nights here, I recommend not staying in a hotel. Have a place where you can cook, allow yourselves to buy fresh produce from the local stores and get a taste for the Italian way of life – trust me, you’ll love it!
Have you ever visited the Amalfi Coast, what was your highlight?