Sorrento has long held a special place in the heart of Italians. Its rugged beauty has attracted poets, philosophers, playwrights, and authors for centuries. Roman mythology places Sorrento as the spot where sailors were lured to their death by the songs of the sirens, mermaids who used their beautiful voices to lead men to their watery graves. It's said that the mythical hero Ulysses stuffed his crew's ears with wax to deafen them and strapped himself to the ships hull in order to resist their allure.
Today, the city is still every bit as alluring. Sorrento is on the beautiful Amalfi Coast, a strip of land in Western Italy that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. The small island of Capri is just three miles off shore, and one of Italy's most beautiful (but dangerous) roads winds along from Sorrento, through Amalfi and into Salerno. Sorrento is equidistant from Naples and Salerno, exactly forty-three miles away from each. Vic Damone's tear-jerking hit, Come Back to Sorrento, may become your theme song once you visit this little slice of paradise.
Docking & Local Transportation
Cruise ships dock at the Port of Sorrento, in Sorrento. There is easy access to the rest of town, as well as access to ships leaving for Capri.
There are trains that leave twice an hour and travel between Sorrento, Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Naples. Ferries and hydrofoils run between Sorrento, Amalfi, Capri, and Naples. Buses travel to Amalfi on an hourly basis.
The tourist office (Via Luigi de Maio 35, 081/807-4033) is right near port, so it's a great place to start planning your itinerary during your stay in Sorrento. Sorrento is not known as a place steeped in culture and history, especially compared to other places in Italy. As a result, there aren't too many museums and churches of note. However, there are a couple of spots that will hold your interest.
Piazza Tasso is the central meeting place in Sorrento. This is the best spot for people watching, and there are lots of shopping and dining options in the immediate vicinity. Just north of Piazza Tasso is the Museo Correale di Terranova (Via Correale, 081/878-1846). The former palace now displays antiques, sculptures, and artwork. The well kept gardens make for a lovely stroll, especially in the summer months. A craft that has turned into a tradition in Sorrento is intarsia, or wood inlaying. A museum has been erected, the Museo della Tarsialignea (Via San Nicola 1, 081/877-1942), to ensure the presentation of this dwindling art.
The Chisea di San Francesco (Via San Francesco, 081/878-1269) still stands from the 1300s. The garden is particularly beautiful here, and during the summertime there are live jazz and classical music performances nightly. Try to make your way to the Sorrento Peninsula to catch a fabulous sunset.
A trip along the Amalfi Coast or a short ferry ride to Capri are other options for the traveler with time to kill in Sorrento. In Capri, be sure to visit the Grotta Azzurra, or Blue Grotto. The refraction of the sun's rays through the water bathes the grotto in brilliant blue light.
Sorrento is fairly famous as a resort town, so it's odd to discover that the beaches here are not all that spectacular. The best beach is found by traveling up Via del Capo until you reach Punta del Capo. Nice sand and a calm sea await you.
Piazza Tasso is full of small shops selling handmade crafts. One store that stands out above the rest is Gargiulo & Jannuzzi (Viale E. Caruso, 081/878-1041), a homemade furniture store. Since 1863, this store has been demonstrating their technique of combining wood pieces in interesting and innovative ways. Finished products can be shipped anywhere in the world. Ciro Bimonte (Via Giuliani 61, 081/807-1880) has good prices on jewelry. And for general souvenir shopping, you will find anything you need at Cuomo's Lucky Store (Piazza Antiche Mura 2-7, 081/878-5649).
Dining & Nightlife
Some of the better restaurants in Sorrento are found in the nicer area hotels. The Hotel Imperial Tramontano (Via Vittorio Veneto 1, 081/878-2588) serves fresh Mediterranean style cuisine. The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria (Piazza Tasso 34, 081/807-1044) focuses on food unique to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, using herbs and spices found only here. Antico Frantoio (Via Casarlano, 081/807-2959) offers a diverse menu of Italian favorites. La Favorita-O'Parrucchiano (Corso Italia 71, 081/878-1321) is excellent, especially if you like veal. Trattoria da Emilia (Via Marina Grande 62, 081/807-2720) hosted Sophia Loren when she came to Sorrento to work on a film. If it's good enough for Sophia, it's good enough for you! Of course, pizza is another main staple in Sorrento, and any restaurant in town is fully equipped to make you one upon request.
Sorrento's nightlife is surprisingly vibrant for a sleepy resort town. There are plenty of bars and nightclubs that will be happy to show you a good time. The Charley Chaplin Pub (Corso Italia 18, 081/807-2551) usually does good business, as does The English Inn (Corsa Italia 56, 081/807-4357). A quieter crowd gathers at Taverna dell'800 (Via dell'Accademia 29, 081/878-5970) for live piano and guitar performances in a low-key setting.