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Short Guide to Sorrento, Italy

Updated on March 1, 2013
JohnMello profile image

JohnMello is a writer, composer, musician and the author of books for children and adults.

The lemon border hints at one of Sorrento's most notable achievements, Limoncello
The lemon border hints at one of Sorrento's most notable achievements, Limoncello | Source

Sorrento is a small town in Campania, southern Italy. It is a popular tourist destination in its own right, and makes a great jumping off point for visiting some of the region's most famous and spectacular landmarks.

It's easy to while away your time in one of the many sidewalk cafes and restaurants in the main square (the Piazza Tasso), watching the steady flow of people and traffic, sipping a cooling glass of cafe fredo. No one would blame you for doing that, but it's only part of what this Mediterranean paradise has to offer.

Piazza Tasso

Sorrento's central square is named after the 16th century Italian poet Torquato Tasso, born in Sorrento. Tasso was one of the most widely read poets of his time, and continued to be influential until the beginning of the 19th century.

Sorrento-born 16th century poet Torquato Tasso
Sorrento-born 16th century poet Torquato Tasso | Source

Sightseeing in Sorrento

In truth, Sorrento itself is a small place indeed, with just over 16,500 inhabitants. It earns its popularity partly from its undeniable charm and character, and partly from its position on the Sorrentine Peninsula. But before venturing off to explore some of the world's most famous landmarks, there are plenty of things to see and do in Sorrento itself.

  • Marina Piccola - the "little harbour" lies at the foot of a sheer cliff on Sorrento's north side. On top of the cliff sits the magnificent Excelsior Vittoria Hotel with its arches and terraced balcony. Marina Piccola is where you go to catch the ferry to Capri or Naples. One area is sectioned off and enclosed for the safety of swimmers and sunbathers.
  • Marina Grande - the "big harbour" is found to the West of the city. This was once Sorrento's main port. The journey there takes you through the ancient Greek gateway to the harbour, where you'll find a picturesque hiding place full of rustic charm. Be sure to try some fresh seafood at the open-air trattoria, too.
  • Piazza Tasso - Sorrento's main square is a hive of activity, surrounded by restaurants and cafes that do their best to distract you from the noise and traffic. Away from the square itself are streets and alleyways filled with shops selling souvenirs and everyday items. During peak season it's best to stop by at night when finding a seat in the shade isn't such an issue.
  • The Foreigners' Club - there are plenty of quality places to eat in Sorrento, and everyone will have a favourite. If you get a chance, visit the Foreigners' Club on Via Luigi De Maio. As well as great food and first-class service, the restaurant also offers some of the best views of Vesuvius in the area. The building also houses the Sorrento Tourist Office, so you can find out what's on locally at the same time.
  • The Gardens of Catado - (I Giardini Di Cataldo) this lemon grove can be found just off the main street in Sorrento. A short walk beneath lemon trees leads to a stall selling Sorrento's famous limoncello liqueur, as well as other lemon-inspired delights.

Sorrento Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Marina Piccola in SorrentoThe Marina Grande in SorrentoPiazza Tasso, the main square in SorrentoView from the Marina Grande toward Naples and Mount VesuviusWatching the sun sink into the Bay of Naples on the Foreigners' Club terraceView of the lemons hanging off the trees in the Gardens of Catado
The Marina Piccola in Sorrento
The Marina Piccola in Sorrento | Source
The Marina Grande in Sorrento
The Marina Grande in Sorrento | Source
Piazza Tasso, the main square in Sorrento
Piazza Tasso, the main square in Sorrento | Source
View from the Marina Grande toward Naples and Mount Vesuvius
View from the Marina Grande toward Naples and Mount Vesuvius | Source
Watching the sun sink into the Bay of Naples on the Foreigners' Club terrace
Watching the sun sink into the Bay of Naples on the Foreigners' Club terrace | Source
View of the lemons hanging off the trees in the Gardens of Catado
View of the lemons hanging off the trees in the Gardens of Catado | Source
A markerSorrento -
Sorrento Province of Naples, Italy
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Sorrento sits on the Bay of Naples, providing views of Naples itself, Mount Vesuvius, and the Isle of Capri.

The mischievous Harlequin, one of the stock characters from the Commedia dell'arte, in full-size porcelain
The mischievous Harlequin, one of the stock characters from the Commedia dell'arte, in full-size porcelain | Source

Sorrento as a Base

Even if you love Sorrento, you'll want to spend part of your holiday going further afield. It's easy to get transport to any of the many possible destinations, either by booking as part of a tour, using public transport, or hiring a private taxi. Public transport is cheapest, and though occasionally unreliable, it's an experience not to be missed.

Go by train and follow the locals, who'll swear you're in the right carriage on the right platform, only to get up and move en masse following an announcement in Italian. Likewise when you clamber aboard a bus at the bus station whose illuminated sign says one thing one minute and another the next. Just make sure you can pronounce the name of the place you're going to clearly and precisely, and people will help you as much as they can.

Where can you go? Depending on your length of stay, you can book excursions as far away as Rome. If you want to venture to places that are nearer to Sorrento, though, it doesn't take long to get to Capri, Naples, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, or the Amalfi Coast.

  • Capri - the island also has its own Marina Grande, where ferries from Sorrento and Naples dock. Most tours take you up to Anacapri, the highest point on the island, with spectacular views of the harbour and the bay below. In Anacapri you can take the chair lift to the top of the island. The centre of Capri is the Piazza, which is where you can catch the funicular railway back down to the harbour. Visitors also enjoy a trip to the famous Blue Grotto, while others spend time exploring the narrow alleyways that lead off the Piazza.
  • Pompeii - like its neighbour Herculaneum, Pompeii was buried in ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, killing 20,000 and preserving the city intact. Now it's an excavation site and open-air museum that shows us how the ancient Romans lived. The site is always busy, so going on a tour with an experienced guide is advisable.
  • Naples - this is the capital city of Campania, the third most populated city in Italy. Naples can be very busy and very expensive, with traffic congestion similar to that found in New York City. From Sorrento you can reach Naples by taxi, bus, train or ferry, depending on your preference and extravagance. A direct bus service leaves twice a day from Naples Central Station square and takes you to the visitor parking area of Mount Vesuvius.
  • Mount Vesuvius - famed for its eruption that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum, the volcano is considered dormant these days. Wherever you go in the Bay of Naples, Vesuvius dominates the skyline, especially on clear days. If you venture up to the top, and if the fog and clouds permit, you can enjoy panoramic views of Naples, Sorrento and Capri from the other perspective.
  • Amalfi - this historic town is just over an hour from Sorrento. Tours generally stop off at Ravello in the hills above Amalfi, where the views are breathtaking. Amalfi itself is one of the largest towns on the Amalfi coast, with squares connected by pedestrianised streets where restaurants and souvenir shops abound.

Capri Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A clickable map of the Isle of CapriCapri seen from the coast road just outside SorrentoView of Capri's harbour from the lookout point on AnacapriThe Faraglioni or sea stacks off the southeastern tip of the islandLooking up from the harbour toward Capri and the road up to Anacapri beyond
A clickable map of the Isle of Capri
A clickable map of the Isle of Capri | Source
Capri seen from the coast road just outside Sorrento
Capri seen from the coast road just outside Sorrento | Source
View of Capri's harbour from the lookout point on Anacapri
View of Capri's harbour from the lookout point on Anacapri | Source
The Faraglioni or sea stacks off the southeastern tip of the island
The Faraglioni or sea stacks off the southeastern tip of the island | Source
Looking up from the harbour toward Capri and the road up to Anacapri beyond
Looking up from the harbour toward Capri and the road up to Anacapri beyond | Source

Photos of Amalfi, Pompeii and Vesuvius

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The stunningly beautiful town of AmalfiThe Grand Theatre at PompeiiOne of the many frescoes uncovered on the walls at PompeiiMount Vesuvius seen from the ruins of Pompeii
The stunningly beautiful town of Amalfi
The stunningly beautiful town of Amalfi | Source
The Grand Theatre at Pompeii
The Grand Theatre at Pompeii | Source
One of the many frescoes uncovered on the walls at Pompeii
One of the many frescoes uncovered on the walls at Pompeii | Source
Mount Vesuvius seen from the ruins of Pompeii
Mount Vesuvius seen from the ruins of Pompeii | Source

Sorrento's Surrounding Areas

Other spots near Sorrento that warrant a visit include:

  • Sant'Agata - lies on a hill between the gulfs of Naples and Salerno. Worth a trip to visit the Desert Monastery which, when it's open, enables panoramic views of the whole area.
  • Castellammare di Stabia - take the Funivia (cable car) to the top of Monte Faito. The trip takes about 15 minutes and rewards you with stunning views of Naples and Vesuvius.
  • Marina del Cantone - a gorgeous pebble beach on the Amalfi coast, perfect if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle. Takes about 40 minutes by local Sita bus.

Sant'Agata, Castellamarre di Stabia, Marina del Cantone

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Sant'AgataCatching the cable car (Funivia del Faito) at Castellammare di Stabia to the top of Monte FaitoView of the Bay of Naples from Monte FaitoThe pebble beach at Marina del Cantone
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Sant'Agata
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Sant'Agata | Source
Catching the cable car (Funivia del Faito) at Castellammare di Stabia to the top of Monte Faito
Catching the cable car (Funivia del Faito) at Castellammare di Stabia to the top of Monte Faito | Source
View of the Bay of Naples from Monte Faito
View of the Bay of Naples from Monte Faito | Source
The pebble beach at Marina del Cantone
The pebble beach at Marina del Cantone | Source

Sorrento Facts and Figures

The nearest airport is Naples, about 53km away. Transfer by taxi takes about an hour depending on traffic. Buses also run from the airport. The city of Naples is 7km from the airport, where you can catch a train on the Circumvesuviana line.

Italian currency is the Euro. There are plenty of cash machines scattered throughout the city, and most of these take major credit and debit cards. The main shopping street is the Via San Cesareo.

If you ever get tired of the scenery and architecture, the villas perched precariously on steep cliffs with views to die for, you can always visit the Museo Correale di Terranova to find out more about the history of Sorrento. Or, when it's open, stop in at the Museo-Bottega della Tarsia Lignea to see examples of traditional inlaid wood.

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    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 4 years ago from Colorado United States

      WOW WOW ... so amazing place, it's a super exotic location !! I would like to visit the place someday !! Nicely written John!! But am surprised that I am the first commenter on this hub ?? Am gonna share this, it certainly deserves attention !!! Great work !

    • JohnMello profile image
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      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks mr-veg! Please do share it. I absolutely love Sorrento and would move there tomorrow if I could afford to :)

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      P.S. mr-veg -- just been informed that this Hub has been chosen as Hub of the Day... so hopefully that will get me some more traffic :)

    • KoraleeP profile image

      Koralee Phillips 4 years ago from Vernon British Columbia Canada

      Sorrento sounds like an amazing place to visit. I love Europe and would also love to live over here. Currently, I am visiting Germany. We don't have plans to go to Italy, but hopefully next time.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks KoraleeP! Definitely worth it if you get the chance.

    • anuramkumar profile image

      anuramkumar 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      It looks very interesting and amazing from the way you have written it. Hope to see it. I haven't been to any of the European countries; planning to visit them in the near future. Voted up.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Many thanks anuramkumar!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this look at visiting Sorrento. The fresh seafood at the Marina Grande's open air trattoria would likely be our first and last stop, but you make fitting everything else in between the two meals seem like a must-do. Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for a neat post.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks RTalloni! Even that would be worth the trip...

    • Valene profile image

      Valene 4 years ago from Missouri

      There's a little Italian restaurant in a small town near me in Kansas City called Sorrento's...I didn't know it was a place in Italy! I thought it was just someone's last name. This looks like a fantastic place to visit, congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 4 years ago from Northern California

      One day soon I want to make plans to see Italy. Your hub is helpful in planning that dream trip. There is nothing like Italian Arts.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks Valene! It's a real place... and a gorgeous one too.

      Thanks starstream. Hope you make it someday!

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 4 years ago from Atlanta

      Congrats on being hub of the day! I can see for your article you have really did your research on Sorrento. I read someone else's comment about Sorrento being a restaurant it started me to thinking I did not know it was a real place either. I could declare I have seen a Sorrento's restaurant here in Chicago.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks adrienne2! Maybe it's a chain??? Glad you liked the Hub anyway!

    • Night Magic profile image

      Night Magic 4 years ago from Canada

      Awesome hub & well deserved HotD. Hopefully I will get there within the next couple of years. I'm book marking this for when I make my plans. Thanks for the detailed info.

    • profile image

      Joanne M Olivieri 4 years ago

      Oh, I would certainly love to visit there someday. Your photos and descriptions call out to me. Also, Sorrento being home to the music box is also a big draw for me. I love this hub. Voted Up and shared.

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Glimmer Twin Fan 4 years ago

      What a beautiful hub about a beautiful place. Congrats on your hub of the day.

    • leahlefler profile image

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Amalfi is SO gorgeous - it is on my bucket list. My parents took a European cruise and visited the town. I love Italy - we have only been to the ski resort there (Sauze D'Oulx - we flew into Torino). I want to go back someday soon!

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Gorgeous place - I went there for my honeymoon in August. This just makes me want to go back!

    • Frangipanni profile image

      Frangipanni 4 years ago

      Oh I just love this hub. I went there over 20 years ago but had forgotten it's beauty and the pleasurable experience I had there. You reminded me and now I want to go back. Voted up and am now following.

    • mr-veg profile image

      mr-veg 4 years ago from Colorado United States

      Hey John, am so happy to see the hub chosen a hub of the day !! Great Job and well deserved !!

    • NicoleMessenger profile image

      NicoleAnn 4 years ago from Illinois

      wow, excellent visual & reading...thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      lovedoctor926 4 years ago

      Useful guide. A very good presentation with awesome visuals. I will definitely bookmark this for future reference

    • profile image

      VivaLaVina 4 years ago

      Beautiful! I'd love to visit there someday, when I can afford myself. Thanks for sharing such wonderful guide, and I already feel like my soul is travelling there now.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thank you all for your awesome comments! Grazie mille!

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      What a truly beautiful place you have found. I'm sure those who visit must feel a serenity and peace to be surrounded by such color and beauty.Sorrento.......I am coming. Thanks for writing and share with us. I also enjoy the pictures....beautiful. Voted up!

      Prasetio

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks prasetio30! Appreciate your kind remarks :)

    • newusedcarssacram profile image

      newusedcarssacram 4 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Italy always fascinates me, thanks for the share.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      You're welcome newusedcarssacram... thanks for visiting my Hub!

    • Riviera Rose profile image

      Riviera Rose 4 years ago from South of France

      A really beautiful part of the world, I'd love to go back again some time. And like you I've had fun on Italian public transport, you've got to expect the unexpected...!

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks Riviera Rose!

    • profile image

      Frank Diaz 2 years ago

      Great place i stayed at the hotel Antique Mura in June this year with my wife and Son and Daughter in law , sorrento is well positioned to move around, we took the circumvesuviana (hope i spelt correct to pompeii)

      only 5 minutes walk to the station

      and we used Rino this small italian chap that works for a car company in the area italylimousine we found them on google

      www.italylimousine.com for positano and area and return back to rome

      you need to combine all the serrvices in the area to make your stay great

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