Top 10 Things to Do in Sorrento, Italy
Just across the Bay from Naples lies the Sorrentine Peninsula, perhaps the most stunning stretch of coastline anywhere in the world. With its beautiful location on the north coast of the peninsula, the small community of Sorrento is perfectly situated looking out over the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the Isle of Capri. It is hard to imagine a more perfect setting than this.
Famous for its lemons and limoncello, Sorrento has much to offer its visitors and makes for a great base from which to explore the region. While there is certainly much more to do and see than I have listed here, this makes for a great start to experiencing this wonderful region of Italy.
Cathedral of Sorrento (Duomo)
With its beautiful clock tower, the Cathedral of Sorrento is easily recognizable and is centrally located on the Corso Italia, the main thoroughfare in the heart of Sorrento. The interior of the Duomo, as it is known, is in sharp contrast to the simple exterior of the church and treats visitors to some wonderful frescoes and a dramatic altar with a crucifixion above it. We were lucky enough to attend a mass in this beautiful cathedral and it is certainly worth a visit.
The old section of Sorrento is a wonderful place to get lost in its narrow streets and alleyways. Here you’ll discover colorful shops and quaint trattorias and the true essence of Sorrento.
Spend a few hours wandering this section of town and you’ll know why Sorrento is such a popular destination. The old town centre is home to numerous historical buildings including the Basilica of Sant’Antonino and the complex of San Francesco, which includes the church, cloister, and a convent.
Looking for a spot to just chill and relax for a bit? Grab a table at one of the café’s here on the Piazza Tasso and watch the coming and goings of Sorrento.
Piazza Tasso is undoubtedly the hub of activity in Sorrento and a great location to find a seat and get off your feet for a spell. The piazza is surrounded by shops, cafes, fruit stands and horse drawn carriages waiting to take visitors on a leisurely tour of Sorrento. It all makes for a non-stop symphony of colorful activity.
You may have the universe if I may have Italy— Giuseppe Verdi
Day Trip to Pompeii or Herculeneum
Hop on the circumvesuvian train and in a quick thirty minutes or so you’ll be on the doorstep to Pompeii or Herculaneum. Spending some time at either of these archaeological sites is a must for any trip to the Sorrento area.
The famous ancient city of Pompeii is constantly unearthing new finds and it is fascinating to walk among the ruins of what was once a thriving community. Great views of Mount Vesuvius make one realize just how close to the mountain this community was and why there was no escaping its fury.
- Capri: ferry and hydrofoil times
Times of ferries and hydrofoils to the Island of Capri from Molo Beverello, Calata di Massa, Sorrento and all the ports in the Bay of Naples
Day Trip to Capri
One of the highlights of our trip to the Sorrentine Peninsula was a day trip out to the Isle of Capri. Catch the ferry from Marina Grande and in no time you’ll be cruising into the port of Capri.
For something a little different book a private boat tour of the island. We did this right upon arriving in Capri and got to see all the grotto's that most visitors will miss out on. I know everyone wants to see the famous Blue Grotto but it’s expensive and very time consuming. Instead we opted for a private boat tour of the island and got to go into all of the other grotto's and even swim into some of them. This was definitely a highlight and an unforgettable experience.
If you plan your day out in advance you can take a boat tour in the morning and then spend the afternoon strolling through the communities of Anacapri and Capri. Or take the chair lift to the top of Monte Solaro for a stunning 360 degree view of the island.
Head to the Amalfi Coast
If there is one thing that you must do when visiting Sorrento it’s head to the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento makes for a great base from which to do this and the SITA buses run throughout the day from Sorrento to Amalfi.
For a different approach hop on the ferry and get a unique look at Positano as you approach from the sea. The communities of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello are all beautiful and worthy of a visit. If time permits visiting only one then by all means make it Positano. This stunning seaside community is built right into the side of the mountain and offers a dramatic landscape.
The main attraction, however, is the famous Amalfi Drive which offers up some of the most amazing coastal scenery in the world. If you’re feeling adventurous then rent a car for a day and take a drive on this twisting, cliff hugging drive.
Church of San Francesco
Find the Church and Cloister of San Francesco and admire its arches and architecture, which date back to the fourteenth century. A Convent and the Cloister are nearby and both were also dedicated to Saint Francis. Occasionally there are classical concerts held at the cloister in the evening during August and September if you happen to be lucky enough to be visiting when one is scheduled.
Shopping in Sorrento can be a fun and enjoyable way to spend an afternoon. Visitors will find a wide variety of small shops offering everything from leather goods and ceramics to jewelry, locally grown fruits and vegetables, and anything lemon.
Good shopping opportunities can be found all along the Corso Italia which is the main roadway through town. To find the quaint mom and pop shops head off of the Corso Italia to the backstreets of Sorrento. Whether you are looking for something particular or just browsing it’s a great way to discover the heart of Sorrento and get a flavor for this small community.
Marina Grande - Marina Piccola
Take a walk down to the Marina Grande and Marina Piccola for a different perspective on Sorrento. The easy walk down the cliff will be not so easy on the return trip but it’s worth the effort. Marina Piccola is the main port of Sorrento and where the ferries to and from Capri, Naples and Amalfi dock. Marina Grande is the old, former port of Sorrento that is now a quaint fishing village with excellent seafood restaurants and rustic homes and shops.
If you are planning a ferry trip to Capri or the Amalfi Coast while visiting Sorrento you may want to get your tickets early and familiarize yourself with the marina so you know where you are going when the time comes. While down here grab a bite to eat at one of the local eateries or watch the fisherman bringing in their catch of the day.
Hop-on Hop-off Bus
Hop-on hop-off bus tours are becoming quite popular across Italy and for good reason. They offer a great opportunity to see the city at your own pace. As advertized, you can hop off at anytime and hop back on when you are good and ready.
In Sorrento the buses traverse a route that takes about an hour and forty-five minutes and they leave each of the seven stops every hour or so. The buses are open-top double-decker buses and usually have a running commentary of the sites as you travel around the city. Tickets cost about $15, which makes for an economical way to see Sorrento and learn about its culture and history.
Hopefully you enjoyed this brief glimpse of Sorrento. Visitors can easily spend a full week just in this area in order to see all of the major sites that it has to offer. If your time is limited then pick and choose what interests you the most but a trip down the Amalfi Coast should not be missed. The scenery here is certainly one of the main attractions and something that you will not soon forget.
Ciao for now.
Other articles on Italy
- Visiting Pompeii, Italy's Lost City
Buried by Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, Pompeii stands today much as it did in the first century. This archaeological time capsule gives us a glimpse of early Roman life as it was almost two thousand years ago.
- Top 10 Things to do in Taormina, Sicily
Planning a trip to Taormina? Discover all there is to see and do in this comprehensive guide to the jewel of Sicily. Taormina has something for everyone and is considered one of the most beautiful locations in all of Italy.
- Touring the Beautiful Isle of Capri, Italy
For an absolutely unique and great way to see the Isle of Capri why not consider a private boat tour around the Island. This turned out to be the highlight of our 2010 trip to Italy. Visit grottoes, beaches & caves only accessible by boat.
- The Beautiful Amalfi Coast - La Splendida Costiera Amalfitana
Your guide to visiting the beautiful Amalfi coast. Travel along this twisting, mountain hugging road all the way from Sorrento to Positano, Amalfi, and on to the city of music, Ravello.
Questions & Answers
I am heading to Sorrento in a few weeks, and I liked your suggestion of a boat trip to explore Capri. Can you suggest a vendor?
Yes, we used Capri Whales di Wendy and enjoyed every minute of our tour around the island. We explored grottos that most visitors don’t even know exist. Wendy, the owner, is very accommodating and was easy to work with. Look them up online.
I'm planning to travel to the Amalfi coast at the end of April. I have some questions: 1. How is the weather? 2. Where is the best place to sleep if I go to all the places mentioned besides Pompeii? 3. Should I rent a car for the whole week? 4. Do you have good hotels to recommend?
By the end of April, the weather is starting to warm up. The average daily high temperature is about 70 degrees. Of course, it’s always up to the weather gods so check before you leave. We have used Sorrento as a base when visiting the Amalfi Coast. It’s a very convenient location with buses that run up and down the coast. Also, Sorrento is an excellent location for catching the ferry to Capri if that interests you. We like the Il Nido Hotel located in the hills above Sorrento. There are great views of the bay, and they have a shuttle to and from the center of Sorrento. As far as the car, it depends on your desire to drive the Amalfi Coast. We drove to Sorrento and parked the car at the hotel for the week, then never used it. Between the hotel shuttle and the local buses, we were fine. It saved us the trouble of driving and trying to find parking. Good luck, it’s a beautiful area.
Hi, I use a powered wheelchair, are the boats, buses and trains wheelchair accessible?
I believe that most of the public transportation options in Sorrento are wheelchair accessible. I know the boats and ferries are. The trains should not be a problem also. The buses could present an issue, some seemed to be accessible but the buses do get very crowded. Sorrento itself seemed to me to be very wheelchair accessible. Check with your hotel to see exactly where they are located and if they provide a wheelchair accessible shuttle to various parts of Sorrento. Good luck, I’m sure it will be fine.
© 2012 Bill De Giulio