A few kilometers from Naples lies the charming town of Sorrento. It is hard to remain indifferent in front of its perfectly preserved historic center, citrus groves and cliffs overlooking the sea.
Despite its small size, there is much to see and do in Sorrento. It has been a popular vacation spot since ancient Rome and a perfect destination in any season of the year.
1. Discover the haunted history of the Duomo
Like so many churches, Sorrento Cathedral also had a rather turbulent life. It was originally located elsewhere and was rebuilt in its current position in the 15th century.
A few years later, the Duomo was damaged during a Turkish invasion. Finally, a cyclone ruined its facade in 1904.
Fortunately, the Sorrentines always set to work to rebuild the church. They did not limit themselves to recovering the structure, but also commissioned works to beautify it.
Thanks to their devotion, today we can admire the ceiling painted with floral motifs and the palette of Silvestro Buono depicting the Madonna together with St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist.
- Address: Via Santa Maria della Pietà 44, a stone's throw from the central Corso Italia.
- Price: free. If you prefer to visit it with a guide, you can book one of the best tours of Sorrento.
2. Start the day in Piazza Tasso
A whirlwind vacation or a three-day trip to Sorrento necessarily starts from here. It is the heart of the city and is surrounded by monuments such as the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine and the Museo Correale, an art gallery commissioned by the brothers Alfredo and Pompeo Correale.
To start the day with energy, I recommend having breakfast at Bar Fauno. It is a traditional pastry shop and if you want a tip, I recommend ordering a sfogliatella riccia, a delicious puff pastry with a sweet ricotta filling.
- Address: Piazza Tasso
- Price: free
3. Enter the Sedile Dominova
In the Middle Ages, the most important Italian municipalities were administered by a "sedile", that is, a congress of nobles. The wealthiest men of Sorrento held their meetings in a building called Sedile Dominova, a name that comes from the Latin expression "domus nova" (new house).
The Sedile Dominova is the only surviving one in the region. Its walls and ceiling are adorned with the coat of arms of the city and the heraldic symbols of the nobles who financed the construction.
If you are in the mood for a sweet treat on the way out, I recommend you try the gourmet chocolate shop Nino and Friends (Via San Cesareo).
- Address: Via San Cesareo 70, a few steps from the cathedral.
- Price: free
4. Have a break at the Chiostro di San Francesco
The cloister dedicated to San Francesco d'Assisi is a perfect fusion of different architectural styles. It is dominated by 14th century architecture although there is no lack of elements from later periods. It is a quiet place, a small oasis of peace in which to rest after an excursion or a visit to a busy place.
During the summer, the Chiostro di San Francesco becomes the stage for the Estate Musicale Sorrentina, a series of live concerts that enliven Sorrento's nights.
On your way out, you can extend your moment of relaxation at Marameo Beach, a very scenic beach club. Parasols and sun loungers occupy a spit of land a few meters from the coast. If you are looking for things to do with kids in Sorrento, they will definitely love this one.
- Address: Piazza Francesco Saverio Gargiulo
- Price: free
5. Be amazed at the Vallone dei Mulini
The most evocative attraction is hidden a few meters from Piazza Tasso. It is a small valley that takes its name from a 17th century mill that harnessed the waters of a stream to grind grain. Closer to the town was the best preserved building: an old sawmill.
Towards the middle of the 19th century, the site was progressively abandoned and little by little, nature took possession of the place. It is a steep, very humid area with abundant vegetation. Trees and plants have enveloped the old mill creating a fairytale postcard.
- Address: you can take a panoramic photo from the railing of Via Fuorimura.
- Price: free
6. Admire the best panorama of the city
Locals and tourists have no doubt: the best views of the city are enjoyed from the Villa Comunale of Sorrento. The residence dates back to the 19th century and is surrounded by a large park with orange trees, oaks, pines and camellia plants.
It can be visited every day of the week from 8:00 to 23:00. Personally, I recommend going up at sunset to watch the sunset.
The flagship of the Villa Comunale is the terrace overlooking the sea, from here you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Gulf of Naples and Vesuvius.
The two cities are not far apart and the capital of the region is easy to reach by rail on the Circumvesuviana line. If you are interested, I advise you to read the post that explains what to see and do in Naples.
- Address: Via San Francesco, accessed by climbing a staircase. Alternatively, you can take an elevator of the Sorrento Lift company. Connects the Villa Comunale with the port
- Price: access is free. If you decide to take the elevator, a one-way ticket costs about 1 €.
7. Stroll in a citrus grove
The Amalfi Coast is famous for its lemons. The plantations on the steep terrains facing the sea are the most typical postcard and it would be a shame to return home without having seen a grove up close.
In Sorrento there is a charming farm where you can have a glass of limoncello in the shade of a pergola. Its name is I giardini di Cataldo and it is located at Via Correale 27, about a 10-minute walk from the port. The Esposito family has been taking care of this land since 1800.
The lemons are the protagonists of this urban orchard, seeing them suspended in the air, with the branches resting on the metal structure is very suggestive.
You can take the opportunity to buy a souvenir. You can choose a babà al limoncello (the typical sweet of Naples with a different filling) or a lemon jam.
- Address: Via Correale 27
- Price: free, minus what you can spend on the spot.
8. Take a dip at the Bagni della Regina Giovanna
Sorrento has been a tourist destination for many years and one of the most illustrious guests was the Queen of Naples, Joan II of Anjou. During her stay in the city, the aristocrat used to take baths in a splendid natural pool near Punta Campanella.
In the Bagni della Regina Giovanna there are no tourist facilities or restaurants. It is a completely natural environment that requires a walk of about thirty minutes through the Mediterranean patch.
To enjoy the experience, keep two things in mind: take snorkeling shoes (there are rocks) and watch out for currents.
- Address: Punta Campanella
- Price: free
9. Taste the local cuisine
In the city, the star dish is gnocchi alla sorrentina, potato pasta with tomato, creamy mozzarella and fresh basil. It is a dish known all over the world and its origin dates back to the early 17th century.
According to legend, potatoes first appeared in Sorrento in 1600. A cook who ran a tavern in Piazza Tasso began experimenting with them and discovered that by boiling them he could obtain a dough by adding water and a pinch of flour.
He then made a dish with another ingredient from the Americas, tomatoes, and local mozzarella.
The success was immediate and a few centuries later it continues to triumph not only in Sorrento, but also in the rest of the world. To taste the gnocchi alla sorrentina I recommend you to book a table at the Cantinaccia del Popolo (Vico Terzo Rota 6) or at the restaurant Zi'Ntonio Mare (Via Marina Grande 180).
- Address: the restaurants are located in the old city center.
- Price: both establishments are suitable for all wallets.
10. Take a boat trip
Sorrento is the gateway to the Amalfi Coast and a few kilometers from Capri, Ischia and Procida. There is no shortage of options when choosing a mini cruise, especially if you visit this area in spring or summer. For more information, I advise you to read the post about the best boat trips in Sorrento.
- Address: in Sorrento, boat trips usually start from the nearby port of Massa Lubrense. Don't worry, most of the excursions include the transfer from your hotel.
- Price: starting from 60 € per person
How easy is it to get to Naples from Sorrento?
Yes, the Transvesuviana railroad line regularly connects the two localities. Travel time varies slightly: 1 hour and 10 minutes if the convoy stops at all stations or 50 minutes (trains marked with the abbreviation DD do not stop at all stations).
The ticket costs around 4 €. For more information, you can read the post that explains how to get to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast from Naples.
Is it worth visiting Sorrento in one day?
Yes, although I recommend staying at least one night. Leaving the city when night envelops it is a bit sad. In fact, Sorrento is a good alternative if you want to visit the area.
Some excursions to Pompeii leave from Sorrento and it is also a good base to climb Vesuvius or to explore Naples, the capital of the region.
Another beautiful town a few kilometers from Sorrento is Vico Equense, the first village on the Sorrento peninsula. It is known above all for the Terme di lo Scrajo, a complex born at the end of the 19th century and that exploits the sulfurous water springs.
If you decide to visit, I recommend tasting a delicacy of the territory: the provolone del Monaco, a cheese both sweet and spicy obtained from the milk of local cows. You can taste it at the De Gennaro cheese dairy on the heights of Vico Equense (Via Raffaele Bosco 956).
Where can you have an aperitif in Sorrento?
If I had to choose just one bar, it would be Vista Sky Bar, the panoramic lounge of the Hotel Mediterraneo (Corso Marion Crawford 85). Here you can end the day with a glass of Champagne in your hands.
You can enjoy the view from May to October and the opening days are subject to weather conditions. Below are some other recommended options:
- Bar del Carmine, a good selection of dishes in the heart of Sorrento(Piazza Tasso 38).
- Prosit, ideal if you want to taste local hams and cured meats. Order a wine to accompany these delicacies (Corso Italia 8).
- Syrenuse, a bar and restaurant open for most of the day, from breakfast to dinner. From here you can enjoy a view over the city's harbor (Via Sant'Antonino 14).
Besides a boat trip, what other activities are available in summer?
In the warmer season, Sorrento has a lot to offer. One recommended activity is paddle surfing or SUP. It is an outdoor activity that consists of a way to move on the water paddling standing on a board. It was born on the famous Waikiki beach, Hawaii, and has spread to every corner of the planet.
At the gateway to the Amalfi Coast, you have several options to perform this discipline. My recommendation is Sorrento SUP, which organizes 2-hour routes to the famous Bagni della Regina Giovanna. It also has some very suggestive sunset trips (Via Marina Grande 90).
In case you prefer a more traditional means of transport, I recommend renting a pedal boat or a canoe. In this case, you can go to the Cooperativa Azzurro Sorrento located in the marina (Via Marina Grande 192).
Christmas in Sorrento: a great time to travel
In early December, luminaries and garlands embellish the streets of the old town and the big tree in Piazza Tasso captivates the eyes of locals and tourists. About 500 meters further on, Piazza Veniero hosts Christmas markets while the nearby Villa Fiorentino comes alive with themed nights.
You can also take advantage of your stay in Sorrento to visit Naples at Christmas. The city of Vesuvius is known for the craft stores of San Gregorio Armeno. This street concentrates the workshops that make crib figures, lucky horns and statuettes that reproduce the characters of the Neapolitan tradition.
How can I get around Sorrento?
To visit the city it is enough to walk. Some areas are pedestrianized and therefore it is the easiest way. The old town is characterized by narrow streets; you will appreciate it especially during the summer thanks to the shadows cast by the historic buildings.
Instead, if you want to explore the surroundings, I recommend two options: hire a tour - for example, an excursion to Pompeii from Sorrento - or book an excursion along the Amalfi coast with a visit to Positano. Another great option is to do one of the excursions to Capri from Sorrento.
Of course, if you prefer to go on your own, you can rent a scooter and tour the Amalfi Coast on your own.