Welcome to Sorrento... a small resort town with something for everyone
Sorrento is a glamorous little resort town with a big reputation.
Sitting between Naples and the Amalfi Coast, it has been the subject of movies, postcards and many a grand tour. But can you visit Sorrento on a budget or is it solely for those with cash to splash? The answer is of course, both.
So here is my list of 16 things to do in Sorrento, starting from the very beginning of your day…
A perfect spot to start your day in Sorrento – coffee with a side of people watching.
While not the oldest Piazza by any means, it is located in a central spot in Sorrento right in the centre of the hustle and bustle. Watch as the horse drawn carriages pass by while enjoy a coffee and pastry.
Fair warning though – like most places in Italy, sitting outside at a table (especially in summer) will cost significantly more than sitting inside. If all you are after is a quick coffee, then stand at the bar inside like the locals do and remember – no cappuccinos after 10.30am!
Just off Piazzo Tasso is a gorge that used to hold the old water and wheat Mills. The mill is located on the ground level of Sorrento – which makes you realise how much the area has grown ‘upwards' to its current ground level!
The base of the gorge was the original ‘old town' of Sorrento for over a thousand years. Where the flour could be milled, wood would be sawed and where the women of the town would go to wash their laundry.
By accident, when the Piazzo Tasso was constructed in the 1866, it caused an air bubble of sorts to be created, sealing the gorge off and causing the humidity inside to increase dramatically. Now the gorge is a haunting example of nature taking over what men had left behind.
While it is still possible to access a tiny part of the old Deep Valley crossing, for the best photos, take in the views from the Piazzo.
Italy is full of gorgeous old towns, and Sorrento is no different. Perfect for an afternoon stroll around the alleys and laneways with a gelato in hand.
Step into the past and explore Sorrento's 2,000 odd years of history through the winding narrow streets of the old town overlooking the stunning backdrop of the Gulf of Naples.
From Piazza Tasso, walk into the old town through its main shopping street, Corso Italia is filled with boutiques – enough to satisfy any shopaholics! You will also find Villa Fiorentino, the head office of the Sorrento Foundation, which also holds regular exhibitions (past exhibitions have included works by Salvatore Dali and Picasso).
When you reach the Cathedral at the corner of Via della Pieta and Corso Italia, take a moment to admire the antique Nativity scene from the 1700's. It is on permanent display and a beautiful example of craftsmanship.
Then make sure to wander down the side streets. Sorrento has a interesting history due its location, and you will find signs of its Ancient Greek, Roman and even Byzantine heritage throughout the old town.
Via Santa Maria della Pietà is a perfect example of this. You can find the entrance to this street by walking behind the statue of Torquato Tasso in Piazzo Tasso, just off Corso Italia. At the end of Via della Pietà, you will end up at the Cathedral and be able to wander back onto Corso Italia.
Deceptively simple on the outside, yet incredibly intricate on the inside.
Originally built in the 11th Century, the Duomo was completely rebuilt in the Romanesque Style in the 15th Century with stunning frescoes across the ceilings and a dramatic altar. This church is the main Cathedral of Sorrento and holds regular services.
While most people would be quick to say lemons when asked what Sorrento is known for, and while that is true – Sorrento is also known for its intricate handcrafted inlaid woodwork.
Take a moment to go inside the Museo Bottega della Tarsia Lignea, which is a museum showcasing the numerous styles and pieces of inlaid marquetry, hand made in Sorrento and its surrounding areas.
A gorgeous park filled with gardens, paths, statues and serenity. Pick up a gelato and choose a bench to relax on while looking out towards the Gulf of Naples.
When you are ready, walk along Via Vittorio Veneto towards the Chiostro di San Francesco
The Cloister of Saint Francesco is part of the conventual complex of San Francesco d'Assisis, which includes the Church, Monastery and Cloister, all built in the 14th Century and dedicated to Saint Francis.
The buildings and gardens are stunning and extremely peaceful to walk through, or just sit and listen to the birds sing. The Cloister and Church are still used today as a popular spot for weddings, and in the summer months there are also live classical concerts in the evenings and art exhibitions.
There are two marinas to explore in Sorrento, Marina Piccola and Marina Grande.
Marina Piccola is the main port and is where you will find the ferries to go to Capri, Naples and Amalfi. It is also accessible by two lifts which are just off Villa Commune. The lifts are 1 Euro each way, or 1.90 Euro for a return trip. Enjoy a lazy lunch at one of the restaurants, while watching the ferries and boats sail past, before strolling across the beach.
Marina Grande is the original Port and fishing village of Sorrento, with fresh seafood and rustic charming buildings. While there is no lift to help with the walk down, there is a local bus to help you back up the cliffs!
There are a few private beaches along the coastline, which if you want a sunbed, umbrella, and waiter service – are well worth the approximately 15 Euro charge
Follow the legends and just out of Sorrento you will find a beautiful rock pool surrounded by ancient Roman ruins.
Next to one of the ruins of a 2,000 Roman pavilion, is a rockpool believed to have been used by the Queen of Naples in the 14th Century to rendezvous with her lovers….
Protected by natural arches, the rockpool is a triangular shape with crystal clear waters. Perfect for snorkelling and watching the brightly coloured fish. Because there is no sand here, only rocky outcrops to rest your towels on, it is not as crowded as the main beaches.
There a few ways to get here – walk for about 40 minutes from Sorrento or take a bus from Sorrento Circumvesuviana Station to Capo di Sorrento and walk about 15 minutes or of if you have a car, you can drive.
There is a popular restaurant (La Solara) which also has a sunbaking deck where you can hire a deck chair.
There are numerous hiking paths around Sorrento and the Amalfi, all with stunning vistas. But the most well known is the Path of the Gods.
This path crosses over the hills of the Amalfi Coast, and is about 7 kilometres long. So definitely a full day's adventure! You can do the hike on your own or choose to join a small group tour (my preference) where you will be able to learn about the history, geography and culture of the area.
Make sure to pack a hat, plenty of water and snacks, and of course spare batteries for your camera!
Halfway between Naples and Sorrento are the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Herculeneum. Both cities were destroyed by Mount Vesuvius nearly 2,000 years ago, though Pompeii is more well known.
The ruins of Pompeii are much extensive and new sections are still being uncovered. It is a haunting site, especially once the knowledge you are walking on the same cobblestones as ancient romans did really sinks in.
A few extra stops on the Circumvesuvia line will take you to Herculeneum. Because it did not experience the same intense barrage of attacks from Mount Vesuvius, it is much better preserved.
The town of Ercolano was built over it, so only a fraction of the entire city has been excavated, but the remains are in much better condition then those found in Pompeii. Much of the original paint and tiles are still intact and you can get a much better feel for how people lived in this town. Bonus – nowhere near the crowds you find in Pompeii!
Sorrento is well known for its lemons and olive oil. Local products that have and still remain staple products of the region.
There are several tours that will take you to local farms where you can learn about the history, take in stunning views and sample the local produce.
At the very tip of the Sorrentine coast, looking straight towards the Isle of Capri, is the Punta Campanella Marine Reserve.
Over 30 kilometers of grottos, caves, bays and inlets, surrounded by ancient ruins and stunning views, this nature reserve is the perfect place for anyone who loves to be in nature. There are any number of walks, places to swim or snorkel.
Make sure to bring comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, a hat and plenty of water & snacks.
If you enjoy scuba diving, then make sure to visit the Sapphire Grotto – where the water is a brilliant sapphire blue surrounded by stalagmites and stalactites.
No list of what to see in Sorrento is complete without a visit to the Isle of Capri.
Only a short ferry ride from Sorrento, and an absolute must see. You can explore the island in a day or book a hotel and stay for a bit longer.
You can explore the villages on the island (Anacapri and Capri), take the chair lift to the top of Monte Solaro for incredible 360 views of the island, or book a boat tour and explore the numerous grottos that surround the island.
The Blue Grotto is by far the most famous, so if you want to tick that off your bucket list, make sure you get there early in the morning to beat the worst of the wait times to get in. (The last thing we want to do on holidays is lose time to waiting in lines!)
Depending on your budget there are standard group boat tours which will visit the main spots, or you can hire a private boat and guide and get off the beaten (tourist) path.
No matter what your holiday style or budget is, there is truly something for everyone to do in Sorrento.
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Naples-Sorrento transfer (car service)
Drop-off service is suitable for transfer from/to Naples airport or railway station to Sorrento, Positano, Praiano, Amalfi, Ravello or the other towns on the Amalfi Coast.
Pompeii, Sorrento & Positano (shared tour)
A full immersion in the main archaeological and landscape sites of the Neapolitan reality. The journey opens extraordinarily with the first stop at the Ruins of Pompeii, then changes shape, imbued with the smell of the lemons of the splendid Sorrento peninsula to lastly enjoy colorful little houses overlooking the sea of the Amalfi Coast.