Sorrento is the picture-perfect spot for a luxurious long weekend, with a near-guaranteed mild climate and some stunning views across the Bay of Naples. Sorrento oozes glamour even before you set foot in one of its upmarket hotels, with its abundance of beautiful Mediterranean flora and the enduring natural scent of jasmine hanging seductively in the air.
This beautiful Italian town is also the ideal location for a stay that encompasses sightseeing trips to Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum, and it’s easily close enough to take in the cosmopolitan island of Capri or the Amalfi coast as well. Where to stay For spectacular views across the Bay of Naples and a Michelin-starred chef on hand at the sumptuous Terrazza Bosquet restaurant, the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria is the place to go, eat and be seen. You can choose from two high end restaurants, and the hotel also boasts a luxury spa and a pool. If you like your hotels to come with a private yacht, then the boutique Grand Hotel Cocumella might be your style. Originally a 16th-century Jesuit monastery, with stunning views of Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples, you can’t get much more exclusive. The rooms are decorated with genuine antiques, the restaurant is Italian fine dining and the grounds are stunning.If you want to pop over to Capri, the yacht is at your service…
This beautiful part of Campania is blessed with opportunities for exploring the outdoors, indulging in luxury shopping and wondering at the beautiful scenery. Start with the Piazza Tasso and wander through the streets that lead off it, taking in the beautiful cathedral, which holds examples of Sorrento’s famous wood mosaic work, as well as artworks dating back to the 18th century. For more culture, the unassuming Museobottega della Tarsialignea houses a collection of artefacts that’s designed to recreate 19th-century Sorrento.
Shopping is a pleasure in Sorrento, with home-grown shopping at Gargiulo & Jannuzzi, a treasure trove of locally-made products from ceramics and pottery to intricate lace. The centre of Sorrento is where you’ll find most of the shops and an array of handcrafted souvenirs, foods and textiles. The local delicacies are paradise for anyone with a sweet tooth; the Limoncello, almond and lemon cakes, orange pastries and of course delicious Italian ice cream. The main shopping street is Corso Italia and there you can pick up Italian branded goods and more.
If you’re only staying for a few days, it makes sense to combine a trip to Pompeii with some time exploring the ruins of the less well known Herculaneum. Herculaneum was smaller than Pompeii, but the residents were wealthier, and many of the old buildings in Herculaneum are impressive – and very well-preserved. When Mount Vesuvius erupted, Pompeii bore the brunt of the damage, collapsing under the weight of volcanic ash. Herculaneum was lucky to escape with less ash fallout – only to be buried in the mudslide that followed.
Pompeii is the classic tourist destination, and the ruins can be rather busy, so although it’s a must-see, with its eerie Roman streets lined with the hollow shells of ancient businesses and homes, Herculaneum is much quieter and gives you a fantastic insight into how the Romans actually lived. If you loved Pompeii and Herculaneum, you’ll love the nearby Roman port of Ostia, which wasn’t engulfed by lava, but was abandoned by the Romans after the harbour silted up and the city was buried by mud. The mud preserved the remains of the city beautifully, and while Herculaneum gives you an idea of what life was like for wealthy Romans, a walk through Ostia gives you a glimpse of how things would have been for the workers. Naples is one of the other must-see places on your excursion list. If you’re intent on spending some serious money, enjoy some time in the third largest city in Italy, one that rivals Milan with its choice of high-end fashion and luxury shopping. If you have comfortable shoes on, walk the length of Via Toldeo in downtown Naples, the main shopping street in Naples and also one of the oldest. Via Toledo stretches for over a kilometre, and the perfect place to stop for a rest is the Caffè Gambrinus, the famous literary café that faces Piazza del Plebiscito.
Once you’re refreshed, you can pay the Archaeological Museum a visit to marvel at artefacts recovered from Pompeii and Herculaneum – including a collection of erotic art.
The streets of Sorrento are blessed with some of Italy’s finest eateries. If you’ve decided not to sample the hotel menu, and you have the foresight to book ahead, you could sample the cuisine at Il Buco, and dine in the romantic softly lit vault – or if you prefer al fresco eating you can enjoy the view with a good wine. Try the local Limoncello – the liqueur was first created in Sorrento. The Amalfi coast is also renowned for fresh fish – for gourmet seafood, and gorgeous surroundings, you’ll adore the vine-covered pergola terrace at L’Antica Trattoria. The challenge of spending just a few days in Sorrento is balancing out the beauty and elegance of the town with the fascination of the nearby attractions, and deciding which to visit now, and which delights you’ll be leaving until your inevitable next visit…
Author: Alexandra Johnson is a blogger for Trafalgar Tours, a leading provider of tours in Europe. She loves to travel to new destinations. This summer she will visit Italy and Slovenia with friends.