Situated on the cliff tops high above the Tyrrhenian Sea, the picturesque town of Sorrento manages to create the perfect balance between catering to the tourist trade and remaining true to its traditional roots.
Its coastal location, right on the ankle of the big boot of Italy, might fool some into thinking this is a destination for beach baskers. Think again.
The rugged cliff-top coastline, overlooking Naples and Mt Vesuvius, makes holidays in Sorrento – brimming with culture and gastronomy – far more interesting than simply lying horizontal. Famous for its ceramics, lace and intarsio (a kind of wooden mosaic unique to the region), souvenir hunters will find their paradise here. A region renowned for its abundance of citrus fruits, you can expect to find most of the take-home ornaments and curiosities adorned with a world-famous Amalfi lemon or two.
Find out a bit more about the famous local handicraft, intarsio at Museobottega della Tarisalignea. Or step inside the beautiful cloister of the 14th-century church of san Francesco to find inner peace away from the bustling crowds. The centro storico’s Renaissance and Baroque maze of quaint streets forms the beating heart of the town.
Shops promising real-deal souvenirs and trattorias offering ‘traditional’ cuisine can be found in abundance here. But step away from the tourist hotspots and you’ll find beautiful restaurants packed to the rafters with real Italians who know their stuff when it comes to dining in style. If you can tear yourself away, try to look past the pasta on the menu. The coastal location makes the seafood some of the most melt-in-the-mouth you’ll ever taste.
Straight from the boat and onto your plate, with some careful kitchen preparation in between, Sorrento’s chefs know their stuff when it comes to cooking seafood to perfection. And while it may not muster quite so much favour with the locals as it does with the tourists, no holidays in Sorrento can be complete without sampling the local liquor. Limoncello is not to everyone’s taste as a drink but it really does make for a fantastic dessert ingredient. Even the gelato comes in lemon flavour here.
With Pompeii to the north and Amalfi to the east, you’re never stuck for exploration ideas when it comes to holidays in Sorrento. There’s even the option of taking a short ferry ride over to the stunning island of Capri. Hire a car and travel the coast road stopping in to see the pastel houses of Positano teetering on the edge of the world, before travelling onwards to see the amazing Arab-Norman cathedral of mediaeval-feeling Amalfi.
Pompeii is astounding to see; its well-worth picking up an audio guide before you begin your tour. Hear of the fateful day in 79AD when a whole Roman city was wiped out by the fiery force of volatile Mt Vesuvius. Nearby Herculaneum is often overlooked, but often provides some respite from the tourist hoards as it seems less often on the average tourist check list.
Author: Rosie Connelly is a well-travelled travel journalist who blogs regularly to share her massive knowledge of Italy’s best seaside areas.