Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento is a famous Italian holiday resort and was really busy but also very beautiful when we visited in April.  It’s a small city with a pretty old town positioned high above the sea on one of the most spectacular points of the Campanian coast.

During our stay at Pompeii, we took advantage of having the Circumvesuiana metro line outside the campsite and visited Sorrento for the day which was only half an hour train ride. Another day we took the train to Naples which again was about half an hour journey.

Click here to see the details of the campsites we used.

Piazza Tasso

After a very short walk from Sorrento station, we approached Piazzo Tasso,  a pretty square in the heart of the city. It’s a lively place day and night with lots of people passing through as it is the main thoroughfare to get to places within Sorrento.  There is so much to see and do here.  There are many good bars, restaurants, clubs, churches and shops in the square and the many narrow streets and alleyways off the square to explore.  The view down a cleft in the rock to the Marina Piccola is stunning.

"Piazza Tasso overlooks a winding road down to Marina Piccola" Sorrento, Italy

“Piazza Tasso overlooks a winding road down to Marina Piccola” Sorrento, Italy

We took a ride on the tourist train which departs from the square on a little tour of Sorrento.  Another option would have been to take a tour around Sorrento in a horse and carriage.  After the tour, we sat with a beer outside one of the restaurants to do some “people watching” (our favourite pastime). There was an endless amount of colourful and interesting people passing by.  This is the place where the locals and tourists meet and in the evening people dress up and stroll around the area.  Later we walked a bit further out of the square to find a more traditional cosy bar/restaurant for a meal as the Piazza Tasso is quite an expensive place to eat and drink. One thing to keep in mind when eating here is that the waiters don’t rush or pester you so if you want something you have to wave your hand and try to attract their attention.  Some of the restaurants in Sorrento charge a cover charge and if they don’t they expect you to tip.

Lemons in Sorrento

Lemons in Sorrento

The city is known as the land of Orange and Lemon Groves and is famous for the production of limoncello, an alcoholic digestif made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar.  We were offered a taste as we passed by one of the shops but it was as little too strong for me.  Lot’s of the shops products were lemon related, lemon sweets, lemon biscuits, lemon soap etc.  As for the lemons for sale on the fruit stalls we have never seen such massive lemons as those we saw in Sorrento.

Sorrento streets

We enjoyed walking along the main shopping street and browsing the leather and clothing shops to name just a few.

Villa Comunale

After walking around Piazzo Tasso and the shops we found a nice public garden filled with beautiful flowers and several benches.  It is set up on a cliff so you get spectacular views of the sea.  The entire bay of Naples spreads in front of you with Mount Vesuvius in the background as well as Capri and other islands.  As we were looking out over the azure waters on the day we visited there was a busker playing old romantic songs on his piano accordion.  With the sun shining and the beautiful scenery, it really set the scene.  We sat for ages drinking in  the views and listening to the music. It was so romantic!  I especially loved the old Dean Martin song “That’s Amore”.  Even now when I hear that song I get transported back to that beautiful day.

This spot is a great photo opportunity and it would be a great place to watch the sunset.

Sorrento Marina

Sorrento

You can walk down the steps (about 200) or, In the corner of the park is a lift to the bottom of the cliffs where there are 2-3 private beaches.  Well, actually a line of jetties covered in sunbeds and umbrellas.  You can also reach Marina Piccola from where the boats and ferries set sail to Capri, Ischia, Positano and Naples (to name but a few places).

Chiostro di San Francesco

Next, we just happened to wander into the Cloister of Saint Francisco as a wedding was going on.  It is such a superb tranquil oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of Sorrento town.  The quiet wedding atmosphere was wonderful. It was really lovely and such a magical setting.  It made me wish I could do it all over again here.

Wedding in the Cloisteer of Saint Francisco, Sorrento, Italy

Wedding in the Cloister of Saint Francisco, Sorrento, Italy

Lots of flowers, plants and ornamental trees, with different architectural styles.  The origin of the monastery dates back to the 8th century but it has been restored on several occasions over the centuries and hence display a distinctive array of architectural styles that range from late Gothic to Renaissance.

Wedding in the Cloisteer of Saint Francisco, Sorrento, Italy

Wedding in the Cloister of Saint Francisco, Sorrento, Italy

On the two sides of the porch are crossed tuff arches and on the other two sides impressive round arches on octagonal pillars.  We walked in just as the couple were saying their vows and watched with other tourists while they signed the register and posed for pictures with a mandolin and guitar duo playing in the background.  We were surprised when we heard them speaking their vows as they were English.

We took the steps to the second floor where we found an exhibition of black and white photographs of Italian life and landscapes by a local photographer.

You must visit this next place which for me is the real Italy….

Marina Grande – Antico Borgo Marinaro

Marina Grande, Sorrento, Italy

Marina Grande, Sorrento, Italy

The Marina Grande is just a short walk from the central part of Sorrento.  A much smaller marina than the one nearest to the centre full of small pleasure craft, a very small beach and plenty of sun loungers.

Strolling through the Marina Grande is like stepping back in time.  It’s an unspoilt bay with fishermen tending to their nets, catching fish and selling it on the quayside or serving it in their own restaurants.  The atmosphere is great with bars, restaurants, great food at very reasonable prices, lovely pastel coloured houses, fishing boats bobbing about on the water and twinkling lights lining the bay at night.

Marina Grande at night, Sorrento, Italy

It’s a nice place for a swim in the sea or to relax with a drink at the water’s edge.

There is a regular minibus that will take you up the hill past Piazza Tasso for a euro or you can take the steep climb back up.

The town is very popular with tourists, particularly the British so we felt quite at home.  It made a nice change for us as many of the places we visit are very Italian and infact in Tivoli, I think we were the only British tourists there.  It was quite difficult making ourselves understood in the shops.

Many people use Sorrento as a base, as it is well-connected by sea, road, bus and Circumvesuviana metro trains.  From here you can easily explore Naples, Pompeii, the very much more expensive Amalfi coast, Capri, Positano, Ravello etc.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

WHEN IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO VISIT SORRENTO, ITALY?
April/May and September/October are the best months for visiting Sorrento as the weather is not too hot to enjoy exploring the town.  In the summer the heat can make it a bit uncomfortable and of course, it is less crowded and easier to get around. If you are only looking at spending your days on the beach, around the pool and taking boat trips then June, July and August would be good and you could explore the town when its cooler in the evening.  December is lovely in Sorrento as the city is decorated for Christmas and there are a number of festive events going on.
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO BOOK A HOTEL IN SORRENTO, ITALY?
The centre of Sorrento is concentrated around Piazza Tasso, where the streets are full of shops, restaurants and cafes.  It is very near the port, train station and bus station.  If you do plan a few day trips along the coast then booking a hotel near the Piazza Tasso would be best.  This is also a great area for nightlife.  If you are looking for somewhere quieter and more relaxing and for nice views then look at a hotel in the Massa Lubrense area along the via del Capo.  The views are amazing here and most hotels offer a shuttle service to and from the centre of town.
WHERE IS THE NEAREST BEACH TO SORRENTO, ITALY?
There are no sandy beaches in Sorrento as it’s not really a beach destination.  They do have bathing platforms built over the sea.  If there is sand it is volcanic black.  There is a small beach at Marina Grande.  There are also some along the coast in Positano and the Amalfi coast.  If you want to do a spot of sunbathing in between sightseeing it is advisable to choose a hotel with a nice pool or a hotel with their own bathing platform.  You pay to use the public platforms in Italy. You probably pay a bit more for a hotel that has their own.  Beach hotels in Sorrento
WHICH IS THE CLOSEST AIRPORT TO SORRENTO, ITALY?
Naples Capodichino Airport is the closest and there are direct buses which run between the city and the airport as well as trains.
HOW DO I GET FROM NAPLES AIRPORT TO SORRENTO, ITALY?
The Cueri bus runs straight into Sorrento and takes an hour.  The local Circumvesuviana train between Naples and Sorrento leaves from the main Piazza Garibaldi station in Naples.
WHAT IS THE BEST MODE OF TRANSPORT TO TRAVEL AROUND SORRENTO, ITALY?
The public transport is very good in Sorrento but I would recommend the train.

CIRCUMVESUVIANA TRAIN LINE

The Circumvesuviana line is very similar to our UK underground trains in that they stop at countless stations along the way, they have no luggage storage or air conditioning and often you have to stand.  There are no elevators or lifts on this track so if you have heavy luggage or have trouble with stairs then this line is best avoided.  Especially if travelling from the airport.  The cost is cheap enough at Eur 3.50 and the journey takes 1 hour 10 minutes. If you do decide to use the Circumvesuviana line then be careful of pickpockets they work in gangs.  We are always very aware of who is around us when we travel but it is difficult if you are on a crowded train.  A money belt is a good idea if you are trying to juggle your luggage and hold on.  Also, try not to get into a conversation with anyone as they sometimes work in teams and try to distract you while another is going through your bag.  I don’t want to put you off going to Italy but you need to know this can happen and does happen in all major cities. The Circumvesuviana station is on the lower level of the Naples Central train station, below the high-speed train platforms.  Take the stairs down from the centre of the station and make your way to track 3 for Sorrento.  Make sure that you keep an eye on the display and board the train to Sorrento and not Sarno which we nearly did. You can purchase a ticket from the ticket window or one of the newspaper stands in the station. You have to pay cash at the stations, no credit cards, unlike the national railways. Although we would not use the Circumvesuviana if travelling with luggage from the airport we did use it for travelling around during the holiday.

CAMPANIA EXPRESS TRAIN

The other option is to take the Campania Express train from Naples to Sorrento which does have luggage storage, air conditioning and guaranteed seating.  The cost of this train is Eur 8 but we think it is worth it for the extra comfort.  This line runs along the same route as the Circumvesuviana but stops at fewer stations and takes about 45 minutes.  Please note though that this is a tourist route therefore only runs from mid-march to mid-October. Tickets can be purchased online through the official EAV Campania website or directly at the Circumvesuviana ticket office 20 minutes before departure.

HOW DO YOU GET TO POMPEII FROM SORRENTO, ITALY?
You can get to Pompeii, Herculaneum, Naples and even Mount Vesuvius very easily by train from the heart of Sorrento (just east of the old town and main shopping area).  The Circumvesuviana train runs out of Naples to the east of the city around Mount Vesuvius. The stations that are of most interest between Sorrento and Naples are Castellammare di Stabia for the cable car to Monte Faito.  Pompeii for the archaeological area and bus connection to Vesuvius. Torre Annunziata for Oplontis and Ercolano Scavi for Herculaneum archaeological area. The trains are frequent on this line (every 30 mins) and quite cheap. They are however crowded and quite often you will have to stand.  Be very careful, as with visiting any city, there are quite a lot of pick-pockets about on this train line, in fact, you do see a lot of gipsy families and we found the parents were sending the children round begging on the train. There is an official information point in Sorrento within an old railway carriage at the entrance of the station.  Opening hours are restricted.  We found the newsagent’s shop at the entrance is open all hours and was much more helpful and informative regards transport and will sell you train tickets more efficiently and friendly than the official station ticket office.  In fact, they have all the ticket types explained in English and do their best to in several languages to give travel advice with a smile in stark contrast to the station ticket office.  They also layout clearly in English the various multi-day passes on a board plus the fares to the most popular places tourists want to go. The following links may help you. Unico Campania Current Fares From Sorrento Integrated Public Transport Maps In and Around Sorrento
IS THERE A CLOSER STATION TO THE SANT’AGNELLO AREA OF SORRENTO, ITALY?
Yes if your accommodation is to the east of Sorrento in the hotel district around Sant’Agnello then this station, the first stop from Sorrento, will save you a long walk.  However, you will have to climb two flights of stairs as the platforms are well above street level.
HOW CAN I GET TO MOUNT VESUVIUS FROM SORRENTO, ITALY?
From Sorrento take the Circumvesuviana line to Pompeii station.  There is a tourist office and the tours to Mount Vesuvius are parked outside the station. The entrance to the Pompeii archaeological site is just a few yards down the street from the station.
HOW CAN I GET TO HERCULANEUM FROM SORRENTO, ITALY?
Again take the Circumvesuviana line and get out at Ercolano Scavi  There is more than one Ercolano station which is a bit confusing but make sure that you get off at Ercolano Scavi.  The station is in the middle of town.  You will probably find there are a few touts as you come out of the station who will try to persuade you to board their shuttle bus.  The site is only 5-10 minutes walk down the main street and it is well signposted.
IS IT A GOOD IDEA TO DRIVE IN SORRENTO, ITALY?
No! definitely not especially in the busy summer months anyway.  Sorrento is a perfect base for exploring the surrounding area without a car because you can get to Naples, Pompeii and Herculaneum easily by train or bus and Capri by Ferry.  The Amalfi coast we travelled on the Big Red Bus but you can also use the ferry.  The Italian drivers are crazy.  We noticed that most cars had some kind of dent or scrape on them.
HOW DO YOU GET TO CAPRI FROM SORRENTO, ITALY?
The ferry services run from Marina Piccola and tickets can be bought at kiosks next to the marina.  Destinations also include Naples, Ischia and the Amalfi coast but services are seasonal and subject to changes.
WHERE DO THE BUSES RUN FROM SORRENTO, ITALY?
SITA runs blue and green buses covering a wide area.  Destinations include Positano, Amalfi, Massa Lubrense and Sant’Agata.  Buses depart from the Circumvesuviana Station in Sorrento and tickets can be bought at bars and news kiosks.  The buses for Positano and Amalfi run irregularly. approx every 40 minutes sometimes longer with fewer services on Sunday.  We travelled to Sorrento by train with a view to getting a bus to the Amalfi Coast but unfortunately the particular day we chose the drivers were on strike. The journey to Positano is about 35 minutes and 1 hr 35 mins for Amalfi  Tickets are around 1.20 euro for Positano and 2.20 euro for Amalfi.