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Sirens and sunsets: What to do and see in Sorrento

Sorrento in the Bay of Naples

In Greek mythology, Sorrento was home to the sirens, who lured passing sailors onto the rocks with their beautiful songs. And it still pulls in the visitors today – though today it’s the panoramic views across the Bay of Naples, sunny weather, fantastic food and laid-back atmosphere that do the luring. I first visited Sorrento a few years back and totally fell in love with the town and couldn’t wait to go back, and I’m not alone. It’s probably the most popular holiday spot on the Neapolitan Riviera, so you can’t exactly call it an undiscovered gem, but although it might be a bit touristy in spots you can’t help being charmed by the town. Here are my top tips for what to see, do and – most importantly – eat and drink on a visit to Sorrento.

Sorrento's cliffs and beaches

Looking along Sorrento’s cliffs and down onto the beach

Wander the backstreets

Sorrento’s centro storico (historic centre) is a maze of narrow streets which run back from the cliffside – they’re supposedly pedestrianised but don’t be surprised if you see someone trying to squeeze a car down there. The medieval alleyways twist and turn past trattorias, bars and shops. Forget the map and keep walking and you never know what you might discover – a hidden church, a fantastic gelateria. As well as the usual tourist shops there’s also an artisan district where you can buy local crafts from workshops making lace, leather or intarsia – inlaid wood carvings. To find out more about the wood carving and see some impressive examples, visit the Museo Bottega della Tarsia Lignea in an 18th century palazzo.

Take a dip in the bay

With its steep cliffs, Sorrento doesn’t have a beach as such, but down along the waterfront there are piers jutting out into the water where you can swim or sunbathe during the summer months. Most are owned by hotels or restaurants so you might have to buy a drink or hire a deckchair to bag a prime spot. But there are a few patches of sand in between where you can dip your feet in the Bay of Naples, or if you walk around the headland there’s a sandier stretch in the quieter bay at Marina Grande. To get down to the seafront there’s a road down to the harbour from Piazza Tasso, and if you don’t fancy the climb back up then there’s a lift cut into the rocks that will carry you back up to the top for €1.

Piers along the coast in Sorrento

Piers jutting out into the sea

Watch the sun set

Sorrento’s cliffside setting is one of its biggest charms. And when the sun starts to go down, the bustle of Sorrentine life halts for a few minutes as people gather along the cliffside to watch the sky turn red and the sun dip into the sea. Head to the Villa Communale Park for a great view across the bay towards Vesuvius. There’s often a busker to provide some musical accompaniment as well as a small cafe. Or if you prefer your sunset with a glass of prosecco, head to the terrace at the swanky Bellvue Sirene hotel. The hotel is built on the remains of a Roman Villa and its five-star rooms will set you back €450, but for a taste of luxury on a budget you can stop off for drinks on their terrace bar.

Feast on local produce

Food and drink are an immensely important part of life in Sorrento. The area’s volcanic soil produces tasty fresh produce like olives, tomatoes, peaches, cherries and oranges. These are used in delicious simple dishes like caprese salad with tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella, wafer-thin pizzas, spaghetti vongole with clams, and Delizia al Limone – cream-covered lemon cakes. Some of our favourite spots were L’Antica Trattoria for a sophisticated take on local specialities,  Inn Bufalito for fantastic mozarella and Cafè Latino for its great wine list in a candlelit garden of lemon and orange trees. And don’t forget a gelato stop – there are gelateria scattered across town or you can learn to make your own at Gelateria Davide.

Giant lemons in Sorrento

Sorrento’s giant lemons

Down a limoncello

Lemons are big business around Sorrento. They grow in pots or gardens wherever there’s space in the town as well as in huge netted orchards on the outskirts, and there’s even a local variety of giant lemons here that are the size of a grapefruit. You can find them in soaps and bath oils, but their most famous use is in the limoncello liqueur, whose bright yellow bottles fill the shops here. Made by soaking lemon peel in alcohol, limoncello is usually served chilled as a digestif after dinner, and at about 32% alcohol it has a bit of a kick. If the real deal is a bit much you can also find a gentler limoncello flavoured gelato.

Take a day trip

Sorrento is in a prime central spot for visiting a host of other sights in the area. To the north are the ruined cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, easy to get to on the Circumvesuviana train line (30 minutes to Pompeii or 50 minutes to Herculaneum), or you can climb up to the crater of Vesuvius. To the east is the spectacular Amalfi Coast, though the cliff-hugging coast road to get there can get gridlocked. To avoid the crowds you can take a ferry from Sorrento harbour to Amalfi or Positano (30 or 50 minutes) or head across the bay to the glamorous islands of Capri and Ischia (20 minutes to Capri or one hour to Ischia). Or you could even charter a boat to explore some of the hidden coves nestled beneath the cliffs.

The Bay of Naples, Italy

Looking across the Bay of Naples towards Vesuvius

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Sirens and sunsets: What to see and do in Sorrento

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25 Comments

  • Reply
    Suzanne Jones
    November 17, 2014 at 11:13 pm

    This area is one of my favourite places and you’ve got some excellent recommendations here. Ristorante Tasso on Piazza Tasso is a good restaurant as is Delfino down in Marina Grande.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 18, 2014 at 9:23 am

      It’s such a lovely spot, I could happily keep going back! Thanks for the recommendations, a couple to check out when I do get back there again.

  • Reply
    Debra Kolkka
    November 18, 2014 at 4:53 am

    I love Sorrento. I lived nearby many years ago and my son was born in Sorrento hospital. I have been back many times and I never get tired of it.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 18, 2014 at 9:25 am

      What a fantastic place to live! I can so see why you would never get tired of spending time there.

  • Reply
    DiningTraveler
    November 18, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Looks just stunning. I was in Napoli for work a few years ago but didn’t have the chance to wander around the region. Your pictures are gorgeous.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 20, 2014 at 11:50 am

      Thank you! There’s so much to see around this region that you could easily spend a few weeks there (I’ve still got a long wishlist of places still to see).

  • Reply
    Sandra @ Tripper
    November 18, 2014 at 9:26 pm

    Beautiful post! And not just for the pictures 🙂 Italy is always in my heart and is on my slow travel bucket list for sure.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 20, 2014 at 11:51 am

      Thank you – there is definitely something about Italy that keeps drawing me back too!

  • Reply
    Alli C. - Snacks Sneakers Suitcases
    November 19, 2014 at 8:52 pm

    This makes me miss Italy! Gorgeous gorgeous photos.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 20, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Thanks, I’m already planning next year’s Italian trip, I don’t seem to be able to stay away!

  • Reply
    katefrankiebrennan
    November 19, 2014 at 9:38 pm

    Sorrento is absolutely beautiful. Your photos along the cliffs really take me back. My italian friends got married in a church up there and had a wedding feast I will never forget. It was the most delicious food. Part of my heart belongs in Italy 🙂 thanks for sharing this great post

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 20, 2014 at 11:55 am

      What a fantastic place for a wedding! Must have been so romantic (not to mention the great food!).

  • Reply
    Packing my Suitcase
    November 20, 2014 at 7:38 am

    BEAUTIFUl!! I love your photos… and the tips too! I would for sure have a limoncello gelato, its simply my favorite! I would love to visit Sorrento sometime!!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 20, 2014 at 11:56 am

      You can’t beat a gelato! I really want to do the gelato making course if I make it back there again (and fingers crossed I will!).

      • Reply
        Packing my Suitcase
        November 21, 2014 at 1:03 pm

        haha true!!!
        What a great idea, it would be awesome to have homemade gelato whenever you want 😀
        I hope you go back there soon!!

  • Reply
    shere @shereypaul
    November 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Great pictures! I love the different blue tones in them. Sorrento is definitely in our bucket list, I’m thinking about a limoncello in a hot evening 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 23, 2014 at 4:27 pm

      There are so many shades of blue! It’s a beautiful patch of coastline (and the limoncello is fab!).

  • Reply
    Vlad
    November 21, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Before I read that you can easily take a day trip to Pompeii, I was thinking “oh, what a beautiful place, I should visit it one day”, but now I’m thinking “okay, when do I go?”. Awesome pictures as always, Lucy 😀

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 23, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      It’s a great base to explore so many fantastic sights in a small area – and a pretty fab town in its own right!

  • Reply
    mysuitcasediary
    November 24, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Love Italy, this one of the most beautiful coast !

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 25, 2014 at 10:37 am

      It really is, so many beautiful spots in such a small area!

  • Reply
    Saana
    November 24, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Lovely photos! I’ve recently started my own Italy-based travel blog, maybe you want to check it out? 🙂 http://alwaysabroad.co

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 25, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Thanks for visiting – and best of luck with your new site.

  • Reply
    valeriav
    February 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm

    Truly beautiful! Love how your photos caught all the different shade of blue. Makes me want to visit really soon!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 27, 2015 at 5:12 pm

      Thanks so much, Sorrento is one of my favourite places, just love the views and all the gorgeous colours!

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