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Sirens and sunsets: What to see and do in Sorrento, Italy

Sirens and sunsets: What to do and see in Sorrento, Italy

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.

Read more: Visiting Pompeii: The Roman city frozen in time

Boats in the harbour at Marina Grande Sorrento Italy

Boats in the harbour

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.

Pastel coloured buildings in Marina Grande Sorrento

Pastel colours in Marina Grande

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. Otherwise if you walk around the headland there’s a sandier stretch in the quieter bay at the pretty fishing port of 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

Catch a Sorrento sunset

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 the best views in Sorrento, looking 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 if you want a taste of luxury on a budget then non-guests can also stop by for drinks in their terrace bar.

Read more: Peaceful in Praiano: Off season on the Amalfi Coast

Sunset in Sorrento Bay Italy

Sorrento sunset

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 mozzarella and Cafè Latino for its great wine list in a candlelit garden of lemon and orange trees. And don’t forget an ice cream stop – there are gelateria scattered across town or you can learn to make your own at Gelateria Davide.

Views in Sorrento, Italy

Views and bubbly

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 made into soaps and bath oils, but their most famous use is in the limoncello liqueur, whose bright yellow bottles fill the shops in Sorrento. 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.

Giant lemons in Sorrento

Sorrento’s giant lemons

Take a day trip

The Bay of Naples has so much to see, and Sorrento’s  prime location right in the middle make it easy to get out and explore on day trips. To the north there are the ruined Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, or you can climb up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius. To the east is the spectacular Amalfi Coast, with its dramatic cliff-hugging coast road – though the driving’s pretty scary so it’s a good idea to take a tour or catch the ferry from Sorrento to Amalfi or Positano (30 or 50 minutes). You can also head across the 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 Sorrento’s cliffs.

Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples, Italy

Looking out towards Mount Vesuvius

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The best things to see, do and eat in the charming town of Sorrento, overlooking the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. #Sorrento #Italy #BayofNaplesThings to do in Sorrento, Italy – the best things to see, do and eat in Sorrento, from sunset views and local dishes to beaches and Bay of Naples day trips. #Sorrento #Italy #BayofNaples

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31 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? 🙂

    • 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!

  • Reply
    Candice
    May 10, 2017 at 1:24 am

    Love this post! I’m heading to Europe this summer and this is so helpful!!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      May 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

      That’s great – hope you have an amazing time!

  • Reply
    Tina
    May 30, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    Great article! My boyfriend is from Sorrento (we now live in Canada) so we go back yearly. This is very accurate and fully captures the essence of Sorrento!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      May 31, 2017 at 10:11 pm

      That’s great to hear, it’s one of my favourite places in Italy!

  • Reply
    joannasheth
    August 6, 2017 at 2:54 am

    Hello Lucy! We are heading to the Amalfi Coast during the first week of October. Are you able to tell me what the weather was like in October? Does it get cold?

    Thank you!

    Joanna

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 7, 2017 at 10:11 am

      Hi Joanna, we were there in mid October last time I visited and the temps were still around 20 degrees in the daytime, though the evenings were a bit cooler and we did have one cloudy day with a bit of rain.

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