Sirens and sunsets: Things to do in Sorrento, Italy

The best things to do 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 now it’s the panoramic views, sunshine, fantastic food and laid-back atmosphere that do the luring. When I first visited Sorrento a few years back, I fell in love and couldn’t wait to go back, and I’m not alone. It’s one of the most popular holiday spot on the Neapolitan Riviera, so you can’t exactly call it an undiscovered gem. But although Sorrento might be a bit touristy in spots, you can’t help being charmed by this coastal town. So here are my favourite things to do in Sorrento.

Read more: Eight of the best day trips from Sorrento

The best things to do in Sorrento, Italy

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. These medieval alleyways twist and turn past trattorias, bars and shops, so throw away the map, take a walk and see what you can discover in the town’s backstreets – whether it’s a hidden church, flower-filled garden or fantastic gelateria.

As well as the usual tourist shops there’s also an artisan district in Sorrento where you can buy local crafts from workshops which make lace, leather or intarsia – a special type of 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 along the waterfront there are piers jutting out into the sea where you can swim or sunbathe in summer. 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 you’ll find a sandier stretch of beach in the quieter bay at pretty  Marina Grande. It’s a picturesque spot with a fishing harbour lined with pastel-coloured houses and waterfront restaurants. To get down to Sorrento’s 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 to carry you back up to the top for €1.

Sunbathing on the pier, one of the best things to do in Sorrento
Piers jutting out into the sea

Catch a Sorrento sunset

Sorrento’s cliffside setting is one of its biggest charms, and watching sunset is one of the best things to do in Sorrento. When the sun goes down, the bustle of Sorrentine life stops as people gather along the cliffs to watch the sky start to 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 there to provide musical accompaniment as well as a small café.

Or if you prefer sunset with a glass of prosecco, head to the swanky Bellevue Sirene hotel. The hotel is built on the remains of a Roman villa and its five-star rooms will set you back €450. But non-guests can stop by for a taste of luxury on a budget with drinks in their terrace bar.

Sunset in Sorrento Bay Italy
Sorrento sunset

Feast on local produce

Food and drink are an important part of life in Sorrento. The volcanic soil in this part of Italy produces tasty produce like olives, tomatoes, peaches, cherries and oranges. These are used in delicious simple dishes like caprese salad with ripe tomatoes, basil and buffalo mozzarella, wafer-thin pizzas, spaghetti vongole with clams, and Delizia al Limone – cream-covered lemon cakes.

Some of my favourite places to eat in Sorrento were L’Antica Trattoria for a sophisticated take on local specialities, Inn Bufalito for fantastic mozzarella dishes and Cafè Latino for its great wine list and candlelit garden of lemon and orange trees. And don’t forget ice cream – there are gelateria scattered across town or you can learn to make your own gelato at Gelateria Davide.

Views in Sorrento, Italy
Views and bubbly

Sip a limoncello

Lemons are big business in Sorrento. They grow in pots or gardens wherever there’s space as well as in huge netted orchards on the outskirts. There’s even a local variety of giant lemons which are the size of a grapefruit. Thes lemons are made into soaps and bath oils, but their most famous use is in limoncello liqueur, whose bright yellow bottles fill the shops in Sorrento.

Limoncello is made by soaking lemon peel in alcohol. It’s 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 strong for you, you can also find a gentler limoncello-flavoured gelato to give you the taste without the alcohol.

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 of it all make it a great place to get out and explore the region on day trips. To the north there are the archaeological sites at the buried Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, or you can climb up to the crater of Mount Vesuvius – the volcano which destroyed them.

To the east is the spectacular Amalfi Coast, with its dramatic cliff-hugging coast road. Though the driving here’s pretty scary so it’s a good idea to take a tour or catch the ferry from Sorrento to Amalfi or Positano if you’re not confident on the roads. You can also head across the across the bay to the glamorous islands of Capri and Ischia. Or you could even charter a boat to explore some of the hidden coves that are nestled beneath Sorrento’s cliffs.

Vesuvius in the Bay of Naples, Italy
Looking out towards Mount Vesuvius

The details

When to visit Sorrento

Sorrento’s main tourist season runs from Easter until October, but July and August are the busiest months so book well ahead. Summers in Sorrento are dry and sunny, but with average highs of 29°C/84°F it can get very hot in places like Pompeii which don’t have much shade.

Spring is a great time to visit Sorrento, with flowers in bloom, long sunny days and average high temperatures of 18–22°C/64–72°F. Autumn temperatures are similar, and the sea is warm for swimming into October, but rainfall peaks in November. Winter in Sorrento fairly mild, with daytime average highs of 13°C/55°F and lows of 4°C/39°F, but things wind down after Christmas with many shops and restaurants closing from January to March.

How to get to Sorrento

Sorrento is located around 50km or an hour’s drive south of Naples, where you’ll find the nearest airport. Though watch out for traffic along the way – especially at weekends and holidays when roads can be gridlocked. There’s no free parking in Sorrento and limited paid parking spaces, so if you’re bringing a car try to choose a hotel which has parking.

If you’re travelling from Naples to Sorrento by public transport, Curreri Viaggi buses run from Naples Capodichino airport or SITA local bus run from the city centre. You also take a Circumvesuviana or Campania Express (April–October only) train from Naples Garibaldi station, downstairs from the main Naples Centrale station where high-speed trains arrive from Rome and Milan. Trains from Naples to Sorrento take around 70 minutes.

Or for a more scenic option you can travel along the coastline by high-speed ferry* from Naples to Sorrento (April–October only), which takes around an hour. Ferries also connect Sorrento to Capri, Ischia, Salerno and the Amalfi Coast.

Where to stay in Sorrento

The Villa Oriana Relais* is a 20-minute downhill (and slightly longer uphill) walk to Sorrento town centre. It’s a friendly, family run boutique hotel surrounded by gardens, with terraces to relax on, six simply decorated, stylish rooms and tasty homemade breakfasts.

Or splash out on a luxurious stay at the Maison La Minervetta*. Owned by an architect and designer, it’s built into the cliffs above Marina Grande with multiple terraces to enjoy the views across the Bay of Naples. Rooms mix whitewashed walls with splshes of colour and nautical details, and there’s a whirlpool bath and access to a private beach.

Book your travel to Sorrento with Bookaway*

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The best things to do in Sorrento, the charming Italian town overlooking the Bay of Naples. #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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  • 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
      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
      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
    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
      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
      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
      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
    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
      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
      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!).

      • 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
      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
    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
      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
    November 24, 2014 at 8:24 am

    Love Italy, this one of the most beautiful coast !

    • Reply
      November 25, 2014 at 10:37 am

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

  • Reply
    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
      November 25, 2014 at 10:37 am

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

  • Reply
    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
      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
    May 10, 2017 at 1:24 am

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

    • Reply
      May 12, 2017 at 5:40 pm

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

  • Reply
    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
      May 31, 2017 at 10:11 pm

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

  • Reply
    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!


    • Reply
      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.

  • Reply
    September 11, 2018 at 2:06 am

    Great post! My husband and I are heading there for our 10 year anniversary the first week of October!!!

    • Reply
      September 11, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Have a fantastic time!

    • Reply
      Andrea Batchler
      September 16, 2018 at 11:35 pm

      Any recommendations for eating lunch in Sorrento having Celiac Disease?

  • Reply
    January 3, 2019 at 10:36 am

    You share some great tips regarding Sorrento, but regarding great beaches not far from the centre you must go to bagni maria giovanna which is a fantastic gem and also try to go to Nerano.

    • Reply
      January 7, 2019 at 9:16 pm

      Thanks for the tip!

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