Sorrento is just an hour south of Naples and without a hint of big-city chaos, serene Sorrento makes an ideal home base for exploring this fascinating region, from Naples to the Amalfi Coast to Paestum. Wedged on a ledge under the mountains and over the Mediterraean, spritzed by lemon and olive groves, Sorrento is an attractive resort of 20,000 residents and, in summer, just as many tourists.
It’s a well located for regional sightseeing as it is a fine place to stay and stroll. The Sorrentines have gone out of their way to create a completely safe and relaxed place for tourists to come and spend money. As 90 percent of the town’s economy is tourism, everyone seems to speak fluent English and work for the Chamber of Commerce. This gateway to the Amalfi Coast has an unspoiled old quarter, a lively main shopping street, and a spectacular cliff-side setting. Residents are proud of the many world-class romantics who’ve vacationed here, such as the famed tenor Enrico Caruso, who chose Sorrento as the place to spend his last weeks in 1921.
Sorrento itself has no world-class sights, but can easily give you a few pleasant hours. More importantly, Sorrento is a fine base for visiting Naples (by boat or train); Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Mount Vesuvius (by train, plus bus for Vesuvius); the Amalfi Coast (by bus), and the island of Capri (by boat). All of these destinations, only Paestum’s Greek temples are a little hard to reach from Sorrento, and even they can be seen in a long day. Downtown Sorrento is long and narrow. Piazza Tasso marks the town’s center. The main drag, Corso Italia runs parallel to the sea, passing 50 yards below the train station, through Piazza Tasso, and then out toward the cape, where the road’s name becomes Via Capo. The town is perched on a cliff (some hotels have elevators down to sundecks on the water); the best real beaches are a couple of miles away.
Sorrento has two different port areas: The Marina Piccola, below Piazza Tasso, is functional harbor with bots to Naples and Capri, as well as cruise-ship tenders. (While the big cruise ships dock in Naples, smaller ships drop anchor at Sorrento). The Marina Grande, below the other end of downtown, is like a little fishing village, with recommended restaurants and more charme.
Sorrento already existed when Rome was founded and gave its name to the peninsula that separates the Gulf of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno. At the end of the first millennium was a duchy , with its own currency and stretched initially by the Sarno River at the end of the peninsula, Punta Campanella . Later Massa Lubrense became independent in 1467 under Ferdinand I of Aragon , Piano, with a decree signed by Joseph Bonaparte, Meta under the Bourbons, November 27, 1819 and Sant’Agnello by decree of the Kingdom of Italy December 10, 1865. In ancient times Sorrento had an agricultural and maritime economy.
In the second millennium were born cultivation of mulberry trees for silk production, nuts and citrus fruits. Thanks to the latter, the Sorrento Peninsula has become the “land where the lemon trees bloom“ that today are used to produce the famous “limoncello“ , appreciated all over the world. It‘s hard to find a family that lives on the Sorrento coast that does not have some kind of involvement with the sea. In the sites of Sorrento, Piano, Meta and Vico Equense there are shipyards, and in 1838 were
launched over 216 boats like the famous Sorrento boat called “gozzo” that is still built using traditional methods passed down from father to son. Marina Grande has for centuries been the place where these boats are mainly used by fishermen, are built and moored in the Marina doing a thriving village where ancient traditions live side by side with the tourism.
During the era of the Grand Tour in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries , Sorrento has attracted a large number of visitors between politicians , authors and artists who have immortalized this earth in verse and pictures. In his “Travels in the Two Sicilies “. Written towards the end of the eighteenth century , the Englishman Henry Swinburne has described the enchanting scenery and artistic treasures of Sorrento.
The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche has found the city beneficial to his health, and he was in Sorrento Richard Wagner completed his “Parsifal”. The greatest Russian artist of the nineteenth century , Silvester Shchedrin , whose paintings of the sea and the land of Sorrento can be found in some of the most prestigious museums in the world , died and was buried in Sorrento in 1830.
During his second stay in the birthplace of the poet Torquato Tasso, in November 1932 Maxim Gorky founded a Russian colony.
The Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen stayed here twice finding inspiration for his “Peer Gynt“ and “ The Ghost” . Many painters have found subjects for their works on the Sorrento Peninsula, as well as the works of many writers and poets have been inspired by the beauty of the landscape.
Of course, Sorrento has also inspired many singers and songwriters .“ Come back to Sorrento “ , here composed by G. B. De Curtis was and is sung by all the great, both in Italy and abroad. Many other songs were composed by great poets and musicians, including Lucio Dalla “Caruso”, the poet Aniello Califano (“Serenata a Surriento “, “ ‘ O surdato ‘nnamurato “ ) was from Sorrento like the musician Salvo D’Esposito (“Anema e Core “, “ Me so ‘ mbriacato ‘e sole”) .
The great Enrico Caruso stayed in Sorrento in search of peace and to recover from his illness . Sorrento can offer accommodation for more than eleven thousand people in over a hundred structures including hotels , resorts, campings and B&B. There are several hotels “five star”, “historical hotels“ and a conference center among the best in Italy.
The sea represents for Sorrento an opportunity of life and development. Sorrento is an integral part of the marine reserve Punta Campanella, born to protect marine flora and fauna and for the defense of the sea fishing, one of the tradition in our collective cultural heritage. Sorrento is also the place where the maritime services is in expansion and upgrading of the coastal areas is already underway.
This will not only encourage new routes for tourism, but also to experience the sea aboard a traditional “gozzo sorrentino”.
TYPICAL BOAT “GOZZO”
The gozzo, depicted in so many paintings of the Gulf of Naples, has elements that have been its distinguishing features since the paintings by F. Bayard from the beginning of the 19th century. In length they are normally between 27 and 32 Neapolitan “hands” (a “hand” = 26.4 cm), whilst the prow and stern are wedge shaped, sharply tapered and very similar in how they cut through the water. The gozzo was also described as “a menaide”, after the type of fishing net most commonly used at that time. The “gozzo a menaide” fished mainly for blue fish: sardines, anchovies and pilchards. By fishing with two smaller and lighter gozzi and a “castaurellara” net - a circular net that doesn’t reach the sea bed, saury could be caught. These gozzi had to be particularly swift and light in order to quickly approach shoals of fish, normally marked by seagulls or dolphins.
From the 1930s onwards, Sorrentine gozzi have been equipped with motors and with the boom in the 1960s the gozzo has become a pleasure craft for sea lovers. A tradition that becomes more and more consolidated as the years go by takes us to Marina Grande in Sorrento, where fairly large boatyards still build these boats in wood or in fibreglass and wood, bringing together past and future in a unique emotion.
MUSEUM CORREALE DI TERRANOVA
A visit to the Correale Museum arouses great interest and attention in those who are passionate of art: the collection of paintings range from the XV to the XIX centuries, the nucleus constituted by the collection of still life from the Neapolitan school of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries and the museum documents the ancient historical roots of the city of Sorrento, the collection of pieces of furniture and caskets made from rare and exotic wood, give testimony to the typical local craftsmanship. But the Correale shines even more because it holds the precious jewels that once adorned the various abodes of noble families: cabinets veneered of ebony or turtle, valuable products of Neapolitan ebony from the seventeenth century, eighteenth century chests enriched with settings of gilded bronze and shelves of marble; precious pieces of chinoiserie furniture of English manufacture from the first quarter of the eighteenth century, and French, German and Swiss watches mounted in gilded bronze and inlaid with mother of pearl and hard stones; Murano glass, Bohemian crystal, fabrics, majolica and porcelain.
MUSEO BOTTEGA DELLA TARSIALIGNEA
The building that houses the Museobottega stands on via S. Nicola, the historical part of the town, and is part of an ancient urban nucleus. Its eighteenth century structure is typical of a provincial townhouse.
The Museobottega is a polyfunctional structure designed to requalify those sectors of the decorative arts which have not only a past worthy of being recorded with the work of local master craftsmen produced during the nineteenth century but also with new techniques of design which characterize the local production in inlaid wood.
In Romanic style it dates back to the 15th century. Amongst other things the church houses paintings by artists from the Neapolitan school of the 1700s, and wooden marquetry work of Sorrentine craftsmen.
HOUSE OF TASSO
On the right-hand side of the road which leads from the F. S. Gargiulo Square to the Vittoria Square is the house where Torquato Tasso, was born in 1544.
The only part of the Greek defensive wall still remaining is under the road at the new Parsano Gate. Another ruin of the Greek wall is the Gate of Marina Grande. The Roman town was built over the Greek one following the same urban plan with walls of large isonomic blocks. These walls stood to defend Sorrento through the Middle Ages. Rebuilding began in 1551 and was only completed in 1561 after the Turkish invasion.
PARSANO GATE “BASTIONE”
The gate called Porta di Parsano is the only one which is still visible in its original context. Created during the 18th century, this gate was the beginning of a series of urban transformations culminating in the opening of Corso Italia, the creation of Piazza Tasso and, during the last century, Via degli Aranci. After restorations the Gate is visitable.
CHURCH AND CLOISTER OF ST. FRANCIS
The monastery’s origin dates from the first half of the 7th century. The cloister’s architecture presents crossed arches in tufo on two sides of the portico, expressing the style of the late 1300s and substituted on the other two sides by round arches on octagonal pilasters. Next to the convent is the church of St Francis which dates to the 16th century.
PORTA SEAT AND DOMINOVA SEAT
The Dominova Seat can be admired in its entirety thanks also to its recent restoration. Walking along Via S. Cesareo a pleasant shopping street, the Dominova Seat stands out, its massive size testifying to its glorious past. The Porta Seat was rebuilt in the XVI century at the corner of the Tasso Square where Via S. Cesareo now begins.
CISTERNS OF SPASIANO
When founding their cities, the Romans first of all prepared their sewer and water supply systems. The complex of underground terminals that collected drinking water for Surrentum, the “cisterns of Spasiano” were used right up to the 1970s for our town’s water supply, representing a considerable example of hydraulic engineering from Roman times. A monument that is not only worthy of being safeguarded as part of our heritage, but above all to be seen and still used nowadays as a perfect venue for cultural events.
REGINA GIOVANNA BATHS
The Bath is one of the places richest in magical stories and full of charm. From Capo di Sorrento there is a narrow street with walls covered in ivy. Along a path in the shade of vines and orange trees, one can reach in a slope towards the sea, Regina Giovanna baths .At the visitor presents a spectacle of rare beauty: a large natural basin connected to the sea by a narrow gap between the rocks. The space on the hill is occupied by the remains of a magnificent Roman villa, built at the time of Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) and belonged to Pollio Felice. According to the legend it was here that frequently came away from indiscreet eyes. Giovanna II D’Angio Durazzo, one of the most scandalous sovereigns to ever sit on the throne of Naples.
These ruins are one of the most fascinating of the Sorrento Peninsula was discovered in 1624 by Giovanni Vinaccia. Partially open, you can see the underground connecting the annex with the villa above. No other villa of this period has been described in detail , such as this , in the verses by Statius . Like other sea villas in the Roman era, has a harbor and an “ eel fishery“ for the breeding of fish and a nymph . From the villa there is a passage on the rocks where you can swim in crystal clear waters.