Sorrento is sunshine, palm trees, flowers;
the scent of citrus and the sea; the taste of limoncello.
Sorrento is a treat for the senses.
Sorrento is too often a short stop on the way to someplace else...... You may be going to Capri or the Amalfi Coast in the afternoon, and be given a couple of hours to see Sorrento, which is too bad. The town needs to be savoured - walking by the sea, lingering in sidewalk restaurants with a glass of wine, and wandering the streets to find hidden gems. It is the best of Italy in microcosm.
Almost every day of the summer cruise ships are anchored in the bay, and this is wonderful as you can take time to properly see Sorrento. You will be tendered to the docks that can be partly seen in the photo above. There will likely be a shuttle up to the main square - or city buses - or there is an elevator from the dock area to the town above if you walk down by the marina, and the top of the elevator is only a couple of blocks to the main square.
A Walk in Sorrento
If you have come to Sorrento by bus and have limited time, the walk shown above without going to the Marina Grande is approximately 2 km./1.25 miles, and going down to the marina will add another kilometer or .6 of a mile - return. If you come by bus, the parking area is close to the main square, Piazza Tasso. Your guide or driver will likely direct you there.
Just as you walk towards town from the bus parking place is a stone wall, with a small shop as a hole in the wall..... This is I Giardini di Cataldo - at certain times of the year it appears you can go into the lemon orchard, and they make and sell limoncello (the Sorrento Peninsula is the home of limoncello) and wonderful lemon flavoured gelato. Maybe visit on your return to the bus!
Go to the far right-hand end of the square and turn right. Walk a long block and the street curves - take the first street to the right. This is the top of the street in the picture to the left. There are stone walls on either side, but soon you come to a corner and a lookout, with benches. At the end of this viewpoint you can look down on the other end of the canyon and see the marina below. This is called the Marina Piccola (little), even if it is the largest marina. Here is where cruise ships' tenders come in, and boats go to Naples and to Capri (below left).
The square is named after Tarquato Tasso, and there is a statue of the poet there. Good restaurants can be found around the square, and the streets that lead off it are all interesting.
On the right side is an interesting view - a canyon down to the sea. Sorrento is perched high above the sea on steep cliffs. The road that you see in the canyon is the only road to the beach below.
Walk back to the first street where you see a small park and turn right. Walk around a curve and take the first street to the right, where you can see the sea ahead. On your right is a church, the Church of St. Francis of Assisi that dates to the early eighth century. It has a pleasant interior, with some precious art. Beside the church is the late 13th centure cloister, used for concerts and weddings. Look for bits of earlier structures - several of the corner columns came from pagan temples.
Walk past the church to the view of the sea. Before you come to the railing, to your left in this park area is the elevator that goes down to the Marina Piccola and the beach level.
Continue along the street closest to the sea (there are hotels usually between you and the cliff). In a block you come to another lookout, and a lovely quiet park called Piazza della Vittoria (below) overlooking the sea with a memorial at the center, a great place to sit and enjoy the ambience.
Here is a choice of routes.....
If you don't do hills and stairs, turn inland at a right angle from the sea until you come to the first busy shopping street - which is fun. Turn left on this street and it will take you back to the main city square. Read below to make sure you see all the sights!
If a hill and stairs don't bother you, for the second choice, walk down the street (call it a path) that goes between the park and the sea lookout. See the picture to the right, walking straight ahead.
Follow this path, called Via Marina Grande, around some twists and turns, and you will come to stairs and a steeper walk to go down to sea level.
Marina Grande is a picturesque fishing village, with restaurants, beach umbrellas, coloured buildings with washing out on the balconies built up the hills - Italy! In the picture beside looking towards the town of Sorrento, Marina Grande is in the foreground.
Beside is a picture of the beach and marina area. There is a restaurant out on the pier, as well as many more along the beach.
Go back to the town the way you came - there are other routes, but they take a lot longer and don't have much to see on the way.
When you get to the small park with the steps and memorial, go to the end of it and walk away from the sea until you come to the first busy shopping street (Via San Cesareo) - which is fun. Turn left on this street and it will take you back to the main city square.
Linger on this narrow street! There are wonderful stores selling local produce, liquors, arts and much more. Sample the limoncello!
One block up the street is an interesting small loggia - an open area with arches and a roof. It was built in the 1300's, and the noblemen met here to talk politics. There are little tables inside, and local men still meet here. On the walls are wonderful frescoes, not the originals, but replaced in the 18th century.
Down the street beside the loggia is the Sorrento Cathedral (Duomo), with an interesting bell tower. The interior is attractive and worth a view.
And now the last delight in Sorrento! When you get back to the main square, turn up the street opposite the view down into the canyon and the sea. The street is divided, with big trees in the center. Walk just one block and you are looking over the canyon again - this is called the 'Valley of the Mills', or 'Vallone dei Mulini'. Below is the old mill that was used from the 900's to grind flour. It has been abandoned since the mid-1800's. When the canyon was filled in to make the town square, the valley became very hot and humid as the winds no longer blew through it. Many rare ferns and mosses grow in this atmosphere, and the wreck of the old mill is a very interesting sight. Apparently there was a sawmill attached to it and in another place it says that there was a public wash-house used by the women of the village.
On your way back, visit the large store that you passed just as you left the square, on the treed street. It is called 'A. Gargiulo & Jannuzzi' and it has a wonderful selection of inlaid wood furniture and smaller items made in Sorrento, hand embroidered tablecloths, glass from Venice and lots of interesting things. Your guide, if you have one, may take you there.
To go back to the bus parking area, go towards the sea on the street at the east end of the square. The street curves around and the bus area is about two blocks.
If you have time and are early, continue down this street past the bus parking, and turn left at the next corner. Just past the corner is another view point, looking over the bay.
I hope you enjoy Sorrento and that this gives you a few different things to do on your visit!