The large town of Sorrento is a very popular destination with both Italian and overseas visitors attracted by its impressive location and it is a lively regional centre and resort. It is located on the western coast of Italy, south of Naples on the Sorrento peninsula and in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
You should be aware that although Sorrento is established as a resort it does not have a beach that is easy to reach in the town itself.
There is little in the way of major sights to discover in Sorrento itself, apart from Sorrento Cathedral but the resort has been established for a very long time, almost 200 years, and as a result it is a very pleasant place to stroll around, to relax and to explore.
Note that although tourism is the key industry here it has not been spoiled by the number of visitors and remains a very pleasant base for your travels in the region, and it is significantly cheaper to stay and eat here than, for example, along the Amalfi Coast to the south.
Start your visit in the central square, Piazza Tasso, that overlooks the deep gorge that divides the town and acts as a hub for your wanderings through the surrounding streets here in the old part of Sorrento. Part of the town centre is pedestrianised and the town's position on a clifftop ensures you will often come across attractive views out to sea.
The cathedral has stood in this location in Sorrento since the 1th century, although most of what we see today is a 16th century rebuild following an invasion by the Turks in 1538 that destroyed the earlier structure.
Pass between the marble columns of the attractive facade of the cathedral to enjoy the interior decoration, including the beautifully painted ceiling above the transept (painted in the 17th century), the paintings inside the dome (early 20th century) and also the ornate decorative features above the nave (early 18th century).
The cloister of Saint Francis is also very pretty, especially when all the lovely purple bougainvillea are in flower.
Early evening in Sorrento is a particularly pleasant time to join in the national Italian pastime - an evening strolll. After ambling around the old town finish your wanderings at Villa Comunale perhaps, with a terrace where you can enjoy the lovely views out to sea.
More great views can be found in the gardens at Palazzo Correale (which also contains a small local museum) and from the small Chiesa di San Francesco next to the Villa Communale.
Note that because of its clifftop position Sorrento does not have easy access to local beaches, and while you might be just as happy with a nice view to Mount Vesuvius instead, your children might be less convinced... There are a couple of very small beaches in the town such as at Marina Grande, but you are likely to prefer to head a little way out of Sorrento itself if you are planning to spend the day at the beach.
One local alternative is the beach a couple of kilometres west of Sorrento (follow Via Capo) around the ruins of an ancient Roman villa.
Places to visit near Sorrento
Much of the appeal of Sorrento as a travel destination arises from the number of interesting and scenic highlights that are in close proximity to the town. These include:
- The scenic highlights of the Amalfi coast
- The island of Capri, with Ischia and Procida only a little further - ferries are available from Sorrento to all these islands
- Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii
- The Temple at Paestum
- Naples - a down to earth town and not really a 'tourist attraction' but worth visiting anyway (accessible by ferry from Sorrento if you don't have a car)
Note that if you are here without a car it is possible to get ferries to most of the popular highlights nearby such as Capri, Ischia, Positano and Amalfi from the marina in Sorrento. The clifftop position of Sorrento probably gives you a clue that there are quite a lot of steps between the marina and the town centre!
There are also several pretty little villages closer to hand, and which are very pleasant to explore such as Vico Equense, Massa Lubrense and Sant'Agata. The walk to the abbey of Il Deserto south of Sorrento from Sant'Agata has also been recommended to us (but not until after we had returned home!)
You can find more local travel ideas in the Campania guide.