Better connected and easier to reach than the Amalfi Coast from major cities like Rome and Florence, Sorrento makes a perfect base to explore this popular region in southern Italy. Instead of multiple clumsy steps involving trains and buses or private transfers, Sorrento is a straight shot on high-speed trains to Naples. From there it is only a few local train stops on the Circumvesuviana from Naples, especially if you take the charmingly named direttissimo. From Naples airport, the easiest option is a direct bus. Sorrento is also well connected by sea and in the summer months from the port with daily departures to Naples, Capri, Ischia, and Amalfi and to Procida three days a week.
The high cliffs of Sorrento make for some dramatic views over the bay of Naples and towards the Amalfi Coast and toward Capri. The popular sunset spot is the Villa Communale Park, a large public park with benches and a small cafe. Splurge for a drink on the terrace or roof deck at one of the five-star hotels. Head to La Marinella which has a spectacular overlook in nearby Sant’Agnello.
This gem of a museum is located on the seaside edge of town in what was once a private home of the Correale family. Meander through the 24 rooms scattered over four floors that are filled with family treasure including ceramics, furniture, paintings and an impressive collection of clocks. There is a lovely garden with old growth trees and plenty of benches to sit for a spell.
The art of marquetry has a long history in Sorrento dating back to the aristocratic age of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, when local artisans created detailed inlaid items for the royal palaces. Known as intarsio in Italian, you will see examples all over town. If you would like some background, visit the Museo Muta in the historic center. The collection which covers both antique and modern examples is housed in a 18th-century palazzo. There are also weekend and weeklong courses if you would like to learn for yourself.
Piazza Tasso is the main square in Sorrento. Named after the 17th-century poet, the square is a busy meeting point bounded by cafés and the Baroque Church del Carmine and the Palazzo Correale. The main shopping district also starts from here.
From the main square, Piazza Tasso looks down over the edge of a deep gorge into the Valley of the Mills, or Vallone dei Mulini. These now derelict mills once processed flour and wood for the area. A microclimate creates a lush green scene. Walk down the ramps on Via Fuorimura for another viewpoint for these picaresque ruins.
These beautiful cloisters are a popular wedding venue so you are like to spot newlyweds on a summer visit here. Once a 14th-century monastery, there are baroque arches and plenty of greenery that create a romantic atmosphere that is open to the public. Look out for temporary exhibits on the second floor.
Sorrento is a terrific shopping destination. The main shopping streets in town are the Corso Italia and Via San Cesareo. You will find boutiques selling custom, made-to-measure sandals, intricate woodwork, hand painted ceramics, and an entire range of items made from the regions famous lemons.
The remains of this once lavish Roman villa built next to the sea are now a popular swimming spot with clear aquamarine waters and rocky patches to put your towel. You can walk from town, which takes about 45 minutes, or take a short bus ride. From the road, there is a cobblestone path and a long set of steps down to the water. Take the narrow wooden bridge and find a small café for a drink or a light meal.
Explore what is underneath the deep clear water at the Vervece island dive site. There is a submerged statue of the Madonna that protects area divers who decorate her with flowers on the feast of the Assumption on August 15. The area is rich with colorful corals, fish, and red starfish.
Spend a day hiking in one of the numerous nature areas that dot the Sorrentine peninsula. Italy serves as a bridge for trans-Saharan migrations and the best time to spot these visitors, mostly a range of warblers, is from April to July. Indigenous to the area are the raptor species, kestrel and peregrine falcons.
Easter marks the beginning of the tourist season on the Sorrento coast. The most solemn of ceremonies take place on Holy Thursday and Good Friday with candlelit processions of hooded penitents.