Known for its craggy sea cliffs and sweeping views of the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is the birthplace of limoncello and is famed for its dramatic scenery. Unlike many nearby Amalfi Coast towns, Sorrento is a year-round destination, and is particularly wonderful in the slightly off seasons of spring and autumn. You’ll find lemon groves, hiking trails and a collection of historic buildings in this small city. The steep slopes it’s built on mean you get two spectacular viewpoints for the price of one: the first from the clifftops and the second from boat cruises on the sea. It’s a romantic city of narrow winding streets, with a gelato stand on every corner and history running through its core. Here are the best things to see and do in Sorrento, Italy.
In this narrow valley, the ruins of an old sawmill have been reclaimed by nature but are still visible for you to gaze down upon. This sawmill was strategically placed down in this mountain cleft to harness the waters that ran down the hillside, but abandoned in 1866. Unfortunately you can’t enter the mill and can only view it from the outside – but restoration work has begun to make it into a tourist attraction.
Sorrento’s museum of art and artefacts is a little out of the way, down a one-way street, so it’s not something tourists just stumble across. This, and the entry fee, keeps it quiet and you can wander the three floors of paintings and ceramics at your leisure. But perhaps the highlight of this museum are the gardens, which provide a captivating view of the sea. Large, sprawling and meticulously planned, the gardens are an attraction in themselves.
Originally built as a private villa in the 1930s, this beautiful building is now a centre for art and music. The white, American-style house is worth seeing on its own merit, but the rolling programme of events make this a must-visit destination. Art exhibitions and classical concerts are usually on the agenda, but there are other quirkier events too. Tickets need to be bought in advance, though walk-ins are possible for the exhibitions. Outside, the grounds feature landscaped gardens and additional outdoor events.
This former seat of power was originally built as a place for local officials to meet and discuss the issues and hopes for the town. Today, you can visit to view the original frescoes and intricate architecture, but locally it’s still used as a different kind of meeting place. There’s a restaurant on site, and Sorrento’s residents congregate here for coffees and games of cards, and to talk about the issues of the day.
You’re likely to wander past this church without thinking much of it, as it looks like a fairly ordinary whitewashed building from the outside and not much like a church at all. Step inside and you’ll see how wrong you were: the arched, collonaded nave is rimmed with gold leaf and marble, while the ceiling is adorned with paintings. No one is sure exactly when it was built, and some stories say that Saint Antonio himself – who Sorrento is named after – built it, but that’s highly unlikely. Whatever its origins, this stunning basilica is one of Sorrento’s most unexpected beauties.
This area of coast by the Roman ruins has been transformed into a relaxing haven for sunbathers and cooling dips in the crystal-clear sea. There’s a series of sunbathing platforms on the stone piers, with direct access into the sea via ladders. The historic setting makes a picturesque place to spend an afternoon and everything you need is right here. For a price, you can hire sunbeds for the day, and there’s a bar and restaurant to keep you topped up for hours.
Villa Comunale is Sorrento’s public park, and a quiet place to stroll between stone busts of Sorrento’s most famous residents through the ages. Buy an ice cream and sit on a bench for a while, enjoying the peace and taking in the breathtaking views of the crystalline sea. When you’ve rested up, take an elevator all the way down to the sea, or go on a slow walk down to the marina and watch the boats come in.
After you’ve explored Sorrento, why not head to Naples where you can discover the top attractions. See the coolest neighbourhoods to stay in, or choose one of these hotels, now bookable via Culture Trip. Wherever you stay, you’ll want to try out these local bars.
This is a rewrite of an article originally by Gillian McGuire.
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