Sorrento holidaysThe sample prices are per person based on two people travelling!
The official language here is Italian, and the Neapolitan dialect is spoken by many local people. Due to Sorrento’s decades-long popularity as a holiday destination, English is spoken by those in the tourist industry, as well as several other European languages including German.
Italy is a member state of the European Union, with the euro its official currency. Banks, currency exchange outlets and ATMs are easily found in the town and offer better exchange rates than hotel front desks. All major credit and debit cards are accepted at most outlets, with a combination of card for large purchases and cash for everyday needs the best strategy.
Citizens of EU and EFTA member states, including UK nationals, may enter Italy visa-free for an indefinite stay on production of an ID card or current passport. Nationals of the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand may also enter without a tourist visa for a stay of up to 90 days in any 180-day period, as may nationals of a list of other countries found on Italy’s immigration website. Nationals of countries not on the list should contact their nearest Italian embassy for visa details.
Summers in Sorrento are hot and humid, with daytime temperatures reaching 30°C in August, the hottest and driest month. If touring the many sites of interest in the area is on the holiday agenda, the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn may be preferable, as the weather is pleasantly warm and sunny but without the oppressive summer heat. May and late September highs average 22°C, with cooler nights, and many of the tourist facilities shut down by mid-October.
Naples International Airport, located in the city’s Capodichino district, around an hour’s drive along Naples Bay from Sorrento, is the main aviation gateway to the region. British visitors are well-served by a combination of full-service, low-cost and charter flights, with US tourists offered a direct flight from New York. Domestic routes run to Rome and other historic Italian cities.
Visitors from the UK can fly from London-Gatwick with British Airways, EasyJet, Thomas Cook or Thomson Airways, or from London-Stansted with EasyJet, which also offers routes from Bristol and Edinburgh. Thomson Airways seasonal flights from Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, East Midlands, Dublin and Glasgow are also offered, and Thomas Cook flies from Manchester. Meridiana Fly serves the New York route. The average flight time from London is just under 3 hours.
As with most routes to Mediterranean holiday destinations offered by low-cost and charter airlines, bargain flights can be found by regularly checking carriers’ websites. The shoulder seasons are the best times to bag a bargain, and last-minute all-inclusive charter deals can be had at little more than the price of a flight. Accommodation prices here are at their highest in July and August, with considerable reductions in the shoulder seasons. Local transport is by train, bus or taxi.
The train journey from London to Sorrento is inexpensive, comfortable, high-speed, scenic and doesn’t involve airport hassles or flight taxes. The trip begins with the Eurostar from London to Paris, which connects with the TGV express to Turin. After an overnight stay in Turin, take the high-speed train to Naples, followed by the Circumvesuviana train or a hydrofoil to Sorrento.
The main means of getting around Sorrento and its surrounding countryside are by bus, taxi or hire car, or on foot. The rail line to Naples stops at nearby places of interest, such as Pompeii, and local ferries and hydrofoils connect with Naples, Capri and southerly coastal towns. Local bus routes serve the main attractions and the main roads are kept in good condition, although the coast road south to Amalfi, clinging to sheer cliffs, is not for the faint-hearted.
The local bus network in Sorrento is cheap to use, comprehensive and covers most places of interest. The bright orange town buses run every 20 minutes on four routes, including the line C route from the town square to the Marino Piccolo ferry terminal. Local villages and outlying beaches are served by blue SITA buses and a regular open-topped tourist bus gives an overview of the town.
The local Circumvesuviana train line connects Sorrento with Naples, stopping at Pompeii and Herculaneum along the way, and running half-hourly during the tourist season. There’s also a charming, narrow-gauge vintage train service to Naples, but there is no train line running south from Sorrento along the famously beautiful Amalfi coastline due to its topography.
Car hire is easily arranged at Naples Airport or in Sorrento and gives visitors the freedom to roam the spectacular Sorrentino Peninsula at will. Roads in the region vary from good to narrow, single-lane tracks, and the cliffside coastal roads need care. During the summer season, the main roads to favourite destinations are busy and parking in Sorrento and the southerly coastal towns is often difficult to find. However, if you’re planning to tour the entire region during your holiday, the most practical way to travel is by car.
Sorrento’s historic centre is romantic and charming, with its narrow, winding streets and alleyways lined with old houses and quaint trattorias. The region is known for its Neapolitan architecture, and the town holds fine examples such as the cathedral, St Anthony’s Basilica and the Franciscan Monastery. Pretty Piazza Tasso, lined with small shops and eateries, leads to the pedestrianised old town and is a great place for people-watching.
Sorrento sits high on rugged cliffs overlooking the lovely Bay of Naples, and was a fishing town for centuries. It’s a centre for boat tours of the bay, with a relaxing full day at sea on a mini-cruise taking in views of the town and its rugged cliffs, the picturesque Amalfi coastal villages of Positano and Amalfi, their exclusive offshore islands and the rugged coastline of the Isle of Capri, once home to Roman emperors but now home to the rich and famous of the modern world.
Walking and hiking in the verdant hills or a visit to Punta del Capo at the head of the peninsula gets visitors away from the crowds and gives spectacular views as well as a ruined Roman settlement to explore. Networks of shepherds’ trails cross the peninsula, connecting tiny, traditional villages, and rougher trails higher in the mountains are marked in red by the local Alpine Club. Cycling and mountain biking can also be had here.
A must-do on a Sorrento holiday is a boat trip to Capri and a day spent exploring this iconic island. Capri Town is a picturesque hub for celebrities and upscale shopping, and the Blue Grotto sea cave is spectacular. Villa Jovis was the Roman Emperor Tiberius’s summer residence, and the hilltop village of Anacapri has the best views of all, right across to Mount Vesuvius on the mainland. The exclusive jewellery boutiques on the island are treasure troves of gold, precious stones and extravagant design.
While major landmarks such as ancient Pompeii lie within a 30-minute drive of Sorrento, the pretty town itself is full of interesting buildings and sites to discover. The town was first established as Surrentum in Roman times, in a region with strong connections to several Roman emperors, although all that remains is the Roman settlement and aqueducts on the Stabiae Road outside the town.
Sorrento’s two major architectural landmarks are the 11th century Cathedral with its 15th century façade, the Basilica of St Anthony and the St Francis Church. The Monastery of St Francis and its cloisters are a highlight, with the complex still a working monastery housing Franciscan monks.
The Archaeological Museum of Sorrento holds artefacts from Roman times, excavated on the Sorrentino Peninsula, giving a useful timeline of the region’s long history. The Museum Correale di Terranova is set in an imposing heritage building, formerly the Palazzo Correale, and contains displays of historic artefacts such as furniture, ceramics and local traditional artefacts from all periods. Lovely landscaped gardens and views across the bay are a bonus, as are the immediate surroundings of historic homes and pretty piazzas.
The Museo Bottega is the place to see antique examples of Sorrento’s most famous craft, marquetry. Practiced for centuries, the art of inlaying furniture and useful objects with stunning designs is at its zenith here. Hand-painted wallpaper also features, and the impressive 18th century palatial building boasts elegant frescoed vaults. Visitors have a fine choice of modern versions of the much-admired craft, perfect for souvenirs of a visit to Sorrento and as carefully made as the originals.
An important landmark is the 15th century Sedil Dominova, set close to the cathedral’s bell tower and displaying the coats of arms of the ancient aristocratic families of the town. Its dome is inlaid with brightly-coloured tiles and the structure is a quintessential part of Sorrento’s history and heritage. The town’s amazing natural landmark is the deep, wooded volcanic rift passing through its centre and containing an ancient mill at its deepest point, which is prettily illuminated at night. Several restaurants are right on the edge of the rift, giving a fascinating glimpse of its depths as well as great sea views.
Entertainment and nightlife in Sorrento may not be on the scale of Ibiza as there are few dance clubs and all-night venues, but there’s plenty to keep visitors happy until the early hours. An absolute favourite is the Teatro Tasso, a Neapolitan version of a cockney music hall serving up the Sorrento Musical nightly at 21:30. It’s a romantic - some might say sentimental - revue of the soulful Neapolitan-dialect ballads such as Torno a Suriento and O Sole Mio, made popular in the 20th century by Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza and a host of Italian operatic tenors up to the present day.
Bars, pubs, Café and trattorias are the main nightlife hubs in the town, ranging from the romantic through the semi-rural, to buzzing music haunts and elegant wine bars. The main square, Piazza Tasso, is the place to see and be seen, with half its area taken up by the somewhat pricey buy popular Fauno Bar, a major people-watching spot. Another Piazza Tasso haunt is the Fauno Notte club, offering a timeline of Neapolitan history through its music. For those missing their local pub, there are several good hostelries here which are popular with visitors and local expats alike.
Tucked away in the back streets or fronting the harbour are unpretentious watering holes which offer food as well as an authentic southern Italian experience away from the main tourist drag. A good, if pricey, option is the Filou Club’s piano bar, also a restaurant and a favourite hang-out for visitors and expat residents. For serious dance clubs and other rave venues, a trip to Naples is the only choice, although Artis Domus and Castore claim disco status as part of their other offerings, such as piano bars and cocktail lounges.
Neapolitan cuisine is one of the most-loved regional Italian cuisines in the world, and there’s far more to it than the ubiquitous pizza. Its roots go back to the Greco-Roman era, and the gastronomy embraces influences from the diverse cultures which controlled the Naples area over the centuries. Rural ingredients still dominate, with pasta the main carbohydrate and fresh vegetables, cheese seafood, meat and olive oil the main staples. Also present are tasty remnants of the local aristocratic cuisine, mostly based on rice or pasta and involving elaborate preparation.
Although meat or seafood are almost invariably parts of the main course of a meal, vegetarians won’t miss out on the local cuisine, with treats such as parmigiana di melanzane (aubergine pie baked with cheese and an oregano/tomato sauce) and peperoni ripiene (stuffed peppers). A surprising number of cheese recipes have survived from Roman times, and mozzarella di bufala is served with sliced tomatoes as an entree or in a salad. Less meat than seafood is eaten, with pork, lamb and especially tripe all favourites. Tripe may be frowned upon by visitors but served in a rich, herb-flavoured béchamel sauce, it’s delicious.
Now one of the world’s favourites, pizza was invented in Naples in the 16th century and was soon served everywhere including at the Royal court. The most-used seafoods are the cheaper fishes, shellfish and crustaceans, although tuna and shark steaks baked in a rich, herby tomato sauce are seen on many menus. Italian red and white wines accompany each meal, and the local lemon liqueur is perfect after a rich dessert, accompanied by a strong, black espresso coffee. If you’re in Sorrento in summer, don’t miss the delicious, tiny wood strawberries served with sugar and more of the lemon liqueur.
Sorrento lies along soaring, rugged cliffs, with several small, volcanic black sand beaches at their feet. The beach adjacent to the small Marina Piccola harbour is reached via a steep set of steps or a lift, and the sandy beach next to Marina Grande is a 15 minute stroll or short bus ride from the centre of town. Buses also run to Punto del Capo, a larger, pretty beach set to the south of the town, on the tip of the peninsula. Several attractive private beaches are available, although a day including a sunbed and umbrella can prove costly.
Even taking into account the summer crowds, Sorrento is one of Italy’s most romantic coastal destinations. In the balmy evenings, traditional Neapolitan ballads can be heard and the quiet streets of the historic centre are home to small bars and cafés which are perfect for a meal for two. A number of Sorrento hotels are set in lovely heritage buildings and drives along the beautiful coastline or into the hills end in charming villages with tiny local trattorias. Sunset watching from a harbourside café over a glass of local wine is as romantic as it gets!
Although Sorrento isn’t a great destination for families with small children due to its lack of family-friendly beaches, for those with older children there’s plenty of interest in town and at nearby historic sites such as the dramatic ruins of Pompeii, destroyed in a heartbeat when pyroclastic flows from erupting Vesuvius hit the Roman city 2,000 years ago. A visit to the smoking crater of Vesuvius which looms over Naples is just a short hydrofoil trip away, and the city has a good number of kids’ attractions, including a railway museum, zoo and amusement park.
Adventure holidays on the Sorrentino Peninsula are of the gentler nature, mostly concentrating on hiking, walking, trekking, cycling and sailing or boat trips. Sorrento has a dive centre which offer training and trips to various dive sites in the region, but its two small beaches aren’t well set-up for water sports. Hiking up the steep slopes of Mount Vesuvius to its crater makes for an energetic day, and mountain-biking on the higher slopes above Sorrento can be challenging but satisfying.