Sorrento ideal base to visit Amalfi Coast
Serene Sorrento, wedged on a ledge under the mountains and over the sea, is a great springboard for sightseeing along Italy’s Amalfi Coast. Just an hour south of wild and crazy Naples, calm and genteel Sorrento makes an ideal home base for daytripping around the region (Pompeii, Positano and Capri are well within reach). And every night you can return “home” to Sorrento to enjoy its elegant vibe while sorting through its fine restaurant options.
Sorrento itself has no world-class sights, but residents are proud of their unspoiled old quarter, lively shopping street and spectacular cliffside setting. The town’s back streets give a peek at its rich culture and long history, which stretches back to Greek times. The original Greek street plan survives, running east-west for the most sunlight and north-west to catch cooling breezes. It’s perfect for the evening passeggiata, with everyone out walking and enjoying the fresh air.
All around town, tiny shrines dedicated to the Virgin Mary decorate walls. But even as Italians venerate Mary — and Italian men venerate their mothers — Italian men have built women-free zones into their lives. One such place in the old town is the Sorrento Men’s Club, a one-room, open-air hall where men — and only men — congregate to play cards and gossip under a frescoed 16thcentury dome.
From the old center, an ancient lane zigzags down to Marina Grande, Sorrento’s classic harbor. Until recently, the harbor’s little community was famously traditional, with its economy based on its fishing fleet. Fathers still pass down their houses and fishing boat stalls to their sons. Today, a raft of restaurants serve fresh fish and Sorrentine specialties along the inviting waterfront; this is the place to dig into an “everything but the net” risotto while watching the sun’s last rays fall over the rooftops.
Lemons are everywhere in Sorrento; there’s even a fragrant lemon grove right in the town center. Every other shop seems to be lemon yellow and sells lemon biscuits, lemon pasta, lemon drops, lemon soap ... and limoncello. This distinctive liqueur gets its neon-yellow color from the skins of locally grown lemons. Although it’s commercially produced for sale to tourists, most families make their own from a wellguarded recipe, handed down through the generations.
For a great day trip from Sorrento, catch a boat to the isle of Capri. First made famous as the vacation hideaway of the Roman emperors, Capri was also a favorite stop for Romantic