Sor­rento ideal base to visit Amalfi Coast

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - REAL ESTATE -

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

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