Known in all over the world as the Land of Sirens, motherland of the '500 famous Italian poet Torquato Tasso, ideal location for artists and writers who want to reawaken their splendour and find new inspiration for the creation of new works, historical destination for famous authors like Wagner, Ibsen, Nietzsche, Browning and Caruso, Sorrento surprises everyday with its enchanting landscapes not only the occasional visitors, but even those who steadily live in the coast
The earliest settlements in Sorrento Coast go back to the era of the Greek and Phoenician populations; nevertheless, in virtue of its geographical beauties, the Coast was soon conquered by the Romans, who shared its fate until the Fall of the Kingdom and the subsequent invasion of the northern populations.
In the IX century, then in the Middle Age, the city of Sorrento succeeded in getting free from the various pretensions of dominations and government, by constituting into a Dukedom. The Duchy of Sorrento expanded its protectorate in the whole peninsula, succeeded into making some activities bloom like the trade, the production of citrus trees, wine and shipyards. In 1100 the Duchy became a protectorate of the Norman Kingdom, which let Sorrento be safeguarded from the numerous raids by pirates and Longobards.
The year 1544 will be remembered with pride by any citizen and visitor of the city: from Bernard and Porzia De' Rossi, Torquato Tasso was born in Sorrento. He is the author of the famous poetical work "Gerusalemme Liberata" and one of the most important poets that the Italian literary tradition still adorns itself with possess.
After a period of devastating internal fights, after having suffered a violent invasion by the Turkish, from the XVIII century Sorrento became a privileged location of the European Grand Tour of the greatest personalities of the foreign culture, thanks to its mild climate and its extremely luxurious nature. Throughout the '800, extraordinary personalities like Lord Byron, Goethe, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Keats, Wagner and Dickens have lived in Sorrento. Nowadays the Sorrento Coast is a destination chosen as holiday place by personalities of the variety show, politicians and artists from any part of the world.
The city of Sorrento and its neighbouring cities, provides the tourist numerous historical and cultural sites to visit.
The Basilica of Saint Antonino
Erected during the X Century in honor of the patron saint of the sailors, the Basilica of Saint Antonino stands in the historical centre of the city, in front of the Municipal House (Town Hall). The history of this famous church is as interesting as troubled: in 1300 it became the residence of the "Battenti Brotherhood", or better a heretical movement that took its first steps in Naples, while in the XVII century an impressive restoration has been carried out by the Theatin Brothers, a religious institute of consecrating life.
The impressive building has been erected in the XI century and it numbers among its beauties some frescos of renowned Neapolitan artists. At the top of the tower you can admire an excellent clock tiled with majolica.
The Cloister of San Francesco
The most delicious among the Sorrento monuments is certainly the Cloister of San Francesco. Being renovated many times, the Cloister shows a characteristic mixture of architectural styles, which go from the late gothic to the Renaissance, while the adjoining dining hall preserves all its trecento peculiarities.
Correale Museum of Terranova
In a wonderful palace that overlooks the Gulf of Naples, by the central Lauro Square, it's housed the Correale Museum, which, among its rarities, numbers a singular collection of inlaid furniture, majolics and ceramics of Capodimonte, as well as different paintings of Neapolitan artists.
It's an ancient building in which the old nobility of the town used to gather in order to legislate and make important decisions in administrative and economic fields. The monuments is enriched with a glazed dome that encloses the arcade.
Tastiness of ravello
The specialities that protray the Sorrento and Amalfi cooking are strictly referable to the infinite variety of products that the land provides. The traveller who find himself to walk the streets of the coast will be enchanted by the fragrances and the aroma that burst out from the thousand vineyards, the grapeyards and the gardens full of orangegroves and lemons. Nevertheless the sea represents an inexhaustible source to draw from; undisputed protagonists of the tables are fishes and crustaceans (boiled lobster, even cooked with tomatoes, braised octopus, fried crayfishes o frigged in a light breading). The cooking art of the Italians, you know, enjoys a worldwide reputation, but, among the many traditional specialities of the peninsula, there are some that have become a real symbol of the Italian cousine in the foreign countries. Among these, the "Gnocchi alla Sorrentina" occupy a privileged position. Even if the invention of this recipe must be ascribed to the culinary talent of this people (as clearly shows the name of the dish), it isn't often underlined that the carrying out of this course is attached to its original land. Indeed, the basis and the secret of the "gnocchi" are the local tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, which lend this recipe a particular taste that even the most popular chef can't imitate without the original ingredients.
Among the parallel activities, Sorrento is different to the other cities also for the production of wine, whose qualities a lot of writers have talked about, like Plinius, Stabone, Galeno and the Italian Mario Soldati. In extremely limited areas they produce three different varieties of wine: Lettere, Sorrento and Gragnano, which most of the people consider "the traditional wine of the real Neapolitan people".
Anyway, the primacy among the typical liqueurs is certainly up to the limoncello, a liqueur produced in small craftmade laboratories with alcohol, sugar, water and lemon fragrance, often got by grating the peel of the delicious citrus. Limoncello is usually served frozen as a digestive liqueur at the end of a meal, especially in small tiled grasses, frozen themselves.
The centre of Sorrento, Corso Italia and Tasso Square, are studded with a considerable number of shops, which sweep from the handicraft to the typical products; notwithstanding this, the pulsating heart of the trade is the small and narrow San Cesareo Street, where the opportunities to find what you wish to give a friend and oneself are multiplied.
A stage that cannot be disregarded for those who have decided to spend some time in Sorrento is a visit to the inlaid artists' store. This is an old practise born in town, which during the centuries has extended in the whole region.
The art of marquetry is extremely old, and seems it grew up in Asia. The process consists in the assemblage of small pieces of wood of different origin and colour (walnut, olive, holly, orange) previously shaped in order to create a final more or less complicated design. In the second half of the XIX Century a cultured tradition of the tarsia develops and harden, which tradition found in that century its best splendour in Sorrento, as to be pointed out as a special production of the land: the Sorrento Tarsia. Nowadays, if you need an inlaid object to present, you are definitely spoiled for choice; the array sweeps from the furniture to the smallest box.
As referred to the purchase of gastronomical presents, beside the above mentioned limoncello, a very singular gift could be the walnut liqueur, a variety of the area liqueur that is extracted from the walnuts of Sorrento, abundantly cultivated in this region, and from coffee-beans.
If there's something you can always find in Sorrento, this is certainly the chance to lodge. If your goal is to book a vacation in Sorrento, be sure you're going to have an endless range of options to consider. First you can choose to stay in one of the numerous hotel accommodations, having daily excursions in the manifold interesting sites and choosing the accommodation itself according to your budget and your needs, from the bed and breakfast to the five stars hotel. Otherwise, if your passion is being as much as close to nature, you can choose one of the various farm holidays of the area, as to have the chance to find out the gastronomical richness of the peninsula. Then, whatever is your idea of holidays, you'll find in the Coast the destination of your dreams.
Sorrento and the neighbouring cities get frequently busy of many cultural happening ranging over different fields, from the eno-gastronomy to religious ceremonies, from the historical commemorations to the concerts. And it's often the music the common denominator of any event, some of those, as the Sorrento Music Summer Festival, having a real international distinctive feature. Among the artist who took turns on the stage during the latest editions we can number Renato Sellani, Eva Steischaden, Uto Ughi (honorary chairman of the event). Instead, for those who like the jazz smoky and relaxing mood, from July to September you can attend the "Sorrento Jazz Festival" in the Cloister of San Francesco, or better an happening of refined music which has given hospitality to a lot of lofty exponents of the Italian and International scene, as Scott Hamilton, Rossano Sportiello, as well as the Italian rising star of the Trumpet Fabrizio Bosso.
In the enchanting scenery of the" Sea Theatre", on the seaside of the Marina Piccola, yearly takes place Sorrento Great Events, which has come to the XII edition. Even in this case International exponents take turn with leading features of the local scene as Toquinho, André De La Roche and Vincenzo Salemme (an important Italian actor).
From music to the wide screen: from 1963 takes place in Sorrento the International Meeting of Movies, during which Italian and International movies are awarded and presented for the first time.
Among the festivals which intend to gladden the palate of the tourists, it's impossible not to remember the Lemon Festival, where rivers of limoncello ad lemon cream alternate to the tasting of the sweet cake named "Delizia", the September Grape Festival, which suggests wines obtained by the many vineyards of the Area, and the Sausage Festival.
Sorrento offers its visitors numberless opportunities of delight, both during the day and the night, like polished open space coffee bars, typical "trattoria", disco and outdoor places. After an aperitif in the central Tasso Square, it's good to spend a romantic dinner in one of the many restaurants, accompanied by typical Neapolitan live music. And by night, young people can go wild in the poshiest discos in South Italy, while adults who don't love confusion can take a walk and do shopping in the typical shops open until late. The host's duty is guaranteed and the local people's liking will persuade you to come back as soon as possible.
How to get there
Thanks to its ideal position, half way from the cities of Naples and Salerno, Sorrento Coast is quickly reachable by all means of transport, from Italy or foreign counties.
For those who come to Sorrento from the North of Italy, it's is recommended to drive along the Highway A1 up to Naples, to go on the Highway A3 with direction Salerno, then to go out in Castellammare di Stabia and drive along the State Road Number 145, which passes through the most popular cities of the Coast. For those who come from the South, even in this case it is strictly suggested to go along the Highway A3. Suggested way out: Castellammare di Stabia.
Sorrento and the other towns of the coast (Vico Equense, Meta, Piano di Sorrento, S.Agnello) are quickly connected by the Circumvesuviana Private Railway. The railway station of Naples Piazza Garibaldi is located exactly at the lower level of the Central Station; for those who want to use this mean the direction to follow is Sorrento.
The sea connections to Sorrento leave from the quay of Beverello in Naples, in the neighbourhood of the Castle of Maschio Angioino. The hydrofoils are faster than the ferries, which usually are twice as slower than the former and the frequency of departure is highest in the summertime.
The Airport of Naples Capodichino (NAP) provides a connection towards the most popular Italian and foreign cities, with airliners or low-cost companies. In the large square in front of the airport you can find a daily connection with the city of Sorrento carried out by Curreri Travel (ph. 0039.081.8015420).
The nearest intercontinental Airport is Roma Fiumicino (FCO), from which it's possible to swiftly reach the city of Naples, and consequently the Sorrento Coast with different options (Train, Flight, Bus).