Sorrento is often the starting point for a trip to the beautiful Amalfi Coast, as from here you can easily visit Pompeii, Capri, Ischia, Naples, Positano, Amalfi and more destinations by ferry/ hydrofoil and in some cases by bus or private transfers. Read on for what to do in Sorrento, suggested day trips and where to eat and drink, including some great rooftop bars and terraces with a view!
What to do in Sorrento
Sorrento is a pretty town perched on the hill above the bay of Naples. It’s known for its spectacular views, the Piazza Tasso, the artisanal shopping (see below, but which consists of primarily inlaid wood, leather goods and limoncello). The historic centre and the marinas are well worth a visit but be prepared for some uphill climbs!
Visit the historic centre
Much of the charm of a visit to Sorrento is in simply wandering through the pedestrian streets and shopping areas. Most of the historic centre is within a 500m radius of the main Tasso Square, which is also a great place to stop for a coffee or aperitif! There are a few small museums in Sorrento, and some churches, as well as the Cathedral. There is also a wide array of bars and restaurants which cater for most tastes and budgets!
Visit the harbour and or go to the beach
Sorrento has two harbours and contrary to the names, Marina Piccola is the larger marina and the starting point for ferry and hydrofoil trips whereas Marina Grande is a small fishing port on the opposite side of Sorrento. (Is it any wonder I went to the wrong harbour in Capri!).
Marina Grande is Sorrento’s traditional fishing harbour and is a pretty setting where you can relax in one of the bathing areas or enjoy a drink/ snack at one of the restaurants or cafés at the water’s edge.
Sorrento is not famed for its sandy beaches and indeed beach access is very restricted. There is a very small public beach area at Marina Grande, but otherwise you have to pay for access to one of the beach clubs, which have a small waterfront area and sun loungers and umbrellas.
My favourite was the ristorante bagni sant anna, which was located on the pier, so there was no direct beach access, but the setting was beautiful and it was a delight to be served food while you sunbathe! It cost 20€ per day for two sunbeds and an umbrella, but you could stay all day (or leave your things and come back later) and of course, you have access to toilets and showers. It’s also worth noting that you can book the restaurant or just the sunbeds and the fresh fruit platter was delicious!
Shop for woodwork, leather goods and/ or limoncello
The main shopping street in Sorrento is the Corso Italia, and you will find a range of boutiques along this road, but in the little side streets you will also find artisanal shops, selling the local specialities!
i) Inlaid wood
Sorrento is famed for its inlaid wood furniture and art and there are a number of workshops and galleries which show and sell everything from small inlaid jewellery boxes to large items of furniture.
ii) leather goods
Sorrento and much of the Amalfi Coast is also renowned for its leather goods, and in some of the shops you can see the craftsmen at work. You can order a pair of made to measure hand-crafted sandals and there is a wide range of handbags, wallets, belts and other leather goods. I bought a leather belt and not only was it cut to my size, but also the buckle was replaced with one of my favourites from an old belt (at no additional cost).
Sorrento is one of the towns that’s famous for limoncello (a sweet lemon liquor ) and you’ll find lots of stores that sell it.
It’s worth noting that most stores are open late (most until 10 pm and some later), and Sorrento centre is a safe and friendly place to stroll around and window shop.
Suggested day trips from Sorrento
The beautiful island of Capri is just a short ferry crossing from Sorrento (Marina Piccola), and on Capri, you can visit the town of Capri, the gardens of Augustus, the Carthusian Monastery, Anacapri, the Blue Grotto and much more. See here for more ideas of what to do on Capri.
Although it is feasible to visit Ischia for a day trip, there is so much to do and see on Ischia (castles, thermal parks, beautiful gardens, boat trips…) that a day is not enough! There will be a blog post soon all about what to do on Ischia.
Positano and Amalfi
Positano and Amalfi are both on the mainland but it is still possible to go by boat or you can take a bus or an organised tour. It is possible to do both in a day and some tours offer this or, if you have lots of time, then you could spend a day in each.
Positano is found at the end of a very, steep winding road! I had initially planned a private tour (via minibus), but as there were only four of us, we were taken by taxi, which given the hairpin bends was a great relief! Positano itself is a very beautiful town with a large beach and lots of small boutiques and restaurants.
Amalfi is a little further down the Coast and is known for its Cathedral, beach and ‘Emerald Grotto’. It’s a small but pretty town, which used to be significantly bigger!
A separate blog post on Positano and Amalfi will follow shortly!
On the trail of a volcano
It would be hard to talk about the Amalfi Coast and not mention Mount Vesuvius, the famous volcano that erupted in Roman times (AD 79) and buried Pompeii. The volcano is just 6 miles from Naples and a visit to the Mount Vesuvius National Park can easily be combined with a visit to Pompeii or Herculaneum.
We chose to visit Mount Vesuvius in the morning and Pompeii in the afternoon and to visit Herculanuem another day.
It’s a little scary to think that Mount Vesuvius is not a dormant volcano and has an eruption cycle of about 20 years (although the last eruption was in 1944.).
Still, I was assured that it was not unsafe to visit, and that the site is closed if there is any suspicious volcanic activity! You can drive (or take the shuttle bus from Pompeii) part way but then you have about a 30 minute hike to the crater!
Pompeii and Herculaneum (Ercolana)
You can drive to Pompeii from Sorrento or take the Circumvesuviana train (so called because it circles under Vesuvius) which takes about 20 minutes. The entrance to the site is right opposite the station. If you drive, be careful where you park and don’t leave any belongings in the car.
The partially buried Roman town-city of Pompeii is part of a set of five archeological sites in the area, and you can buy combination tickets covering all the sites or just tickets for an individual site. Pompeii attracts by far the most tourists and is a vast site. However, I personally preferred the visit to Herculaneum.
When visiting Pompeii, there is minimal shade so come prepared and remember suncream and water!
Again, you can drive or take the Circumvesuviana train to Ercolano (about 40 minutes from Sorrento). When you leave the station, follow the main road downhill about 500 meters to the entrance of the archaeological site. Like Pompeii, this is a buried city, but the site is more compact and there are a lot less crowds.
Where to eat and drink in Sorrento
The rooftop bars in Sorrento are a great place for pre-dinner drinks as the views over the bay of Naples are spectacular and if you time it right they are a great place to watch the sunset!
My two favourite roof bars were part of hotels, which looked as though they would also be great places to stay
i) La Favorita Hotel
The Grand Hotel La Favorita has a rooftop bar and swimming pool and was a beautiful place for an aperitif! The views were breathtaking and the staff were friendly and helpful.
The view was also amazing!
ii) The Hotel Continental
The terrace of the Hotel Continental also offered spectacular views over the bay, and we were lucky enough to arrive during ‘happy hour’ so the drinks were very reasonably priced!
The hotel also has a beach with access via a tunnel, and a panoramic restaurant.
Restaurants with a terrace/ view
i) The artis domus
The Artis domus is a small hotel in the centre of Sorrento (not too far from the Cathedral) and the gardens are a beautiful setting for a drink or a meal. We had dinner there and were not disappointed! Their dog ‘Milo’ is such a cutie and you can see rabbits wandering around the garden!
If you have dinner there, I recommend the white chocolate sphere, which was absolutely delicious! Unfortunately, I was too busy eating it to remember to take a photo!
There is also a small swimming pool for guests of the hotel and you can also use it if you eat there.
ii) The “Terrazza delle Sirene” at the ‘Foreigner’s club’
The ‘terrazza delle Sirene’ is a beautiful setting for a relaxed dinner, and we were lucky enough to have a table on the terrace with a view over the sea, even though we hadn’t booked. However in summer months I would recommend booking in advance.
iii) The ‘Pergola Terrace’ at the Bellevue Syrene
Another beautiful location for drinks or a meal, with lovely views over the Gulf of Naples
The Pergola terrace is in the Piazza della Vittoria, and is part of the ‘Bellevue Syrene’ hotel, which boasts a beautiful swimming pool and private beach.
iv) The Café Latino
The ‘Café Latino’ is an oasis of calm, situated on the Via Corsa. The restaurant is situated in an orange and lemon tree garden, typical of the area, and the menu is extensive and reasonable priced. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a photo, but there are lots on their site!
Of course, there are many more restaurants in Sorrento, but unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to try them all! I definitely plan to go back though, so if you have any recommendations, please let me know in the comments below!
I hope you enjoyed reading this and I would love to hear about your experiences. Have you ever visited the Amalfi Coast? What are your recommendations? Also, if you have any questions about what to do or where to visit, please don’t hesitate to ask!
You can also contact me via e-mail if you would like any advice or just to chat.
Thank you for reading and have a great weekend!