Sorrento was founded by the Greeks in 600 BC and was an important trading town in medieval times. It is the gateway to the Amalfi Coast and is officially on the Sorrentine Peninsular. This is a charming town with a touch of class that sprawls leisurely along the cliffs, overlooking the ocean, and offers views of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius in the distance. If you are wondering what to do in Sorrento here’s a list of my favorite things.

 

 

View of Vesuvius from Sorrento Italy
View of Vesuvius from Sorrento

 

What to do in Sorrento

 

Passeggiata

Passeggiata is a wonderful Italian tradition. It’s all about unwinding at the end of the day and taking a stroll. It is a time to see and be seen and meet up with friends between 5 and 7 pm. The best places in town are along the Corso Italia or along the narrow, cobbled Via San Cesareo. Rick Steves has a short video of the Passeggiata in Sorrento that is worth watching for a better idea of what it’s all about.

 

Passeggiata in Sorrento
Passeggiata in Sorrento

 

 

Piazza Tasso

 

Built in 1866 the main square is the perfect spot for people watching and admiring the beautiful baroque architecture that surrounds it. The square is filled with pavement cafés, shops, restaurants and horse drawn carriages. You can also catch a small, white tourist train from here that takes you through the town and down to Marina Piccola. It is about a 30 min trip.

 

Piazza Tasso Church of Santa Maria del Carmine Sorrento
Piazza Tasso Church of Santa Maria del Carmine

 

 

Chiesa di San Francesco

 

While the church is not particularly ornate there are some beautiful frescoes. In the 14th century the Franciscan friars turned the original building into a church. It was rebuilt in 1926.  The doors still date back to the 1500’s.  The courtyard adjoining the church is filled with trees and creepers. The cloisters are still in use today as a monk’s residence and when we were there we were lucky enough to hear the monks chanting. It was a haunting experience and one that I will remember for many years to come.

 

Chiesa di San Francesco Sorrento
Chiesa di San Francesco Sorrento

 

Limoncello

 

Sorrento is the home of lemons. There are trees wherever you look and they were all laden with fruit when we were there . Naturally the shops are all full of Limoncello in bottles of all shapes and sizes.

Limoncello is a liqueur and the flavour and colour is derived by the infusion of the skins in alcohol. You will find limoncello throughout the Amalfi Coast as well. It is best served ice cold in a chilled aperitif glass. There is even a specific type of lemon known as Sorrento lemons and they are enormous!

I Giardini di Cataldo is a producer right in the middle of town. You can wander through their beautiful lemon grove and garden and then see the limoncello being made. You can of course taste! There is also a shop that sells all kinds of delicious lemon related products.

 

Lemon tree groves in Sorrento
Lemon tree groves in Sorrento

 

 

Explore the old town

 

The centro storico (historic centre) is as pretty as a picture postcard. There are narrow cobbled roads, most of which have been pedestrianized, filled with trattorias, bars and shops. There are wonderful artisanal shops scattered all over. You really can’t get lost so take the time to explore.  Sorrento is also known for beautiful leather, lace and inlaid wooden items. If you like handbags, as I do, you will be in heaven!

Of course you simply have to have a gelato or two. I wrote about the best gelato in Italy  previously and naturally I had to include Gelateria Primavera.

 

Gelateria Primavera Sorrento
Gelateria Primavera

 

Marina Grande

 

Whatever you do don’t miss a visit to the Marina Grande. Out of these suggestions of what to do in Sorrento this has to be my number one choice. There is a lift to the marina but we walked. Towards the bottom on the hill we discovered a workshop where a small, colourful wooden fishing boat was lovingly being restored by hand. It was like a window to the past and we watched impressed at the painstaking effort going into the restoration.

The Marina is an ancient harbour and was the home of pirates in days gone by. It is not pristine, but this adds to its charm. Fisherman are out and about tending to their boats or fixing their nets and the banter can be heard going back and forth. It is still a working village so the catch of the day is straight from the boats to your plate.

We had a leisurely lunch, at the water’s edge, at Ristorante di Leva Sorelle (The Five Sisters) which we choose at random while we soaked up the atmosphere. It is nothing fancy, but the meal was sublime. The spaghetti vongole was one of the best that I have ever eaten. The plump juicy clams, the sun blushed tomatoes and al dente spaghetti are a marriage made in heaven. Afterwards we saw a sign saying “Friends of Jamie Oliver”” which I don’t doubt for a second !

 

Spaghetti vongole Marina Grande Sorrento
Spaghetti vongole Marina Grande

 

Day trips

 

I am loath to mention these as the title of this post is what to do in Sorrento, so I will touch on them in passing. You can visit the Amalfi Coast, Naples, Capri, Pompeii and Herculaneum as a few ideas. Personally, if it’s history that you are after then I would rather visit Herculaneum because it is not as busy as Pompeii and more compact.  My post has all the information you need for a visit.

 

Herculaneum
Herculaneum

 

When to visit

 

The best time to visit is in spring (late March to mid June) when the smell of citrus blossom fills the air and the days are long, sunny and mild. We were there in April and the weather was perfect.  Peak season is Easter to October, but Sorrento is an all year round destination.

 

I enjoyed our visit to Sorrento immensely. It is a mixture of old and new that blends together seamlessly. Even if you just have a day don’t miss a visit to Sorrento. It has so much to offer.

 

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Sorrento Travel guide
Sorrento Travel guide

 

What to do in Sorrento Guide
What to do in Sorrento

 

 

 

 

 

 

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25 COMMENTS

  1. Have read and heard a lot of good things about the Amalfi coast. Have seen it in Bollywood movies. Have now read in a post! All left for me to do now is to book that ticket:) Im pretty sure your list will come in handy!

  2. Wow! This place has never been on my to-go list but it really does beautiful. After this post I definitely want to participate in the Passeggiata 😉 And eat a Pasta afterwards 😀

    • It is fun and quite a quirky experience. You will have to have a glass of wine with the pasta as the two go together do well!

    • The old city lanes are steeped with history and interesting places to explore. Perfect weather helps as well, but I also love the Amalfi coast. Even on a gray, cold day there is something special about it.

  3. I think wherever you go in Italy, the food’s always amazing! I’ve never been to Sorrento but a friend of mine did. She got me a bottle of Limoncello and it was a great souvenir. I loved it!

    • Limoncello is a taste of sunshine and I am really happy that you enjoyed it. Maybe you will be persuaded to visit in the future?

  4. I fell in LOVE with Sorrento. Walking under those lemon trees and gorging on every flavour possible of gelato and watching the blue waters of the coast peep in between the buildings! Sheer delight! 🙂 Loved the slow pace of the place and all the scenic views it offered. I was lucky enough to witness a wedding at the Piazza! 🙂 and those orange trees!! <3 What an incredible sight! Thanks for getting back all the memories!

    • The wedding must have been a wonderful sight. I am with you 100% about the gelato. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Sorrento is a lovely laidback town and I can understand why you fell in love with it.

  5. Oh I love Spaghetti Vognole – and I’m sure this one was better than anything Jaimie could do too! The churches are so pretty – I love the picture of the yellow Church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Piazza Tasso – a reminder of Amalfi lemons and the Limoncello perhaps?

    • What a great idea! I never thought about the colour, but you may well be correct. I think that the atmosphere alone makes it better than Jamie’s. 🙂

  6. The horse drawn carriages in Piazza Tasso, must be a sight now that the world revolves around vehicles to get people around. I love citrus fruit, so having the Limoncello sounds devine.

    • It is a bit touristy, but I love horses and the carriages are beautifully decorated. Limoncello is really refreshing on a hot day and now thatI am back home I am researching a recipe to try and make it. 🙂 I am sure that it won’t taste quite the same though.

  7. I loved Sorrento – we based ourselves in Naples though stopped by on our way to the Amalfi Coast – I would love to head back and spend some more prolonged time. Love the idea behind Passeggiata – stolling is my favorite way to soak in the sights and atmosphere of a new city! And totally agree that Piazza Tasso is the perfect spot for people watching and admiring the beautiful baroque buildings. Takes me back!

    So glad that you mentioned day trips – there are so many amazing places to visit in the surrounds – my favorite was Capri 🙂

    • I love reading a post on a place I have visited as well. There are so many options along the Italian coast it is difficult to choose a base, but Sorrento works. You are right about the amazing places to visit in the area. Maybe that’s a new post soon……:-)

  8. I loved the Amalfi Coast when I was there and I can easily imagine returning. I haven’t been to Sorrento yet, but it’ll feature on Bake Off Italia this week (I live in Italy). I might yet make a trip there if it doesn’t look too touristy. In any case, I enjoyed your post.

    • Lucky you! I wish that I lived in Italy. I am glad that you enjoyed the post and providing that you are there off peak season in it worth a visit.

  9. Love those Italian names they always crack me up. But what a nice little guide to this quirky little place. Passeggiata is exactly what I’d do in a place such as this. The lemon tree groves looks so lovely. Bucket listing this one.

  10. These days I prefer to read about paces which are little off beat. And Sorrento looks great. Old town area looks great with so much to do around old things which are rare and has heritage value to it.good to read about pirate harbour of marina. Sure it would be first place for us to visit too. Thanks for this post.

    • I like visiting places that are non mainstream as well. There is so much to explore. The harbour is a perfect place to soak up the atmosphere.

  11. Lovely post and photos on one of my favorite places to visit in Italy! I loved browsing the narrow street off the main square that had all the shops selling all things lemon! And we walked down to the marina too…loved it!

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