Italy is one of my favorite places to travel to. While there is no shortage of great stops in this history, food, art and fashion rich European country, I truly love spending time in Sorrento. Perched atop the jagged cliffs above the cobalt blue waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea just outside Naples, Sorrento lures me back with great culture, food, picturesque panoramic views and so much more. Smaller Cruise ships frequently stop here and tender passengers in. Once you’ve visited this quaint little town along the Amalfi Coast, you’ll definitely want to spend a little time getting to know the area. Until you have a chance to explore on your own, here are 5 of the things that I love about this great Italian town.
The drive to Sorrento itself is an unbelievable sight. Sorrento is perched on cliffs that jut out high over the Tyrrhenian Sea. The views from the Cliffside are absolutely breathtaking. On a clear day, you can see the isle of Capri, Naples, Mt. Vesuvius and several other areas in the Gulf of Naples.
Sorrento is a great base location for exploring the Amalfi Coast and several other great area sights such as Pompeii. Naples and Pompeii can be reached by the local train. Sorrento is the end stop, and you’ll have to sit amongst the locals, but it’s an easy way to travel. The islands of Capri and Ischia are easily reached by ferry. Both make for a fun day trip. You can connect to another ferry on Capri and head to Positano and Amalfi, or take the local bus. Both provide picturesque trips there.
Of course if you have a car – you can reach all easily, but you will have to endure Italian drivers!
Via San Cesareo
One of my favorite things to do in any town that I am visiting is walk and take in the charm and character of the area. And the Via San Cesareo does not disappoint. Via San Cesareo is right off the main Piazza Tasso. The pavement of the Piazza ends and diagonal stone street indicates that this is now a pedestrian zone, which I love. This quaint little street is just wide enough for one car when all the shops are closed. It is lined with every type of shop you can image, some hotels, a great church, restaurants, cafes, gelato stands and so much more.
The mood on the street is carefree and relaxed. Everyone is window shopping and picking up souvenirs of their stay in this charming little town. I peek into a little delicatessen and buy some local olives that burst full of flavor as I bite into them. It’s as if I have never had an olive before! The shelves are lined with Pasta and a wide variety of dips, spreads olive oil, cookies and more things than I can possibly name – it’s a foodie’s dream.
A few doors down you can see and smell the leather. Shelves are lined with colorful Italian purses, belts, wallets, shoes and cubicles are stuffed with hand made gloves. This little shop looks familiar and what do you know – Samantha Brown from the TV show Passport to Europe featured this family and their handmade leather goods a few years ago. I’m in heaven. I buy some shoes and purses as gifts and have to tear myself away as my wallet is nearly empty.
The little alleyways and streets that intersect the Via San Cesaro give me more places to explore. The buildings each have such charm, character and are so close to each other, that I feel as if I have stepped in to Shakespearean play or an old Italian movie. I’m just waiting for someone to open their window and proclaim their love or start singing. Oh wait – an Italian marching band is coming down the street – only in Sorrento!
Even at night this little jewel of a street takes on a different feel. It’s still crowded, but now all the restaurants and cafes are brimming with laughter and stories of the day. Everywhere you go there is something to look at, take in and just savor.
Sorrento is best known for its woodworking – known as intarsia. Artists have been expressing themselves with the intricate mosaics in these beautiful masterpieces since the 16th century. You will find these little works of art everywhere in Sorrento. A picture truly does not do it justice, each piece is a one of a kind handmade work of art. Even if this is not your “thing”, you will want to purchase something as a souvenir as they are just that beautiful.
You can purchase small boxes to large pieces of furniture. One well known shop is A. Gargiulo & Jannuzzi open since 1863 right in the heart of Sorrento at Piazza Tasso. You can also see some great examples of this craftsmanship at the Museo Bottega Della Tarsia Lignea located in an ancient palace of the eighteenth century. Via San Nicola, 28 in the historic center – there you can also buy household items and furniture signed by designer Alessandro Fiorentino and her three young architects.
My husband Michael had to explain to me that we didn’t need the beautiful bar cart, no matter how much I wanted it – it was just that beautiful. Either way – don’t leave Sorrento without at least a little keepsake box with this beautiful artistic expression of this area.
Along with its woodworking, when one thinks of Sorrento, you think of oranges and lemons. Every trellis, balcony and garden is filled with these trees that yield fruit a few times a year. Sorrento has been producing lemons in groves since the 1st century. Limoni di Sorrento have exceptional aroma and flavor. There is nothing better than walking up and down the surrounding streets of the Sorrentine penninsula with the scent of lemon blossoms wafting through the air in springtime. Sorrento harvests 30,000 tons of lemons each year, many of which go into the production of the local Limoncello – a delicious sweet liquor.
Made from vodka, lemons, sugar and water; Limoncello derives its flavor from the peels, rather than the juice of the lemon and is best when served chilled straight out of the freezer. The resulting flavor is sweet and lemony, without a trace of bitterness. You can find beautiful decorated bottles all around Sorrento, and chances are you will be offered complimentary Limoncello after every meal – so enjoy!
Il Leone Rosso
Dining out is always one of my favorite things to do while traveling. I love getting to know the proprietor and local townsfolk. Plus, who better to tell you about what you do not want to miss, or that special store or local watering hole to really make sure you do not forget your trip. This restaurant was one of those places for me. After arriving at our hotel from a much too early flight and then bus drive to Sorrento, we wanted to have a nice casual but great meal. Our hotel concierge recommended Il Leone Rosso just a few blocks from where we were staying and not too far from Piazza Tasso.
We arrived for a late lunch and sat at one of the sidewalk tables. After being greeted quickly, we were brought slices of Neapolitan pizza rather than bread. Let me tell you, I had never before had pizza like this and it was the perfect way to kick off our week in Italy. Each dish that arrived was colorful, bursting with freshness and each flavor blended perfectly with the next. We relaxed in the sun, eagerly talked about what we expected from the week and enjoyed every moment.
The owner of the restaurant came out to bring us shots of Limoncello when we were done. Since we were stuffed and could not attempt a dessert, this was the perfect ending to a great meal. We chatted a bit, explaining that my husband’s family originated from the Naples area. He quickly clapped Michael on the back and exclaimed “Paisan!” We could not have felt more welcome.
We enjoyed our meal so much, that on our last day we decided to grab a nice relaxing meal here again. The restaurant was bustling with a busy Sunday evening. We luckily sat at the last sidewalk table and the owner quickly came over greeting Michael with another hearty “Paisan!” We felt like we were one of the family. It was the perfect ending to a great week in Italy.
Feel free to read my more in depth review of this restaurant on tripadvisor.
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