The seaside town of Sorrento is an Italy vacation staple. Its central location between bustling Naples and the candy colored towns of the Amalfi Coast makes it the perfect home base for exploring both of those destinations, plus the ancient sights around Mt. Vesuvius and the islands of the Bay of Naples. Of course, it has a charm all its own. Think technicolor sunsets, perfect views of the volcano across the bay, and a wide variety of accommodations.
Sorrento is also a cruise destination. Our most recent visit was with Windstar, which sailed to Sorrento on its vessel Wind Surf. The abundance of local sights, plus easy access for those traveling without a car, means visitors have plenty of on-shore options that can be accomplished in a single day, or even just a few hours, whether they're exploring independently or choosing from the cruise line's many guided excursions.
With so much to see in the vicinity, it’s not surprising that many visitors bypass the peninsula that makes up greater Sorrento, opting to explore the town itself for just a day or two before moving on. Taking the time to explore the area in and around Sorrento, though, has its rewards: smaller crowds, pebble beaches filled with locals, seafood restaurants with views over blue water, and a distinctly laid back atmosphere that you won’t find on the visitor-clogged (and ultra-expensive) Amalfi Coast.
Here’s our guide to visiting a few places in this charming, and less-explored area.
Tips for Getting Around
Leaving Sorrento’s city center often requires a set of wheels — unless you’re up for a very long walk — but taxis can be exorbitantly priced, especially in summer high season. Traveling from the centrally located Piazza Tasso or the marina, where most cruise ship guests disembark, to towns on the peninsula can cost up to 80 euros each way.
Take a few minutes to understand the local and regional bus routes and you’ll access this whole area for just a few euros per ride. Red and orange EAV buses, and blue SITAsud buses cover Sorrento and the surrounding area. The most straightforward place to catch one is at Sorrento’s main bus station, which is located right next to the central train station.
Remember that the town of Sorrento is mostly located on top of a cliff. If you’re coming off a cruise ship into the marina, you’ll need to take a bus or the convenient Sorrento Lift elevator (1 euro — or about $1.15 USD — per trip), to reach the upper town. The route to the elevator is clearly marked from the marina. Once you exit the elevator, the station is about a 10-minute walk from there. Note that there are also local buses that will take you directly from the marina to the bus station.
If you aren’t sure where to wait for your bus, ask at the tourism information center in the train station.
Tickets can be purchased inside the bus station, or at most tobacco shops in town. And of course, don’t forget to validate your ticket in the machine when you board your bus.
When to Go
Though temperates in the region rarely dip below 55 degrees Farenheight, even in January, this is a warm-weather destination and both of the excursions detailed below are designed for summer travel. Visiting at other times of the year will mean reduced transportation schedules and closed restaurants.
What to Bring
Sorrento’s cobblestone streets are tough to navigate in flip-flops or other flimsy sandals. Wear sturdy shoes to make your way over stone ruins and down dusty streets. For swimming, water shoes are highly recommended. Remember, the beaches in this area are made up of pebbles, not sand. And if you’re doing any amount of walking in summer, bring plenty of bottled water.
Save: Bagni Regina Giovanna
What to See and Do: This spot at the tip of the Cape of Sorrento is the perfect place for a morning or afternoon swim from the rocks; and the surroundings could not be more dramatic. Take some time to explore (and swim) amongst the ruins of a seaside villa that dates back to the first century BC. According to a later legend from the 1300s, this was also the favorite trysting spot of the Neapolitan Queen Giovanna, whose name now graces the sight. Swim in the turquoise waters of the basin, which is surrounded by high rock walls, and then paddle out into the open sea, where you can bob among the waves with Mount Vesuvius as your backdrop. Walk further along the cape and you’ll see Lido la Solara, where you can rent beach chairs, and a casual restaurant and bar (Ristorante la Solara) where you can watch the sunset while sipping a Campari spritz. Note that the restaurant and bar are open seasonally.
Getting There: Take the local EAV bus (line A) toward Massa Lubrense and get off at Sorrento Capo. Right near the bus stop, at the bend in the road, you’ll see a walking path that heads down to the sea. Walk about 10 minutes along this path through beautiful olive groves — say hello to the donkeys along the way — to reach the baths.
Money Matters: There aren’t many true bargains left in this expensive part of Italy, but this one comes close. Your bus ticket will cost about two euros ($2.30 USD), and accessing the ruins and swimming area is free. Expect dinner or lunch to cost about 20-25 euros ($23-$29 USD) per person, including drinks.
Spring: Drinks With a View at Parco Dei Principi
What to See and Do: This modern hotel, designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti, is a breath of architectural fresh air after you’ve spent a few days wandering through Italy’s endless baroque churches and palaces. For a relaxing, and fuss-free hour or two, stop by for a drink in the bar and take in the jaw-dropping views from the cliffside terrace. If your cruise ship is tendered offshore — as ours was — you may also get a stellar view of your floating lodgings, which makes for a great photo op. Many cruise ships drop anchor right in this area. You can also spend some time wandering around the beautiful, leafy grounds during your visit.
Getting There: The Parco Dei Principi is an easy 15-minute walk from the central Piazza Tasso.
Money Matters: Drinks at the hotel cost 10-15 euros ($11.50-$17 USD) each.
Splurge: Marina del Cantone
Getting There: From the central bus station, take a SITAsud bus toward Nerano del Cantone. It's the last stop on the route, and some buses will require you to transfer at Sant' Agata.
What to See and Do: On the other side of the peninsula from Sorrento, you’ll find this tiny seaside hamlet — a cluster of mom-and-pop hotels, rows of neon umbrellas and sun loungers along a pebble beach, and perfectly calm seas for swimming. Filled with mostly locals, this beach epitomizes lazy, sunny summers in southern Italy where there isn’t much to do but snooze under an umbrella, swim when you get overheated, and dream about your next meal. There’s also a particularly excellent, and breezily elegant seafood restaurant, Lo Scoglio, where you can sample the morning’s catch (raw or cooked) while sitting on a long porch that overlooks the sea. Make sure you bring along an appropriate cover-up for lunch; your fellow guests will likely include travelers fresh off their yachts.
Money Matters: Your bus tickets will cost about four euros ($4.50 USD), and renting a beach chair and an umbrella will cost about eight to twelve euros ($9-$14 USD). Expect to pay 40-60 euros per person ($45-$68 USD) at Lo Scoglio for lunch.