Sorrento is a small seaside city on the southwestern coast of Italy in the province of Campania. It has a population of about 15,000 people and is built on a long cliff that overlooks the Bay of Naples.
The town is old (people have lived there for over 2,000 years), scenic, and very touristy. It has long been a favorite destination of artists and writers seeking an inspirational resort. Henrik Ibsen wrote The Ghosts here, and Lord Byron, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Albert Dumas, Giuseppe Verdi, Oscar Wilde and Friedric Nietzsche also spent lots of quality time in this lovely city.
It was also the birthplace of famed 16th century poet Torquato Tasso. The main square in the city is named after him.
For those who like to shop, you’ll find plenty of stores catering to nearly every taste and budget imaginable. For those who like to sight-see, the town is filled with very old churches and buildings full of history.
Sorrento is an ideal place to stay to tour other parts of the western Italian coast, since the hotels here are less expensive than in larger urban areas. Naples is just an hour to the north, Rome is 2.5 hours to the north, and Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Isle of Capri are very close by. It’s also very easy to catch any of several tours of the historic and beautiful Amalfi Coast from here.
To get to Sorrento, you’ll probably want to fly into Rome or Naples and take the Circumvesuviana train down to the town.
You can also rent a car and drive down, but if you aren’t a seasoned veteran of Italian-style driving, I wouldn’t recommend it. To the American eye, Italians drive their little Fiats and Volkswagens like mad people; traffic signs and red lights are taken as mere suggestions. They’ll tear into one of the many mountainous hairpin curves outside Sorrento at full speed, honking twice to let whoever’s on the other side of the blind curve know that they’re coming. If you sit near a busy intersection, over the course of an hour you’ll see at least twenty near-collisions that the drivers miraculously avoid at the last minute. But if you’re not used to this kind of driving, you won’t be able to avoid the collision, so it’s best to use trains, buses, and your own two feet to get around.
Sorrento is located in the heart of Italy’s citrus country; you’ll see lemon and orange trees all over the place, along with tall evergreens, palm trees, and even cactus.
While you’re there, if you’re a drinker, you’ll have to try the local limoncello, a sweet lemon liquer that is yummy by itself, as part of a hot toddy, or even over vanilla ice cream.
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