Sorrento is a beautiful town perched on a cliff high above the sea with views of Vesuvius and the islands in the Bay of Naples . Use this website to help you plan a visit to this elegant southern Italian resort and find your way to the best beaches and some lovely villages and towns along the Sorrentine peninsula that are perhaps less well known to tourists.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lucio Dalla – musician who loved Sorrento

The singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla on stage in 2009
The singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla
on stage in 2009
The singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla was born on this day in 1943 in Bologna.

Dalla is most famous for composing the song, Caruso, in 1986, after staying in the suite the great tenor used to occupy overlooking the sea at the Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria in Sorrento.

The song has been covered by many other artists since, including Luciano Pavarotti and Julio Iglesias.

In the book Caruso the Song - Lucio Dalla e Sorrento,  Raffaele Lauro, a writer from Sorrento, recalls that Dalla booked the very suite at the Excelsior Vittoria that Caruso had occupied during the final weeks of his life in 1921. While staying there, Dalla composed the song, inspired by his love for Sorrento, his respect for the great tenor and his fondness for classic Neapolitan songs.

The Fiorentino family, who owned the Excelsior Vittoria, were later to dedicate a suite to Dalla.

Dalla had started playing the clarinet when he was young and joined the Rheno Dixieland Band in Bologna along with the future film director, Pupi Avati.

Avati was later to say that his film Ma quando arrivano le ragazze? was inspired by his friendship with Dalla.

Lucio Dalla was born in Bologna but had a  deep affection for Sorrento
Lucio Dalla was born in Bologna but had a
deep affection for Sorrento
In the 1960s the band won first prize in the traditional jazz band category at a festival in Antibes. After hearing Dalla’s voice, singer-songwriter Gino Paoli suggested he try for a solo career as a soul singer, but his first single was a failure.

Dalla had a hit with 4 Marzo 1943, originally entitled Gesù Bambino, but the title was changed to the singer’s birth date so as not to cause offence.

In the 1970s, Dalla started a collaboration with the Bolognese poet Roberto Roversi, who wrote the lyrics for three of his albums.

When the association ended, Dalla decided to write the lyrics for his songs himself and his subsequent Banana Republic album was a success in 1979.

The version of Caruso sung by Pavarotti sold more than nine million copies and Dalla was invited to sing Caruso in a duet with Pavarotti in a 'Pavarotti and Friends' concert in Modena in 1992. Andrea Bocelli included his version of the song on his first international album, Romanza, which sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.

Dalla was made a Commander and subsequently a Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic and was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Bologna.

The singer songwriter died three days before his 69th birthday in 2012, after suffering a heart attack in a hotel in Montreux in Switzerland, where he had been performing the night before.

About 50,000 people attended his funeral in Bologna and his hit song, Caruso, entered the Italian singles chart after his death, peaking at number two for two consecutive weeks.The single was also certified platinum by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry.

The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, where Caruso stayed and which inspired Lucio Dalla to write his most famous song
The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, where Caruso stayed and
which inspired Lucio Dalla to write his most famous song
The Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria is a familiar landmark as you approach Sorrento by sea. You will see the three 19th century hotel buildings high on the cliff above the port of Marina Piccola when you arrive by boat from Naples or the islands. 

The Excelsior Vittoria is probably Sorrento ’s most famous hotel and it has now achieved global recognition as part of the Leading Hotels of the World group. From the imposing wrought-iron entrance gates in Piazza Tasso, a long driveway lined with orange trees leads to the entrance and reception area.

At the back of the hotel, the terrace has panoramic views over the bay of Naples and of Vesuvius across the water. Tenor Enrico Caruso was famously photographed in front of those views during his final stay in 1921.

The Excelsior Vittoria had been opened as a hotel by the Fiorentino family in 1834 and is still, to this day, run by their descendants.

(Picture credits: Dalla (top) by Philippe Roos; Dalla (centre) by Lucarelli; both via Wikimedia Commons)


Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Shooting in Sorrento

A new crime novel set against the beautiful backdrop of Sorrento is now available via the Amazon website.

Much of the action in the novel takes place in the ancient streets in the centre of the resort and at locations out along the Sorrentine peninsula.

The Shooting in Sorrento - written by Best of Sorrento editor Val Culley -  is the second Butler and Bartorelli mystery and is the sequel to Death in the High City, which was set in Bergamo in Lombardy.

The main protagonist, journalist Kate Butler, is in Sorrento with her partner, Steve Bartorelli, a retired Detective Chief Inspector, to attend the wedding of the daughter of one of Steve’s Italian cousins.

The couple get to know an English family staying at their hotel in Capo di Sorrento and when tragedy strikes them, Kate feels she should try to help. She has already become friends with the mother of the family, Janice, who is a woman of about her own age.

Steve is distracted by meeting up with Italian relatives he has not seen since he was a child and is also wary of becoming too involved with the family because two of his cousins are senior officers in the Polizia di Stato.
The seafront at Marina di Puolo

But Kate is determined to get justice for her new English friends and joins forces with another visitor to Sorrento to investigate, when it seems the Italian police are focusing all their interest on the English family.

Her enquiries cause her to wander the narrow streets that run parallel to Corso Italia and take her down to the beach at Marina di Puolo, but she ends up putting herself in danger when her sleuthing gets her too close to the truth.

The Shooting in Sorrento is believed to be the first British crime novel set in Sorrento and is available to buy in paperback or as a Kindle edition from Amazon.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Raffaele Lauro – Sorrento author and politician

Italian Senator and celebrated writer Raffaele Lauro was born on this day in 1944 in Sorrento.

A prolific author and song writer, Lauro has also been an important political figure for more than 30 years.
Raffaele Lauro

He was born in Sorrento and as a young man worked as a receptionist at a number of hotels along the Sorrento peninsula.

After finishing school he went to the University of Naples where he was awarded degrees in Political Science, Law and Economics.

Lauro then won a scholarship from Italy’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and studied at their diplomatic institute and then later in Paris.

Afterwards he studied for a degree in Journalism in Rome and became director of a scientific magazine. He became a commentator on new technology for Il Tempo in Rome and Il Mattino in Naples and studied Film Directing while living in Rome, also teaching Law of Mass Communications at Rome University.

His political career began when he was elected as a Councillor for Sorrento in 1980. He went on to become Deputy Mayor and, as Councillor for finance, personnel and culture, opened the Public Library of Sorrento and established a theatre school.

Lauro moved back to Rome in 1984 where he held a number of Government posts.

In the general election of 2008, Lauro was appointed a Senator for the People of Freedom Party representing Campania.
The Sorrento peninsula

He was made a member of the Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry into the Mafia and other criminal organisations and later became political advisor to the Minister of Economic Development, Claudio Scajola. In 2015 Lauro joined the Democratic Party of Lazio.

For more than 40 years, Lauro has worked as a freelance journalist, essayist, screenwriter, author and director. He has written about foreign affairs and politics, brought out works of fiction under the pseudonym Ralph Lorbeer and composed music.

In January 2017, at the age of 73, Lauro published a song, Uno straccione, un clown, dedicated to the songwriter Lucio Dalla, to commemorate the fifth anniversary of his death. Lauro had previously written three books about Dalla, the famous singer songwriter from Bologna.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Enjoy the beach of Meta Alimuri

The sweep of beach at Meta is in the foreground with the Sorrentine Peninsula stretching into the distance
The sweep of beach at Meta is in the foreground with the
Sorrentine Peninsula stretching into the distance
The long expanse of beach known as Meta Alimuri has made the town of Meta, near Sorrento, a popular seaside resort in its own right.

A short drive, or bus ride, north east of Sorrento, Meta lies between Piano di Sorrento and Vico Equense on the main coastal road going in the direction of Naples .

A road leads down to the beach from the centre of the town, making it easily accessible by car or bus. There is a good stretch of grey, volcanic sand with free access, even though some Meta hotels have their own private sections of beach. From the beach there are lovely views across the Bay of Naples.

There is a bar and restaurant next to the beach, deck chairs and sun umbrellas can be hired and there are opportunities to rent boats.

The name 'Alimuri' is said to relate to a story from the early 16th century when a feared Saracen pirate called Alì landed at the beach only to be confronted by local people.  In the fight that followed, Alì was killed, prompting jubilation in the crowd. The shout of 'Alì muri' went up, telling people in the town above the beach that the enemy had been beaten.

Look for a hotel in Meta with Expedia

Meta has a long history of boat building and by the 19th century its shipyards were producing hundred of boats, with the local women sewing the sails for them in the courtyards of their houses.

Although steamships eventually replaced sailing boats, the shipyards continued to produce the Sorrentine Gozzo, a small sailing and rowing boat that enabled the occupant to fish and row at the same time.

The facade of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Laura at Meta
The facade of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Laura at Meta
It is fascinating to wander through the narrow streets in the historic centre of Meta and see the old houses where boat builders and seafarers lived centuries ago, with their large courtyards.

Meta has a magnificent church, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Lauro, which is right in the centre of the town, just off the main road.

The church was built in medieval times on the site of an ancient temple after a local deaf and dumb woman was said to have found a statue of the Virgin Mary under a laurel tree and then miraculously had her hearing and speech restored.

It was rebuilt in the 16th century and restored and modified in the 18th and 19th centuries. The wooden door is from the 16th century building and the Chapel of the Madonna del Lauro has an old wooden statue of the Virgin and frescoes from the 18th century.

Meta celebrates the Festa of Santa Maria del Lauro every year on 12 September.

The Line A bus from Sorrento to Meta Alimuri will take you close to the beach, or you can travel on the Circumvesuviana train to Meta and walk down to the beach from the station.

If travelling by car, you will find parking close to the beach, but spaces can be in big demand during the summer months.

Check out hotels in Sorrento from


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Church of the Servants of Mary in Sorrento

Hidden gem in centre of Sorrento

Behind a dark, wooden door in Via Antonino Sersale, just off Corso Italia and close to the Duomo, is the beautiful Baroque Church of the Servants of Mary.

It was built in the 18th century for the congregation of the Servants of Mary (Venerabile Congregazione dei Servi di Maria).
The entrance to the church in Via Sersale

Inside the Church is a wooden statue of the dead Christ, created by an unknown sculptor in the 16th century, which is carried each year on Good Friday through the streets of Sorrento, starting from Via Sersale, by members of the congregation wearing black robes and hoods, representing a funeral procession for the death of Jesus.

The Church was completed in 1762 and includes the old chapel of St Barnaba, which was donated to the congregation in 1717 by Archbishop Filippo Anastasio.

Unusually, the Church is accessed by a marble staircase, which leads to a large vestibule, containing an extensive collection of works of art.

Inside the church, a single aisle leads to a marble altar, behind which there is a painting in an elaborate gilt frame of the Assumption of Mary (Assunzione di Maria al Cielo), the work of Carlo Amalfi in 1774.
Vestibule of Chiesa dei Servi di Maria

In other rooms there are paintings, books and documents, and works of art to see. An unusual 17th century statue of the Virgin Mary wearing an ornate gown interwoven with silver, embroidered in gold, and decorated with pearls and semi precious stones, is believed to be the only piece of its kind in the area.

The Church of the Servants of Mary is open to the public from Thursday to Saturday between 5 pm to 8 pm and on Sundays from 8 am to 12 noon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Birth of Francis Marion Crawford

Sorrento’s famous American resident, the writer Francis Marion Crawford, was born on this date in 1854 in Bagni di Lucca in Tuscany.

A prolific novelist, Crawford became known for the vividness of his characterisations and the realism of his settings, many of which were places he had visited in Italy.

He chose to settle in later life in Sant’Agnello, just outside Sorrento, where he even had a street named after him, Corso Marion Crawford
Villa Crawford from the sea

Crawford was the only son of the American sculptor, Thomas Crawford. He spent his childhood going backwards and forwards between Italy and America and studied at various American and European Universities.

He spent some time in India, where he found the inspiration for his first successful novel, Mr Isaacs, which was published in 1882.

In 1883 he returned to Italy to settle there permanently. He lived at the Hotel Cocumella in Sant’Agnello to begin with. He then bought a farmhouse nearby, from which he developed the Villa Crawford, an impressive clifftop residence easily identifiable from the sea.

Hotel Cocumella at Sant'Agnello
The villa, which was donated to a religious order by his descendants, has been recently refurbished to include rooms let out to guests. For more information click here.

Crawford found inspiration for his writing while living in Sorrento and many of his later novels have Italian settings, such as Don Orsino, published in 1892, which is about the effects of social change on an Italian family.

His novels sold well in America and he would often visit the country to deliver lectures on Italian history, about which he wrote several books.

Crawford died at the Villa Crawford in Sant’Agnello after suffering a heart attack in 1909.

The Corso Marion Crawford leads down to the sea from Corso Italia, the main road connecting Sant’Agnello with the resort of Sorrento.

The historic Hotel Cocumella, where Crawford stayed during the 1880s, is in Via Cocumella, just off Corso Marion Crawford. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Visit Vesuvius

The volcano that sometimes blows its top

Vesuvius seen from Sorrento across the Bay of Naples
The brooding presence of Vesuvius seen across the
Bay of Naples from Sorrento
Across the sea from Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius, the infamous volcano, looms over the bay of Naples.

Vesuvius last erupted in 1944, 72 years ago today, the only volcano on mainland Europe to have erupted during the last 100 years.

It is an easy excursion from Sorrento to visit the volcano, which is enclosed within Mount Vesuvius National Park.

People continue to live on the volcano’s fertile slopes, which have been famous for centuries for producing excellent wine from the grapes grown there. The whole area was officially declared a national park in 1955. The crater of the volcano is accessible to visitors and there is a road to within 200 metres of it, but after that the ascent is on foot only. 

The crater is about 200 metres deep and has a maximum diameter of about 600 metres. The climb is said to be well worth it because the view from up there takes in the entire coastline from the Gulf of Gaeta to the Sorrento peninsula.

To get there you can take the train from the Circumvesuviana railway station in Sorrento to Ercolano station, from where a shuttle bus will take you to the park.

There is an observatory, a museum, a visitors centre, a restaurant and a shop where you can buy Lacrima Christi del Vesuvio, the wine made from the grapes grown on the volcano.

But you have to sign up for a guided tour to actually descend into the crater.

Vesuvius is most remembered for its eruption in AD 79, which buried the Roman cities of Pompei and Herculaneum and is believed to have killed thousands of people. 

Vesuvius seen from the village of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio, which was largely destroyed in the 1944 eruption
Vesuvius seen from the village of San Sebastiano al Vesuvio,
which was largely destroyed in the 1944 eruption
An eyewitness account of the eruption, in which tons of stones, ash and fumes were ejected from the cone, has been left behind for posterity by Pliny the Younger in his letters to the historian Tacitus.

There were at least three larger eruptions of Vesuvius before AD 79 and there have been many more since. In 1631 a major eruption buried several villages under lava flows and killed about 300 people and the volcano then continued to erupt every few years after that.

The eruption that started on 18 March 1944 and went on for several days, destroyed three villages nearby and about 80 planes belonging to the US Army Air Forces, which were based at an airfield near Pompei. Some of the American military personnel took photographs of the eruption, which have been useful for today’s experts to analyse.

Since 1944 Vesuvius has been uncharacteristically quiet, although it is constantly monitored for activity and an evacuation plan is in place. Experts believe seismic activity would give them between 14 and 20 days' notice of an impending eruption.