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, January 28, 2012

Sun, sea and sand at Marina di Puolo

Marina di Puolo
Sorrento has developed a reputation for being a seaside resort without any good beaches.
It is true that near the centre of town there is only Peter’s Beach, a small strip of sand, which can be used by the public, although many of the big hotels have their own tiny areas of beach.
But there are some great places for swimming and sunbathing just out of town if you know where to look.
A lovely beach with an expanse of sand that is free to use can be found at the old fishing village of Marina di Puolo, south of Sorrento and just a little further along the peninsula from Villa Pollio and the Baths of Queen Joan at Punta del Capo.

How to get to Marina di Puolo

Marina di Puolo has a good, sandy beach
Leave Sorrento along Via del Capo in the direction of Massa Lubrense. If you take the Linea A (Line A) bus to Capo di Sorrento, get off at the stop for the Hotel Dania, from where you can make your way down to the beach along an old path.
Turn off Via Capo down Calata Puolo and then turn left again to go down some gradual steps and along a narrow path past olive groves and a vineyard until you reach the intersection with Via Marina di Puolo. You will pass a car park (the nearest point to the beach that you can drive to if you come from the main road) before going down a steeply descending, zig-zagging path to reach Marina di Puolo.

What does Marina di Puolo have to offer?

You will find a shop, a few restaurants and a hotel with its own private area of the beach when you get down there.
However, there is a good sized stretch of the grey, volcanic sand open to the public. You can hire sunbeds, deckchairs and umbrellas from Angelo, the resident bagnino, who can usually be found near the restaurant Raphael.
The view from the Raphael restaurant
Angelo and his helpful staff provide excellent customer service and keep the beach in good order.
When you enter the sea, it is shallow for several metres and you can wade out quite a long way before you begin to get out of your depth. Once you have crossed an area that is rather pebbly, you will find it is soft under foot and the water is pleasant for bathing. There is a substantial area for safe swimming, separated by a rope from the moored boats.
After your swim you will enjoy having lunch outside one of the restaurants along the sea front enjoying the view while you sample the delicious fresh fish and the local wine.
You can see Vesuvius and the coastline across the bay. To the right is the rocky end of Punta del Capo and to the left there is a promontory of land known as Capo di Massa, which is surmounted by the remains of a 16th century look-out tower.
Marina di Puolo can be crowded on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer, when many Italian families head for the beach. But on weekdays it is a pleasant place to escape to.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Frommer’s Amalfi Coast guide appreciates the beauty of Sorrento

Travel writers have a tendency to regard Sorrento as merely a convenient base for exploring Naples, Pompei or the Amalfi coast and often do not allow much space in their books for describing the resort itself.
But Frommer's Amalfi Coast gives Sorrento and its peninsula proper recognition, allowing a whole chapter for ‘The Land of Sirens’.
The authors Bruce Murphy and Alessandra de Rosa acknowledge the lure of Sorrento, writing: ‘…this little town has its charms, with many lesser known attractions and a peninsula that is among the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.’
They take their readers on a tour of the peninsula, starting from Castellamare di Stabia, which marks the beginning of the mountainous promontory.
As well as describing the main sights, restaurants and hotels in Sorrento itself, there is a lot of useful information about other places on the peninsula such as Vico Equense, Massa Lubrense, Sant’Agata su due Golfi, Nerano and Termini.
There are detailed directions for getting around using the ancient footpaths that crisscross the peninsula and the book’s restaurant recommendations include mouth watering descriptions of the local speciality dishes.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Views from Capo di Sorrento likened to paradise

Capo di Sorrento
Beyond Sorrento, as you travel south along the peninsula, you will find pretty villages to explore with stunning views over the bay of Naples.
The first place you encounter after leaving Sorrento along Via Capo is the small hamlet of Capo di Sorrento, which has grown up around the cape, or promontory of land, that protrudes into the sea, known as Punta del Capo.
Via Capo climbs steeply after you leave Sorrento and the walk can be hard work in hot weather but there are regular Linea A (Line A) orange buses running between Sorrento and Massa Lubrense that stop at Capo di Sorrento.
You will pass the crossroads where the Via Nastro Verde leads off to the left to the large village of Sant’Agata su due Golfi. If you continue along Via Capo you will have glimpses of the sea behind the low stone wall before you come to the baroque villa known as Il Sorito, which was the residence of Russian writer Maxim Gorky during his time in Sorrento early in the 19th century.
The writer Isaac Babel visited Gorky at the villa in 1833 and wrote these words about Capo di Sorrento in a letter home:
Maxim Gorky's villa
“The earthly paradise, I suppose, must look about like the Capo di Sorrento. The emerald sea is spread out before the window, orange, olive and lemon groves grow right up to the door. It’s only now that I am recovering my senses after so much blissful beauty.”
Further along Via Capo you will see a sign to i ruderi romani (the roman ruins), which directs you down Calata Punta Capo to the remains of the Villa Pollio and the beautiful Bagno della Regina Giovanna (Bath of Queen Joan).
Despite the many tourists who visit these attractions in the summer, you get the feeling that the pace of life has stayed the same for centuries for the residents of Capo, whose lives revolve around the church, two shops, a petrol station, a pizzeria, a bar and a post office.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Visit Villa Pollio and enjoy the views

Looking towards Sorrento from Punta del Capo
To see stunning views in different directions across the Bay of Naples visit the point of land protruding from the Sorrento peninsula known as Punta del Capo.
Many wealthy Romans built holiday villas on the panoramic points along the Sorrento coast and so it is not surprising that there are the extensive remains of a first century Roman villa on Punta del Capo.
You can explore the ruins at any time of the day free of charge and you will also find that it is good spot for photography.
It is well worth taking pictures of your family or holiday companions with the unique backdrop of the sweeping view over the Bay of Naples.

How to get to Villa Pollio

Leave Sorrento along Via del Capo in the direction of Massa Lubrense. You could walk, taking in the view over Marina Grande along the way, but it is uphill and can be hard work in hot weather. Or you could take the Linea A (Line A) orange bus to Capo di Sorrento from Piazza Tasso, which takes about ten minutes.
Get off at the small hamlet of Capo di Sorrento, where there are a few shops and a bar.
Il Bagno della Regina Giovanna
You will see a signpost pointing to i ruderi romani (Roman ruins). It is a pleasant walk down to the sea along Via Punta Capo past the church of San Rosario.
You will come first to a natural triangular pool with an archway of rock over it which is known as il Bagno della Regina Giovanna (Queen Joan’s bath). The clear shimmering water in the pool attracts swimmers and snorkellers in the summer.
On the tip of Punta del Capo are the ruins of a large Roman villa which would once have had grand rooms from which the panoramic views of the bay could be enjoyed. The villa would also have had access from the sea for visitors arriving by boat.

Who built Villa Pollio?

Many people believe that the villa was built by wealthy Roman citizen Pollio Felice and that the ruins are of the magnificent holiday home described in the writings of both Horace and the poet Stazio. Pollio Felice was a learned historian, orator and poet who founded a library in Rome and was the protector of Virgil and Horace.
The villa ruins from the sea
Queen Joan’s bath may have once been the swimming pool for the villa and it is thought there were also some beautiful gardens and a vineyard.
Another school of thought is that the villa referred to by Horace and Stazio was actually located at nearby Marina di Puolo, a small beach further along the coast, and that the extensive buildings on Punta del Capo belonged to someone else.

The infamous Queen Joan

The beautiful natural pool may have acquired its name because a 14th century Queen of Naples named Giovanna (Joan) was known to have frequented the spot with her ladies in waiting for bathing. Giovanna was famous both for her beauty and her cruelty towards her subjects and it is believed she came to a violent end, strangled by her nephew.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Imperial Hotel Tramontano has inspiring setting in Sorrento

The old wing of the Imperial Hotel Tramontano
that houses the birthplace of Torquato Tasso
The buildings that make up the Imperial Hotel Tramontano in Sorrento include the birthplace of Torquato Tasso, who has come to be regarded as one of the greatest poets of the Italian renaissance.
Tasso was born on 11 March, 1544 in a house at the side of Piazza della Vittoria, which is now a wing of the elegant, four-star hotel.
Tasso travelled about in Italy constantly during the 51 years of his life but came back to Sorrento towards the end to visit his beloved sister Cornelia at a time when he was in deep trouble.
Because of its beautiful location in pretty gardens and overlooking the bay of Naples, it is not surprising that the Imperial Hotel Tramontano has provided inspiration for other famous writers who have stayed there since.
It is believed Milton and Goethe once visited the historic building and, more recently, the hotel has accommodated American writers James Fennimore Cooper and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
The Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen is thought to have written Ghosts while enjoying a long stay at the Imperial Hotel Tramontano in the mid 19th century.
The present day hotel, which dates back to 1812, lies in a peaceful setting, hidden away from the main street of Via Vittorio Veneto in beautiful gardens. Guests can enjoy the views of Vesuvius across the bay and superb sunsets while sipping a drink on the Tramontano’s terrace.
The famous song Torna a Surriento was composed by Neapolitan poet and artist Giambattista de Curtis on that very terrace in 1902.
The hotel has large, elegant reception rooms decorated with paintings and antique furniture. The old courtyard and garden have rare Mediterranean and sub tropical plants as well as local flowers and citrus trees.
The luxuriously furnished guest bedrooms and suites either have views of the sea, the courtyard or the gardens.
There is an outdoor swimming pool with its own bar, a 16th century chapel and an elevator to carry guests down to the beach.
The hotel restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, is under the direction of Alfonso Iaccarino, the owner of the famous Don Alfonso restaurant at nearby Sant’Agata su due Golfi.
Only a five minute walk from Piazza Tasso in the centre of Sorrento , the Imperial Hotel Tramontano is in an ideal position. Guests can enjoy the tranquillity of the setting but are within easy reach of Sorrento’s shops and restaurants as well as the port at Marina Piccola and the railway station in Piazza De Curtis to enable them to travel further afield.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Sorrento celebrates Capodanno

A busy restaurant in Sorrento
New Year’s Day is called Capodanno in Italy, which literally means ‘head of the year’.
After a late start following the New Year’s Eve festivities, many families will enjoy another traditional feast together, either at home or in a restaurant.
Both visitors to Sorrento and local residents will have attended church services before sitting down to the festive meal and toasting the new year with a glass of good prosecco.
Buon Anno e Tanti Auguri per 2012 da Best of Sorrento!

Language note

Tanti auguri is the Italian phrase that is equivalent to 'best wishes' in English.