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.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Shrine to San Giuseppe Moscati in Sorrento

Overlooking Sorrento’s main square, Piazza Tasso, the yellow-painted 16th century Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine will be the focus of attention today as people visit the shrine to San Giuseppe Moscati in the side chapel to the left of the altar.

The Sanctuary that overlooks Piazza Tasso in Sorrento contains the shrine to San Giuseppe Moscati
Sanctuary of the Madonna del
Carmine overlooks Piazza Tasso

Doctor and scientist Giuseppe Moscati was beatified by Pope Paul VI on this day in 1975 and his feast day was made 16 November after he was canonised by Pope John Paul II in 1987.

Giuseppe was renowned for his kindness and generosity to his patients and even before his death people talked of ‘miracle’ cures being achieved by him.

The saint was born into a big family in Benevento in Campania in 1880. His father, a lawyer and magistrate, was active in the church and Giuseppe inherited his piety.

The family later moved to Naples and Giuseppe enrolled in the medical school of the University of Naples in 1897.

On graduating he went to work in a hospital but continued with his brilliant scientific research and attended Mass frequently.

When Vesuvius erupted in 1906 he helped evacuate all the elderly and paralysed patients before the roof collapsed on the hospital under the weight of the ash.

He worked tirelessly to research ways to eradicate cholera in Naples and personally cared for many soldiers wounded in the First World War.

Giuseppe Moscati was a doctor and scientist in Naples
He was compassionate to the poor and often gave them money as well as free medical treatment and a prescription.

Giuseppe died suddenly in 1927 at the age of 46 having been on duty at the hospital only that morning.

After his death, a young man dying from leukaemia was suddenly and inexplicably cured when his mother dreamed of a doctor in a white coat. She was able to identify the doctor as Blessed Giuseppe after her priest showed her a photograph. The man, still fit and well, attended the canonisation ceremony of Giuseppe Moscati conducted by Pope John Paul II.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Spend the day in ‘royal’ Naples

If you go to Naples for the day while staying in Sorrento, spend some time in the area around Piazza del Plebiscito, where there are many buildings with royal connections that are well worth seeing.

You can arrive by boat and quickly walk up from the harbour to this area, which is the smartest part of the city.

Piazza del Plebiscito is not far from the port of Naples
Piazza del Plebiscito is not far from the port
The impressive Palazzo Reale at the eastern end of Piazza del Plebiscito was one of the residences of the Kings of Naples at the time the city was capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

The palace, which dates back to 1600, is now home to a 30-room museum and the largest library in southern Italy, which are both open to the public.

It is nice to browse in the shops of the elegant Galleria Umberto I nearby, which was built in the 1880s and named after one of the Savoy Kings of Italy.

You could pause for refreshments at Gran Caffè Gambrinus, founded in 1860 in Piazza Trieste e Trento. It was later remodelled in stile liberty (art nouveau) and became a meeting place for artists and intellectuals in Naples.

Close to the royal palace is one of the oldest opera houses in the world, built for a Bourbon King of Naples.

Teatro di San Carlo was officially opened on 4 November in 1737, way ahead of La Scala in Milan and La Fenice in Venice.

Palazzo Reale viewed from the Caffe Gambrinus
Palazzo Reale viewed from the Caffe Gambrinus
Built in Via San Carlo close to Piazza Plebiscito, Teatro di San Carlo quickly became one of the most important opera houses in Europe and renowned for its excellent productions.

The theatre was designed by Giovanni Antonio Medrano for Charles I, and took just eight months to build.

The official inauguration was on the King’s saint’s day, the festival of San Carlo, on the evening of 4 November. There was a performance of L’Achille in Sciro by Pietro Metastasio with music by Domenico Sarro, who also conducted the orchestra for the music for two ballets.

This was 41 years before La Scala and 55 years before La Fenice opened. San Carlo is now believed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, remaining opera houses in the world.

Both Rossini and Donizetti served as artistic directors at San Carlo and the world premieres of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Rossini’s Mosè were performed there.

In the magnificent auditorium, the focal point is the royal box surmounted by the crown of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

Festival of San Gennaro in Naples

Worshippers, civic dignitaries, scholars and tourists meet together in the Duomo in Naples every year on 19 September to remember the martyrdom of the patron saint of the city, San Gennaro.
Every year a service is held during which the dried blood of the saint, which is kept in glass phials in the Duomo, turns to liquid.
The Bay of Naples with Vesuvius in the background.
The practice of gathering blood for relics was a common practice at the time of the decapitation of San Gennaro in 305 and the ritual of praying for the miracle of liquefaction dates back to the 13th century in Naples.
The festival of the saint’s martyrdom is celebrated by Neapolitan communities all over the world and the recurrence of the miracle each year is televised and reported in the newspapers.
On the few occasions that the miracle hasn’t happened, Neapolitains have dreaded a catastrophe occurring. In 1980 after the liquefaction failed to take place a massive earthquake struck the region. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Piazza Sant’Antonino

Palm trees shelter Sorrento saint

Sorrento’s patron saint, Sant’Antonino, has three statues honouring him in the historic centre of the resort.
In Piazza Tasso, the hub of Sorrento, in the middle of the main shopping street, Corso Italia, there is a statue of Sant’Antonino in a prominent position. The square is named after the poet Torquato Tasso, who was born in Sorrento, but his statue is tucked away in a little garden to one side.
Sant'Antonino looks out over his square
A short walk from Piazza Tasso along Via Luigi de Maio, leads to the pretty Piazza Sant’Antonino, which has a statue of Sant’Antonino Abate surrounded by palm trees with Sorrento’s Town Hall behind it.
Just off the square, the Via Santa Maria delle Grazie leads to the church of the same name. Running parallel with Via San Cesareo and the Corso, this street has many interesting shops, bars and restaurants.
The piazza is also home to Basilica Sant’Antonino, parts of which date back to the 11th century. In the sacristry is a beautiful example of a presepe (crib) with 17th century figures made by Neapolitan sculptors.
Inside the Basilica, another statue of the saint is surrounded by the many offerings from sailors who have been saved from shipwrecks over the centuries and believe it was thanks to the intervention of Sant’Antonino.
Basilica Sant'Antonino is across the road from the statue
Sant’Antonino Abate died on 14 February, 626 AD.
He is credited with saving the life of a child swallowed by a whale and protecting Sorrento against plague and invasion.
Each year on the anniversary of his death, a silver statue of Sant’Antonino is carried in a procession through the streets of Sorrento and there are festive lights, fireworks, and musical events in his name.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Death in the High City first anniversary

A successful year for crime novel set in Italy

Death in the High City, the first British detective novel to be set in Bergamo in northern Italy, has had an exciting first year.

The novel, which was published in Kindle format on Amazon 12 months ago today, has sold copies in the UK, Italy, America, Australia and Canada. A paperback version of Death in the High City was published in July 2014. Author Val Culley has had some heart warming emails and messages about the book from readers both in the UK and abroad and has been delighted with the level of interest in her first novel.

Book on display in Piazza Vecchia
In October 2014 Val was a guest at the fifth anniversary celebrations of Bergamo Su e Giù, a group of independent tour guides in the city. She was invited to present Death in the High City to an audience in San Pellegrino Terme and sign copies of the book and she also made an appearance on Bergamo TV to talk about the novel with presenter Teo Mangione.
In November the book was purchased by Leicestershire Libraries and is now in stock at Loughborough, Shepshed, Ashby de la Zouch, Coalville, Castle Donington and Kegworth Libraries and is going out on loan regularly.
In April this year Val was invited to Bergamo again to present her novel to a group of 80 Italian teachers of English and to sign copies. She made a second appearance on Bergamo TV and also formally presented a copy of Death in the High City to the Biblioteca Civica (Civic Library) in Piazza Vecchia, a location that is featured in the novel itself.
Death in the High City centres on the investigation into the death of an English woman who was staying in the Città Alta while writing a biography of the composer Gaetano Donizetti.
The novel is the first of a series to feature the characters of Kate Butler, a freelance journalist, and Steve Bartorelli, a Detective Chief Inspector, whose family is from Sorrento and has just retired from the English police.
Val Culley signs copies of her book
The victim had been living in an apartment in Bergamo’s Città Alta and much of the action takes place within the walls of the upper town. The local police do not believe there is enough evidence to open a murder enquiry and so Kate Butler, who is the victim’s cousin, arrives in Bergamo to try to get some answers about her death.
Kate visits many of the places in the city with Donizetti connections and her enquiries even take her out to Lago d’Iseo and into the countryside around San Pellegrino Terme. But after her own life is threatened and there has been another death in the Città Alta, her lover, Steve Bartorelli, joins her to help unravel the mystery and trap the killer.
The novel will be of interest to anyone who enjoys the ‘cosy’ crime fiction genre or likes detective novels with an Italian setting.
Val is now working on a sequel, Death in Sirenland, set in Sorrento in southern Italy.

Death in the High City by Val Culley is available on

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Santa Maria delle Grazie Sorrento

Church bears testament to fascinating history of Sorrento

Tucked away in a quiet street in the oldest part of Sorrento, the baroque church and adjoining Dominican convent dedicated to Santa Maria delle Grazie is well worth a visit.
The church can be found in Via Santa Maria delle Grazie just off Piazza Sant’Antonino, a street which follows the ancient Greek layout of the town.
Archway leading to historic church

Santa Maria delle Grazie was built in 1567 on the orders of a noble Sorrentine lady, Bernardina Donnorso, who decided to found a convent to accommodate young girls from the area who had chosen to follow the strict rules of life in a nunnery.
You will find the church on your right hand side as you leave Piazza Sant’Antonino after passing through an arcade surmounted by an arch. It was built in typical baroque style with a single nave and still has a beautiful majolica floor, a 17th century wooden choir for the nuns and many works by southern Italian artists painted between the 15th and 17th centuries.
Over the altar is a painting of Santa Maria delle Grazie among the angels with St John the Baptist and Santo Domenico by Neapolitan artist Silvestro Buono Junior. Bernardina Donnorso died and was buried in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in 1597 but the convent she founded has survived.
Doorway of the church

Entry to the convent is still strictly forbidden. The door from the street, which has a beautiful stone pediment bearing the date 1567 above it, leads into a small, plain room and the nuns have to remain behind gratings.
The convent is surrounded by tall walls, which adds to the peaceful atmosphere of the street as you walk along, even though some of the busy bars, restaurants and shops of the resort are close by.