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.


Marina Piccola

Historic port is a transport hub for locals and tourists

The harbour at Marina Piccola, the departure point for trips to Naples, Capri and elsewhere
The harbour at Marina Piccola, the departure point
for trips to Naples, Capri and elsewhere
Marina Piccola (small marina) is Sorrento’s main port, from where the car ferries and hydrofoils depart for Naples, the islands of Capri, Procida and Ischia, and the Amalfi coast. 

Confusingly for visitors to Sorrento, Marina Grande (big marina), Sorrento’s other port, has more of the atmosphere of a fishing village, with small boats lined up on its beach and a good choice of restaurants, bars, and shops.

At one time, Marina Piccola could be reached only by a long flight of steps, but now there is a road - Via Luigi de Maio - leading to it from Piazza Tasso, which buses and taxis use to transport hundreds of local people and visitors up and down each day.

A double lift was installed in Villa Comunale, which overlooks the port, in 2012, to save passengers from the uphill walk when they have arrived by boat. With a capacity of eight passengers in each lift, it replaced an earlier, single-shaft elevator that closed in 2006. 

The pretty Church of Santa Maria del Soccorso at Marina Piccola
The pretty Church of Santa Maria
del Soccorso at Marina Piccola
The cost to ride up or down in the lift is 1.10 euro and it is in operation from 7.30 am each day. Travellers returning from a day trip to Capri, Ischia or Naples can be whisked up from the port to Piazza Gargiulo in the Villa Comunale in just 20 seconds, although at busy times there can be a queue to use the lift.

From Villa Comunale it is just a few minutes’ walk to Piazza Tasso and the shops, bars, restaurants, and hotels in the centre of the resort.

As well as bars and restaurants around the harbour, there is a ticket office at Marina Piccola where you can buy tickets for the boats and hydrofoils.

From Marina Piccola, you can access the areas of pebbly sand set out for sun bathing and swimming, such as Leonelli’s Beach, Peter’s Beach, Marameo Beach and Bagni Salvatore. 

But these can be crowded, and the hire charge for sun beds and beach umbrellas is likely to be higher than at beaches outside the centre of Sorrento.

Old documents have been found in which Marina Piccola is referred to as ‘portus capi cerbuli’, which seems to signify it has a long history of being the main port of Sorrento. It has its own small church, tucked away in a corner, the pretty pink and grey Church of Santa Maria del Soccorso, which is thought to date back to the 16th century, although it is known that its bell tower was added in 1715.

The statue of the Holy Virgin being positioned on a boat ready for its trip along the coastline
The statue of the Holy Virgin being positioned
on a boat ready for its trip along the coastline
From the church, a statue of the Holy Virgin of Soccorso is loaded on to a boat to take to the water every year on the first Sunday in August, a tradition that enables fishermen and others who make their living on the sea to give thanks to the Madonna for their protection. 

The statue follows a course that takes in the main marinas of the Gulf of Sorrento, at first rounding Capo di Sorrento to pause at Marina di Puolo, then returning to visit the Marinella di Sant’Agnello, Marina di Cassano at Piano di Sorrento and the Spiaggia di Alimuri at Meta. Often the statue is followed by a procession of other boats.



Piano di Sorrento

See spectacular sunsets from the plain of Sorrento

Looking across the marina at Cassano, the fishing village that forms part of Piano di Sorrento
Looking across the marina at Cassano, the
fishing village that forms part of Piano di Sorrento

A few minutes journey from Sorrento is Piano di Sorrento, a former fishing village situated between Sant'Agnello and Meta as you travel in the direction of Naples. 

Primarily a residential area with plenty of shops, Piano di Sorrento has a marina and two small beaches with an area free for use by the public.

The village of Piano di Sorrento became more prosperous when the supply of power and water was improved, after the creation of a railway tunnel between Vico Equense and Castellammare di Stabia. This moved the area’s economic base from just fishing, agriculture, and boat-building towards tourism.

You can now reach Piano di Sorrento from Sorrento in about five minutes by car, bus or on the Circumvesuviana railway. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes and some hotels and B&Bs in the town.

Piano di Sorrento is divided into two distinct areas, Cassano and Carotto, and above the town are the Colli di San Pietro, hills that have lovely views over the Bay of Naples and the Bay of Salerno.

In the centre of the town is the ninth century Basilica di San Michele Arcangelo and the Villa Fondi de Sangro, which is open to the public and houses the Museo Archeologico George Vallet which houses interesting artefacts unearthed from excavations in the area. You can watch spectacular sunsets from benches in the park belonging to the villa, which is on a high cliff looking out over the Bay of Naples.

The Victorian poet Robert Browning is said to have once stayed in the area and he mentions the countryside of Piano di Sorrento and other places along the Sorrentine peninsula in his poem "The Englishman in Italy".





Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Quick and easy southern Italian pasta dish has a colourful history

Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a tasty dish that is easy to cook at home
Spaghetti alla puttanesca is a tasty dish
that is easy to cook at home
The distinctive aroma and piquant taste of a puttanesca sauce is something I always associate with Naples. It somehow evokes the atmosphere of the city for me because you enjoy the enticing smell of tomatoes and olives cooked in garlic as you pass restaurants hidden behind unobtrusive doors in the narrow streets in the centre.  

There are various theories about how the sauce, which can be served with either spaghetti or linguine, acquired its name. Puttana is the Italian word for prostitute, so it means literally, spaghetti cooked ‘in the style of the prostitute.’

People have speculated that the dish could have been invented to lure men into houses of ill repute, to be served to them while they waited their turn. Or, the prostitutes may have cooked it to eat themselves, because it was quick and easy to make.

Another version is that pasta cooked alla puttanesca was convenient for married women to make so that they could spend less time in the kitchen and more time with their Neapolitan lovers.

The sauce began to crop up on restaurant menus under various names in the 19th century and the ingredients would vary slightly, according to the area of Italy.

There was a reference to the dish in a 1960s Italian novel when one of the characters says: ‘Spaghetti alla puttanesca, like they make in Siricusa’. In Sicily, the sauce is referred to as spaghetti alla siciliana and has green peppers added to it.

Most Neapolitan cookery books do not suggest adding anchovies to the sauce, but In Lazio, where they also claim it as their own, puttanesca sauce contains chopped anchovies.

It has also been claimed the sauce was invented at a restaurant on the island of Ischia out in the bay of Naples. A group of customers arrived late in the evening when the restaurant had practically run out of ingredients. The customers asked the owner just to give them what he had left, so he quickly made a sauce using four tomatoes, two olives and some capers and garlic, to serve with their spaghetti.

You can use either fresh or tinned tomatoes to make spaghetti alla puttanesca. If you want to make the Neapolitan version, you should fry some garlic in olive oil, add the tomatoes, capers, black olives, and parsley and let it simmer for about ten minutes while the spaghetti is cooking. 

I sometimes add a couple of chopped anchovies and a pinch of dried oregano to it, just because I enjoy the taste. Buon appetito!





Sorrento restaurant where culinary secrets of former priest still delight diners

O'Parrucchiano has been serving diners on Sorrento's Corso d'Italia since 1868
O'Parrucchiano has been serving diners on
Sorrento's Corso d'Italia since 1868
One of the longest established restaurants in Sorrento, O’Parrucchiano continues to serve high-quality, traditional Sorrento dishes in a magical setting, despite being right in the centre of the resort.

Although O’Parrucchiano is just off the busy Corso d’Italia, you feel as though you are in a citrus grove as you sit on the glass-covered dining terrace, surrounded by a garden filled with lemon trees.

O’Parruchiano was originally named La Favorita when it first opened as a tiny trattoria in just two rooms, a few metres away from Sorrento's Duomo, in 1868. The founder, Antonio Ercolano, had learnt the art of cooking while working for the Archbishop of Sorrento.

Because of Antonio’s past connections with the priesthood, he gained the nickname of ‘o’parrucchiano’, which in Neapolitan dialect means, parish priest.

The restaurant became famous for its cannelloni, which Antonio originally named strascinati when he first created the dish more than 100 years ago. Cannelloni did not appear on the menus of other restaurants until well into the 20th century.

Diners on O'Parrucchiano's upper terrace feel like they are eating in a lemon grove
Diners on O'Parrucchiano's upper terrace
feel like they are eating in a lemon grove
Antonio bequeathed his restaurant to his young nephew, Giuseppe Maniello, after teaching him all his culinary secrets. Giuseppe then enlarged the original trattoria and helped it to become more widely known.

O’Parrucchiano was invited to be included in the Association of Historical Places of Italy and it has been featured in magazines and newspapers in many different countries. In 1958, it was awarded the title ‘Excellent Kitchen’ by the Academy of Italian Cooking.

Over the years, many famous people from the worlds of art, culture, entertainment, and sport have dined there.

Giuseppe’s son, Enzo has since taken over the running of the restaurant, and is helped by his two sons, Giuseppe and Mario, who represent the fourth generation of the family of the founder, Antonio.

The restaurant has a botanical atmosphere throughout
The restaurant has a botanical
atmosphere throughout
O’Parrucchiano’s two spacious dining rooms, furnished with statues, amphorae and other family heirlooms, provide the perfect setting for diners to enjoy the wide selection of Sorrentine specialities on the menu.

You can start with some local seafood and fish antipasti dishes. For primo piatto, you can choose between the famous cannelloni del centenario, gnocchi alla Sorrentina or risotto alla pescatora, among the many other pasta and rice dishes on offer.

For secondo piatto, you have the choice of scallopina alla sorrentina, maiale di Avellino, pesce all’acqua pazza or alla brace, and alici locali as well as many more tempting dishes, which are served with the tomatoes, lemons, vegetables and herbs that provide the authentic aromas and flavours of the Bay of Naples. Buon appetito!



Celebrating the New Year in Sorrento

Firework displays are a major part of New Year celebrations in Sorrento
Firework displays are a major part of
New Year celebrations in Sorrento
In Sorrento the arrival of a New Year is celebrated with fireworks and parties and the hotels and restaurants put on special festive dinner menus. 

A local tradition is the lighting of the ciuccio di fuoco, a donkey made of fabric stuffed with fireworks. The donkey represents the old year and it is set on fire at midnight to ignite the fireworks. It symbolises burning and obliterating bad memories from the year before.

At midnight the streets are full of people exchanging good wishes, toasting the New Year, and enjoying the festive atmosphere in a magical city that is full of lights and colours.

Il Presidente della Repubblica will have delivered his Messaggio di Fine Anno from the Quirinale in Rome, shown on most Italian television channels. This is followed on Rai Uno by L’Anno Che Verrà, a live programme of pop and entertainment transmitted from a square in a beautiful town in Italy to see in the New Year.

New Year’s Eve is known as la Festa di San Silvestro in Italy and is a time when families and friends traditionally get together for a special dinner.

There are midnight fireworks displays in many cities as well as at private parties. A custom still followed in some parts of Italy is throwing old things out of the window to symbolise readiness to accept the New Year.

Buon Anno from Best of Sorrento!




Chiesa di Sant’Anna at Marina Grande

Pretty church at the heart of an annual celebration

The church, with its pink and green façade, is set in its own square
The church, with its pink and green
façade, is set in its own square
Right in the middle of Marina Grande, set back from the beach in its own little square, is a pretty 17th century church dedicated to Saint Anne (Sant’Anna), the mother of the Virgin Mary.

The Baroque church, with its pink and cream façade, was built on the site of a much earlier church and paid for by the local fishermen. Originally, the church was dedicated to souls in purgatory, but it was later rededicated to Saint Anne, the grandmother of Jesus.

It is about a ten-minute walk from Piazza Tasso to visit the church. You go through Piazza Vittoria and along Via Marina Grande and as you descend to the seafront, you will catch a glimpse of the green and yellow patterned cupola and the campanile of the parish church.

Walk along the seafront past the Da Emilia restaurant and you will find the church on your left. The entrance door, flanked by two marble columns, leads into the simple interior, which has a single nave and a wooden trussed ceiling. Behind the main altar is a statue of Saint Anne and the church also has sculptures of the crucified Christ and John the Baptist.

The floor is covered in white and grey marble and on the opposite wall of the church, high above the entrance door, is a pipe organ.

The church's green cupola can be  seen in the centre of this picture
The church's green cupola can be 
seen in the centre of this picture 
The feast day of the Saints, Anne and Joachim, who were the parents of Mary and grandparents of Jesus, is celebrated on 26 July each year at Marina Grande. A few days before, lights shaped like sea shells and sweet stalls appear alongside the long-established restaurants and bars.

It is a tradition that handmade handkerchiefs are sold from one of the stalls, along with a special blessing offering protection to pregnant women, as Saint Anne is also the patron saint of pregnancy and motherhood.

The first Sunday after 26 July, trumpets sound early in the morning to herald the beginning of a large procession, when the statue of Sant’Anna is carried around Sorrento. People come by boat afterwards to join in the celebrations at Marina Grande and eat traditional Sorrento specialities at the restaurants.

The day ends with spectacular fireworks that light up the bay, accompanied by classical music, signalling the end of the festivities for another year.





Spigola all’acqua pazza

Try this recipe for cooking fish in a very Italian way

Spigola all'acqua pazza
Gently poach your spigola all'acqua pazza
until it flakes easily when tested with a fork
Once your holiday in Sorrento is over and you’re back at home, it is nice to try to recreate some of the meals you have enjoyed during your stay.

A southern Italian way of cooking fish that is delightfully simple to do in your own kitchen is spigola all’acqua pazza, which literally means, sea bass cooked in crazy water. Naples may lay claim to having invented this way of cooking fish, but spigola all’acqua pazza can be found on the menus of many restaurants in Sorrento and the surrounding area. And fish cooked all’acqua pazza is said to have become very popular with visitors to the island of Capri during the 1960s.

It is an easy dish to prepare at home and although you can’t beat sitting outside a restaurant overlooking beaches such as Marina di Puolo and Marina del Cantone while you eat it, just the smell and taste of the lovely poaching liquid flavoured with tomato and garlic will immediately transport you back to Italy from wherever you live .

Use fresh fillets of sea bass and place them skin side down in a frying pan. Cover them with a little cold water, a dash of olive oil, some chopped parsley and chopped garlic, then add a teaspoon of tomato puree or a few cherry tomatoes cut in half, or both together to provide the tomato flavour.

View from restaurant at Marina del Cantone
Best served at a restaurant table overlooking the
sea, such as this one at Marina del Cantone
The broth in which your seabass will be gently poached is thought to date back to when the fishermen, out of necessity, had to use seawater instead of fresh water to cook their fish, and with the additional flavourings it became known as acqua pazza - crazy water.

Thankfully you don’t have to go that far to recreate the authentic taste, the oil, garlic and tomato will do the job for you. The fish is ready when it flakes easily if you test it with a fork.

The sauce also goes well with branzino - sea bream - or you could even experiment with other types of white fish, such as halibut, cod or haddock.

Serve your fish with some fried potatoes, or crusty bread, and a side salad. Pour yourself a glass of Italian white wine and put on a CD of Neapolitan songs or mandolin music to complete the experience.

Buon appetito!