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.


Edoardo De Martino

Famous artist from Meta di Sorrento

Edoardo Federico de Martino, an artist who became famous for his paintings of warships and naval battles, was born today in 1838 in Meta, just outside Sorrento.

At the height of his success, De Martino worked in London, where his paintings of ships and famous British naval victories were held in high regard by Queen Victoria.
De Martino at his easel.

He went on to work as a painter for Queen Victoria’s son, King Edward VII, and he often accompanied the King on naval tours.

De Martino was born in the small town of Meta, to the north east of Sorrento, which had a long history of boat building.

He served as an officer in the Italian Navy but by the time he was 30 his main interest was painting.

He became associated with the School of Resina, a group of artists who painted landscapes and contemporary scenes that gathered in Resina, a seaside resort south of Naples, now incorporated into the towns of Herculaneum and Portici. 

Influenced by his fellow artists, De Martino eventually went to live and work in Naples
He found fame after moving to London, where he painted scenes from the battles of Trafalgar, the Nile and Cape San Vincenzo.

For his service as Marine painter in Ordinary to King Edward VII, De Martino was appointed an Honorary Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO) in the 1902 Birthday Honours. He received the decoration from King Edward VII at Sandringham House on 9 November 1902.

From 1905 onwards, De Martino travelled about, completing paintings of Italian naval ships and views of the Brazilian coast.

Edoardo De Martino died in Richmond upon Thames in London in 1912 at the age of 76.

In 2013, many of De Martino’s sketches and paintings were put on display in an exhibition organised by the Association of Commercianti del Casale di Meta.

A painting of a naval battle by De Martino.
Meta lies between Piano di Sorrento and Vico Equense on the main coastal road going from Sorrento in the direction of Naples.

 The town has a long history of boat building and by the time of De Martino’s birth 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 enables the occupant to fish and row at the same time. Meta has a magnificent church, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Lauro, 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 frescoes from the 18th century. Meta celebrates the Festa of Santa Maria del Lauro every year on 12 September.


Valley of the Mills

 Rare ferns now cover area that used to be full of life

Sorrento has many surprises and amazing sights, but the unusual Vallone dei Mulini (Valley of the Mills), only a short walk away from the main square, Piazza Tasso, has been captivating artists and photographers for more than 100 years. 

If you leave Piazza Tasso and walk up Via Fuorimura, past the bars and restaurants on either side, you will come to a deep gorge, close to the Hotel Plaza, that you can view from the road above. 
Ruins of the old mill

The Valley of the Mills is an astonishing, natural phenomenon caused by a volcanic eruption about 35,000 years ago.

The valley gets its name from an ancient wheat mill that once provided the entire area with its wheat requirements and was still working in the early 1900s. You can see the ruins of the mill, now partially covered with vegetation.

Because many artists have painted pictures of the abandoned valley and photographers have captured it from every angle it is known what it would have looked like in the last century.

The springs and stream that fed into the valley also worked a saw mill that provided artisans and carpenters with cherry, walnut and olive wood to work on.

Local woman would bring their laundry to wash in the public wash tubs there and the valley was once full of life, as can be seen in some of the old paintings.

Valley seen from the road above
When Piazza Tasso was built in 1866 the valley was cut off from Marina Piccola, which it used to join up with, and was gradually abandoned by people. The only access to the valley now is through an old gate.

Blocking the valley’s access to the sea has created a humid microclimate in which plants have thrived, in particular a rare type of fern.

The atmospheric ruins and the lush vegetation seen from above now provide unusual holiday photographs for visitors to take back with them.