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, February 1, 2021

Poet Torquato Tasso’s birthplace in Sorrento

Renaissance writer came back to Sorrento later in life

Torquato Tasso, who has come to be regarded as the greatest Italian poet of the Renaissance, was born in 1544 in Sorrento.

Tasso’s most famous work was his epic poem Gerusalemme Liberata (Jerusalem Delivered) in which he gives an imaginative account of the battles between Christians and Muslims at the end of the first crusade during the siege of Jerusalem.

Part of Imperial Hotel Tramontano
was Tasso's birthplace
He was one of the most widely read poets in Europe and his work was later to prove inspirational for other writers who followed him, in particular the English poets Spencer and Byron. 

The house where Tasso was born on 11 March, 1544 is in Sorrento’s historic centre, a few streets away from the main square in Via Vittorio Veneto.

The remains of the villa, which was built on the edge of a cliff, now form part of the Imperial Hotel Tramontano.

A plaque on the back wall of the hotel quotes words written by Tasso’s father, Bernardo Tasso, who was also a poet.

Torquato Tasso lived in the villa until 1552 when his father was exiled from Sorrento along with his employer, Prince Ferrante Sanseverino, after they were both accused of being rebels.

Part of the original house where Tasso was born fell into the sea in 1662. Only a room with two arches and balconies overlooking the sea remain. In the 17th century a villa was built incorporating the remains and this eventually became the Imperial Hotel Tramontano, which was opened in 1812.

Tasso’s father, Bernardo, went on to become resident poet at the Ducal Palace in Urbino, enabling his son to study alongside Francesco Maria della Rovere, the heir to the Duke. Tasso was later sent to study law in Padua but he chose to write poetry instead.

Tasso spent years in Ferrara living at the Castle owned by the Este family, where he fell in love with a lady in waiting and wrote love sonnets to her.

He suffered as a result of the jealous behaviour of the other courtiers and this led to him developing a persecution mania and fearing he was going to be poisoned. He also believed he was going to be denounced by the Inquisition.

House of Cornelia Tasso
While still enjoying the patronage of the Duke of Ferrara, Tasso entered a Franciscan convent for the benefit of his health, but later escaped, disguised as a peasant and travelled to Sorrento.

He went to visit his only sister, Cornelia, in her house in the historic centre of Sorrento, situated between the main street and the sea.

You can still see Cornelia’s house, tucked away in a narrow street, Via San Nicola, at number 11. It became known as the Sersale house because Cornelia had married Marzio Sersale in 1558.

Cornelia continued to live in the house with her sons Antonino and Alessandro after she became a widow.

The house can be identified by a pretty little balcony on the front, which is supported by decorative stonework.

It is said that Tasso arrived at Cornelia’s house and pretended to be a messenger who had come to inform her of her brother’s death.

Tasso is believed to have been trying to test Cornelia’s loyalty to him, but her shock and distress on receiving the news was enough to reassure him that she could be trusted.

Despite enjoying happy months with his sister in Sorrento, Tasso found that he missed the court at Ferrara and wrote humbly to the Duke asking if he could come back.

But he continued to be unwell on his return to Ferrara and his erratic conduct eventually led to him being confined in the madhouse of Sant’Anna.

Although Tasso was to enjoy some freedom and was able to travel around Italy again in the last few years of his life, his health started to decline. Tasso died in Rome in 1595 when he was just about to be crowned poet laureate by Pope Clement VIII. He was 51 years of age.

Statue of poet in Piazza Tasso.
To find the house of Cornelia Tasso, leave Piazza Sant’Antonino and walk along Via Santa Maria delle Grazie, which runs parallel with Corso Italia. Continue in a straight line along Via dell’Accademia until it becomes Vico San Nicola. The house of Cornelia Tasso can be found on the right hand side.

Sorrento’s main square, Piazza Tasso was later named after the poet and there is a statue of him there.

Piazza Tasso is the hub of Sorrento, in the middle of the main shopping street, Corso Italia, and looking out over Marina Piccola, Sorrento’s port. Surrounded by bars and restaurants, the square has stops for the local buses and a taxi rank. It is also the resting place for the horses that pull the carriages that can be hired for sightseeing.

Tasso’s statue is set in a pretty little garden opposite Bar Ercolano.


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