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The best things to do in Sorrento, Italy

From beach clubs, boat trips and breathtaking views to secret pools, shady cloisters and sumptuous seafood. Discover all the best things to do in Sorrento, Italy.

Marina Grande, one of the best things to do in Sorrento

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Italy took me half a lifetime to visit. I’d originally planned to visit Italy and Sorrento for the first time way back when. For whatever reason, that first visit didn’t happen, and we went to the Greek island of Zante instead. It was totally lovely, but it wasn’t Italy.

Almost 25 years to the day later, I arrived in Sorrento for my first taste of la dolce vita. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t left it so long – there are so many amazing things to do in Sorrento and we had the best time.

The small coastal town of Sorrento is on the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Campania region of Italy. It teeters on a near-vertical cliff edge, giving the town some of the best views across the sparkling Bay of Naples and out towards Mount Vesuvius.

It’s no surprise that Sorrento is a popular tourist destination, so what are the best things to do in Sorrento?

Sorrento is a small town teetering on an almost vertical cliff ledge on the Sorrentine Pensinsular. With wonderful coastal views across the sparkling Bay of Naples and out towards Mount Vesuvius this coastal town in the Campania region of Italy is a popular tourist destination for very good reason.

Boats in Marina Grande, Sorrento

The best things to do in Sorrento, Italy

Here are my top picks of the best places to visit in Sorrento. You’ll find famous Sorrento tourist attractions, must-try Italian delicacies and a choice of popular free things to do in Sorrento. Read on to discover my top things to do in Sorrento.

People watch on Piazza Tasso

There are some great spots around the town where you can while away a few sunny hours.

Piazza Tasso, the main square in Sorrento, was built in 1866 and is named after the Italian poet Torquato Tasso. It’s a lively hub, lined with colourful buildings around a central statue of St. Antonino Abbate and with citrus trees adding a zing of colour. You’ll also find Sorrento’s tourist information centre in the Grand Excelsior Hotel on Piazza Tasso.

Many bars and cafes surround the square, and we found The Ercolano to be a perfect spot for people-watching over an Aperol Spritz. We amused ourselves by watching the trucks, cars, mopeds and horse-drawn carts negotiating the tiniest of roundabouts, little more than a lamp-post in the middle of the square.

Piazza Tasso, Sorrento
Piazza Tasso, Sorrento with the yellow church of the Madonna del Carmine

Take a boat tour from Marina Piccola – Sorrento’s main port

Marina Piccola is Sorrento’s principal port and your gateway to the Bay of Naples. It’s easy to reach either on foot or by bus, and for easy access, there’s an elevator that you can take from the Villa Comunale Gardens.

The Marina Piccola port has two main functions, acting both as Sorrento’s main sea travel hub and as a leisure destination with several beach clubs.

From Marina Piccola, you can take ferries to the nearby cities of Naples and Salerno or visit other towns on the Amalfi Coast, like Positano and Amalfi itself. You can also take a boat trip to the island of Capri or visit nearby islands like Ischia and Procida.

The pretty marina is a great place to relax in one of Sorrento’s beach clubs, visit some shops or just relax over a meal at one of the harbourside restaurants.

Explore Sorrento’s ancient alleyways

A maze of narrow, medieval alleyways and backstreets lead out from the piazzas in Sorrento’s Centro Storico or old town.

Via San Cesareo, one of the main alleyways is packed with trattorias, bars and restaurants selling fragrant Italian coffee, local wines and freshly caught seafood. There’s plenty of choice to suit all tastes.

There’s also a plethora of souvenir shops selling everything from fridge magnets to local pottery and inlaid wooden gifts. You’ll notice a lemon theme running through the gifts, from limoncello to chinaware and soap, paying homage to the famous local fruit.

If you want to do more serious shopping then head for the main shopping street Corsa Italia.

Cool down in Chiostro di San Francesco

Take a break from the bustling streets and Sorrento sun by visiting the Chiostro di San Francesco.

The 14th-century cloister of San Francesco is one of Sorrento’s most famous attractions and features in many walking tours of Sorrento. It sits between a late-medieval church and the ruins of a 7th-century monastery which are both dedicated to St Francis of Assisi.

The Chiostro di San Francesco showcases a mix of architectural styles, and you’ll see an Arabic portico along with octagonal pillars supporting interlacing arches. And with the flamboyant Bougainvillea and the sweet sound of birdsong, this serene cloister has the sort of fairytale atmosphere that makes it popular for weddings.

Admission to the Chiostro di San Francesco Sorrento is free, but please remember to wear modest clothing when you visit.

Where: Address: Piazza Gargiulo 8, Sorrento, Italy

When: Open every day, 7am to 7pm

Walk The Path of the Gods

Path of the Gods near to Positano, Italy
Positano coastline

The Sentiero degli Dei, or ‘Path of the Gods’, stretches from Agerola along the coastline to Positano and is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the world. It’s a little way out from Sorrento but worth a bus ride or guided tour. This moderately challenging 7km hike will give you jaw-dropping views, a real sense of achievement and adds another dimension to your visit to Sorrento.

Start your journey to the Path of the Gods by taking the SITA bus to Agerola, around a 2-hour trip, and getting off at the Bomerano stop. Then you can simply follow the red and white signs to the trailhead.

It’s best to hike with a partner, and although the trail is well maintained, it is very narrow in places, and there are some vertigo-inducing drops. Once you reach Positano, you can relax with a dip in the Tyrrhenian Sea or a well-deserved gelato before getting the bus back to Sorrento.

If you don’t relish the idea of public transport after your hike, the best way to walk the Path of the Gods might be to join a guided tour of the Sentiero degli Dei.

Discover the Sedil Dominova

Sedil Dominova Sorrento
Sedil Dominova, Sorrento

Although the ancient alleyways are packed with tourist shops selling the usual souvenirs, there are some treasures to be found if you take time to explore.

One of these is the Sedil Dominova, which you’ll find next to the Sorrento cathedral’s bell tower. This dates back to the mid-fifteenth century and was originally an open-air meeting place for the Sorrento nobility. Today it serves as a men’s club where retired locals play cards and put the world to rights.

Frescoes and trompe l’oeil artworks adorn the walls, creating the impression that this is a vast columned structure. Although the size is simply an optical illusion, it’s still impressive, as is the dome decorated with yellow and green majolica tiles.

Marina Grande, Sorrento
Marina Grande, Sorrento

Swim at Bagni Della Regina Giovanna

Tucked away in the hills just a few miles west of Sorrento, you’ll find one of the best spots to go wild swimming in the Sorrentine Peninsula.

Bagni Regina Giovanna is a hidden secret overlooked by most visitors to Sorrento. This secluded cove has been a popular getaway since Roman times, and you can enjoy a swim away from the hubbub of the beach clubs in the main town.

You can reach Bagni Regina Giovanna on foot with a gentle 40-minute hike along the coastline from the town. But if you aren’t in the mood for walking, a better way might be to take the 5070 bus from Sorrento. Get off at the Caposorrento stop, and you’ll have a quick 10-minute walk to the cove.

The walk down to the natural pool at Bagni Regina Giovanna takes you past the ruins of a Roman villa dating back to the 1st century BC. And then you’ll be able to take a dip in the clear turquoise waters of the cove itself.

It’s a good idea to wear walking shoes if you’re planning to hike to Bagni Regina Giovanna, and change into water shoes or flip-flops once you get to the water. And remember to take sunscreen and plenty of drinking water with you.

Fishing Boat in Marina Grande, Sorrento

Visit Villa Comunale Park

Villa Comunale Park is a must-visit for anyone who travels to Sorrento. Take time out during the day to visit or call in during your evening passeggiata – a relaxing, social stroll taken after dinner.

Built in the late 1800s, on the site of the Franciscan monks’ vegetable gardens, the Villa Comunale di Sorrento has beautifully manicured gardens and aged olive trees that offer shelter from the hot summer sun. It’s just a few minutes’ stroll from Piazza Tasso, right in the centre of town.

This beautiful park lies close to the Chiostro di San Francesco and is where you’ll find the Sorrento Lift that gives easy access to Marina Piccola. It’s a small park with beautiful gardens and spectacular views out over the Gulf of Naples, with the islands of Ischia and Procida and Mount Vesuvius in the distance.

You might find an art exhibition, live music or some other event taking place during your visit. And when you’ve walked far enough, it’s a lovely place to sit with a drink and watch the sunset.

Spend the day at a Sorrento Beach Club

Leonelli’s Beach Club, Sorrento

If you’re looking for a break from all your sightseeing adventures, why not relax and recover at one of Sorrento’s beach clubs?

Sorrento’s beaches are located directly down the steps and/or lift from the town centre in Marina Piccola, the middle of the three harbours. They are set at the base of the cliffs and they don’t have much in the way of sandy beaches. The beach clubs have a small amount of beach but are mainly are built on stilted piers and boardwalks.

Facilities include bars, restaurants, changing huts and showers and all offer sun bed and parasol rental. If you want to save a few euros do what we did and take your own towel.

Leonelli’s Beach Club

Leonelli’s Beach is a private bathing club that’s been managed by the same family for three generations and is probably the best.

Located in a sheltered bay, it has three terraces and a solarium with sun beds, deckchairs and beach umbrellas, making it the perfect place to enjoy the sun in comfort and privacy. You’ll need to pay for sun beds, parasols and towels so take your own towel to reduce costs.

The beachside restaurant offers high-quality seafood and traditional dishes from the Campania region, or you can pick up a tasty sandwich from the snack bar. And the bar at Leonelli’s Beach offers a delicious range of cocktails, fresh fruit juices and crushed ice drinks.

Where: Address: Via Marina Piccola, 55, 80067 Sorrento NA, Italy

When: Open every day, 9am to 6.30pm

Sorrento’s other beach clubs and lidos in Marina Piccola are Peter’s Beach, Marameo Beach and Bagni Salvatore. Spiaggia di Sorrento is a small public beach at Marina Grande.

Peter’s Beach, Sorrento

Try the Cannelloni

Have you ever tried cannelloni? It means ‘large reeds’, an excellent description for these sheets of pasta which are rolled into tubes around a delicious savoury filling.

This stuffing might include spinach and ricotta or various types of meat, then the cannelloni are covered in bechamel or tomato sauce and baked in the oven.

The Sorrento restaurant O’Parrucchiano La Favorita claims to have invented this delicious meal in 1907, and you’re sure to want to try them during your Sorrento holiday.

Whether you dine in the beautiful lemon garden restaurant at O’Parrucchiano La Favorita or one of the many other Sorrento restaurants serving cannelloni, you’ll love the experience!

Gnocchi alla Sorrentina

Another local dish you must try while in Sorrento is the famous Gnocchi alla Sorrentina.

Gnocchi are potato dumplings like soft little pillows of potato deliciousness. Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is a local combination of these little dumplings with a rich tomato sauce, creamy mozzarella and sweet aromatic basil.

This dish is comfort food perfection, and you’ll find it served all along the Amalfi coast.

Sip a Limoncello or two…

Another local speciality you’ll find throughout southern Italy is the zesty lemon liqueur called limoncello. This is one of the most popular liqueurs in Italy and is served chilled as a digestivo after dinner.

There are various stories about how it was created, possibly in Sorrento, on the Amalfi coast or maybe in Sicily. Whoever invented it, limoncello is a delicious drink that you must try when you visit Sorrento.

You’ll probably be offered a digestivo in restaurants, but you could also head to the popular Limonoro shop on Via San Cesareo. They produce their own artisanal limoncello and also offer tasting sessions. A bottle of limoncello would be a fantastic way to take home an authentic taste of Sorrento!

Get a gelato at Davide’s

When you visit Italy, you must have a gelato or two, and Davide’s Gelateria on Via Marziale is Sorrento’s best gelateria.

Mario, who runs it, has a long family history of gelato making. Their story goes back to the early 1930s when Mario’s great-grandfather opened his dairy in Frosinone. Mario’s grandfather, Augusto Davide, carried on the family’s cheese-making business until 1956, and their first gelateria opened in 1957.

Davide’s Gelataria uses fresh milk, cream and seasonal fruit to create their handmade gelato daily. You’ll enjoy ice creams in a range of traditional and unusual flavours made with local produce like Sorrento lemons, Giffoni hazelnuts and pistachios from Sicily. They even have gelato that’s lactose- and gluten-free!

Where to eat in Sorrento

Eat fresh seafood at Marina Grande

To enjoy Sorrento’s coastal atmosphere, head down to the Marina Grande. The old harbour is tucked away from the main town and has a charming fishing village feel. Brightly painted boats bob around in the bay, nets are piled high on the quay, and children play on a small sandy beach.

Seafood in Marina Grande, Sorrento
Seafood at Bagni Sant’Anna, Marina Grande, Sorrento

You’ll find that locally sourced produce like olive oil, lemons and seafood are plentiful in Sorrento, and good, simple Mediterranean food is typical of this small town. We enjoyed a lazy lunch at the The Bagni Sant’Anna, one of the best restaurants in Sorrrento, which sits on a shaded platform over the water.

We tucked into the freshest calamari, accompanied by a glass of wine and beautiful views. The restaurant has a solarium where deckchairs, sunbeds and umbrellas are available for hire, and you can watch local fishermen deliver the day’s catch of fresh fish on the nearby small beach.

If we’d found this restaurant at the beginning of our stay, we’d surely have returned for dinner.

The chance to while away a few hours at Marina Grande is not to be missed. It’s a long, steep walk down to Marina Grande, and the walk back up the hill is more strenuous, but a local bus from Piazza Tasso makes the trip easier.

Eat authtentic Italian food at Restaurant Tasso

Just off Piazza Tasso, you’ll find Restaurante Tasso, where we indulged in a delicious and authentic Sorrento meal. Our starter was a rich, creamy Buffalo mozzarella with ripe, succulent tomatoes and basil, followed by lemon risotto with shrimp and chives. The risotto had just a subtle hint of lemon, which contrasted perfectly with the saltiness of the shrimp.

And dessert was a perfect combination of dreamy, creamy tiramisu and an excellent bottle of local Fiano di Avellino wine. Our chatty waiter plied us with the restaurant’s homemade limoncello, an intensely lemony and potent liqueur created from a recipe handed down through the generations.

We also enjoyed excellent seafood at the Bagni Il Delfino restaurant at Marina Piccola. If you love tiramisu and limoncello, check out this limoncello tiramisu recipe from my friend Christina.

Mount Vesuvius over the Bay of Naples
Mount Vesuvius over the Bay of Naples

Hotels in Sorrento

There are some stunning hotels in Sorrento with incredible views, including:

These are luxury hotels and come with a luxury price tag. Even if you don’t stay at Grand Hotel Excelsior Vittoria you can pop by for a coffee and enjoy the lemon groves in the hotel gardens.

If you’re looking for something authentic but a little more affordable, I highly recommend the Sorrento hotel where I stayed. La Tonnarella is a totally gorgeous family-run hotel perched high on the cliffs overlooking Marina Grande.

The terraces offer stunning panoramic views across the Bay of Naples and the Marina Grande. The hotel also has its own beach and on a clear day you can see views of Mount Vesuvius. It would have been tempting to stretch breakfast into lunch and just sit and soak them up.

Of course, these beautiful views come with a small price to pay: the 20-minute uphill walk from Sorrento…

>>> Check rates and availability at La Tonnarella Sorrento

La Tonnarella, Sorrento Hotel
La Tonnarella, Sorrento Hotel

Getting around Sorrento

Sorrento is easily walkable and most things to see can be done on foot. If you’re heading further out then the Circumvesuviana train is easily accessible although, as in any major tourist destination, do watch out for pickpockets. There’re also bus and taxis although taxis are expensive.

Getting from Naples Airport to Sorrento

Taxi from Naples airport to Sorrento

Sorrento is located 53 km away from Naples airport so although an airport taxi isthe most convenient it’s also more expensive than other transfer options. Taxis are available 24 hours at Naples airport and transfer time is approximately 70 minutes depending on traffic conditions and time of day. Charges are by metre and not flat rate. Fortunately there are other options…

Airport Bus from Naples airport to Sorrento

For the airport bus follow the signs and you’ll find the Sorrento buses in the P1 area. I’ve used the airport bus which was easy and convenient but once it’s full you’ll have to wait your turn for the next bus.

Get your ticket from the driver. One-way is €10 and is payable by cash only. It’s worth noting that you’re only allowed one large suitcase and one small handbag or laptop bag. Additional bags are charged at €5. Journey time is around 75 minutes depending on traffic density.

Train from Naples airport to Sorrento

Although it’s the cheapest option I don’t recommend the train for a number of reasons. First, you’ll need to get the shuttle bus to the Circumvesuviana train station. Follow the signs for the Alibus shuttle, tickets are €5. The train is a comuter train and stops at all the stations en route so including the Alibus transfer the journey is going to take over two hours. The train ticket to Sorrento is just €3.60.

A pre-booked shared airport transfer is also a good option and will drop you directly at your hotel. Check prices and availability here.

Things to do near to Sorrento and the surrounding area

Sorrento is also ideally located for some of Campania’s top attractions, with enough to see and do to keep visitors happy for a few days. The UNESCO World Heritage site and ancient ruins of Pompeii are just half an hour away on the Circumvesuviana train. The train station is easily walkable from the city centre. The The Amalfi Coast and Positano are less than an hour’s drive or boat trip away, and Sorrento makes a great starting point for a Capri day trip.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the best things to do in Sorrento, Italy. Sorrento is a gorgeous Italian gem, perfect for a holiday in the summer months and one of the best honeymoon destinations in Europe.

So, I finally made it to Italy, and as expected, I promptly fell in love with it. I had such a great time that I returned the following month to visit visit Bologna, Rome and Venice. The old Neapolitan song implores us to ‘Torna a Surriento!’ and I’ve already planned to return to Sorrento – I’m making up for lost time!

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Sunday 23rd of December 2018

Thank you, Madam ! A very exclusive town !

"Do you know the land where the lemon-trees grow, In darkened leaves the gold-oranges glow, A soft wind blows from the pure blue sky, The myrtle stands mute, and the bay tree high? Do you know it well? It’s there I’d be gone, To be there with you, O, my beloved one..."

Suzanne Jones

Sunday 23rd of December 2018

Goethe. That's such a beautiful poem and sums up the town perfectly. Thank you

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