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Sorrento is a town overlooking the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. A popular tourist destination, it can be reached easily from Naples and Pompeii as it is at the south-eastern end of the Circumvesuviana rail line. The Sorrentine Peninsula has views of Naples, Vesuvius and the Isle of Capri. The Amalfi Drive, connecting Sorrento and Amalfi, is a narrow road that threads along the high cliffs above the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Ferries and hydrofoils connect the town to Naples, Amalfi, Positano, Capri and Ischia. Sorrento's sea cliffs and luxury hotels have attracted celebrities including Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti.
Limoncello is a digestif made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar which is produced in Sorrento. Other agricultural production includes citrus fruit, wine, nuts and olives.
Sorrento is in Campania. The town features beautiful architecture, many cafes and restaurants, and shops catering to tourists. As it is on the Circumvesuviana rail system it is easily reached from Naples and an ideal base for visiting Pompeii and Ercolano. Ferries regularly commute between Sorrento and Capri, making Sorrento an ideal base for exploring that island as well.
The Roman name for Sorrento was Surrentum. Legends indicate a close connection between Lipara and Surrentum, as though the latter had been a colony of the former; and even through the Imperial period Surrentum remained largely Greek. The oldest ruins are Oscan, dating from about 600 BC. Before its control by the Roman Republic, Surrentum was one of the towns subject to Nuceria, and shared its fortunes up to the Social War; it seems to have joined in the revolt of 90 BC like Stabiae; and was reduced to obedience in the following year, when it seems to have received a colony.
Numerous sepulchral inscriptions of Imperial slaves and freedmen have been found at Surrentum. An inscription shows that Titus in the year after the earthquake of 79 AD restored the horologium (clock) of the town and its architectural decoration. A similar restoration of an unknown building in Naples in the same year is recorded in an inscription from the last-named town.
The most important temples of Surrentum were those of Athena and of the Sirens (the latter the only one in the Greek world in historic times); the former gave its name to the promontory. In antiquity, Surrentum was famous for its wine (oranges and lemons which are now widely cultivated there were not yet introduced in Italy in antiquity), its fish, and its red Campanian vases; the discovery of coins of Massilia, Gaul, and the Balearic Islands here indicates the extensive trade which it carried on.
The position of Surrentum was very secure, protected by deep gorges. The only exception to its natural protection was 300 metres (984 feet) on the south-west where it was defended by walls, the line of which is necessarily followed by those of the modern town. The arrangement of the modern streets preserves that of the ancient town, and the disposition of the walled paths which divide the plain to the east seems to date in like manner from Roman times. No ruins are now preserved in the town itself, but there are many remains in the villa quarter to the east of the town on the road to Stabiae, of which traces still exist, running much higher than the modern road, across the mountain; the site of one of the largest (possibly belonging to the Imperial house) is now occupied by the Hotel Victoria, under the terrace of which a small theatre was found in 1855; an ancient rock-cut tunnel descends hence to the shore. Remains of other villas may be seen, but the most important ruin is the reservoir of the (subterranean) aqueducts just outside the town on the east, which had no less than twenty-seven chambers each about 270 by 60 cm (106 by 24 in). Greek and Oscan tombs have also been found.
Another suburb lay below the town and on the promontory on the west of it; under the Hotel Sirena are substructions and a rock-hewn tunnel. To the north-west on the Capo di Sorrento is another villa, the so-called Bagni della Regina Giovanna, with baths, and in the bay to the south-west was the villa of Pollius Felix, the friend of Statius, which he describes in Silvae ii. 2, of which remains still exist. Farther west again are villas, as far as the temple of Athena on the promontory named after her at the extremity of the peninsula (now Punta Campanella). Neither of this nor of the famous temple of the Sirens are any traces existing.
According to the Greek historian Diodorus Siculus, Sorrento was founded by Liparus, son of Ausonus, who was king of the Ausoni and the son of Ulysses and Circe. The ancient city was probably connected to the Ausoni tribe, one of the most ancient ethnic groups in the area. In the pre-Roman age Sorrento was influenced by the Greek civilization: this can be seen in its plant and in the presence of the Athenaion, a great sanctuary, also, according to the legend, founded by Ulysses and originally devoted to the cult of the Sirens, hence Sorrento's name.
Middle Ages and modern era
Sorrento became an archbishopric around 420 AD. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was ruled by the Ostrogoths and then returned to the Eastern Empire. The Lombards, who conquered much of southern Italy in the second half of the 6th century, besieged it in vain.
In the following centuries the authority of the distant Empire of Byzantium faded; initially part of the substiantially independent Duchy of Naples, later Sorrento became in turn an autonomous duchy (9th century). It fought against neighbouring/rival Amalfi, the Saracens and the nearby Lombardic duchies, such as that of Benevento, whose forces besieged it in 839, although Sorrento was able to resist with Neapolitan help. Sorrentine forces took part in the anti-Saracen leagues at the battles of Licosa (846) and Ostia (849). The duchy was ruled by figures elected by the people, which received honorary titles from the Byzantine Emperor.
In 1035 the city was acquired by Guaimar IV of Salerno, who gave it to his brother Guy. After a brief return under the Duchy of Naples, it returned in Lombard hands with Gisulf II of Salerno; when the latter was defeated by Robert Guiscard, Sorrento entered the Norman sphere of influence: any residual independence was ended in 1137 when it was conquered by Roger II of Sicily, and annexed to the Kingdom of Sicily.
On June 13, 1558 it was sacked by elements of the Ottoman navy under the command of Dragut and his lieutenant Piali, as part of the struggle between the Turks and Spain, which controlled the southern half of Italy at that time. 2,000 captives were reportedly taken away. This struggle was waged throughout the Mediterranean and lasted many decades. The attackers were not "pirates" as often characterised, though some may have been mercenaries from North Africa. The campaigns were conducted on the direct orders of Sultan Suleiman. The attack led to the construction of a new line of walls. The most striking event of the following century was the revolt against Spanish domination of 1648, led by Giovanni Grillo. In 1656 a plague struck the city. However, Sorrento remained one of the most important centres of southern Campania.
Sorrento entered into the Neapolitan Republic of 1799, but in vain. In the 19th century the economy of the city improved markedly, favoured by the development of agriculture, tourism and trade. A route connecting Sorrento to Castellammare di Stabia was opened under the reign of Ferdinand II (1830–1859).
In 1861 Sorrento was officially annexed to the new Kingdom of Italy. In the following years it confirmed and increased its status of one of the most renowned tourist destinations of Italy, a trend which continued into the 20th Century. Famous people who visited it include Lord Byron, Keats, Goethe, Henrik Ibsen and Walter Scott.
Sorrento experiences a Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa). with mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The mild climate and fertility of the Gulf of Naples made the region famous during Roman times, when emperors such as Claudius and Tiberius holidayed nearby. Temperatures can get as high as 29 °C (84 °F) in April, as happened in 2013.
Climate data for Sorrento
|Average high °C (°F)||12.5
|Daily mean °C (°F)||8.2
|Average low °C (°F)||3.8
Transportation - Get In
- From Naples Airport ('Capodichino'): You can reach Sorrento by bus, from Capodichino to Sorrento busses depart six times daily [www]
- By train: The Circumvesuviana goes from Naples along the coast ending in Sorrento.
- By bus: The Sita buses from Positano and Amalfi end in Sorrento.
- By car:From Naples' Tangenziale drive south towards Costiera Sorrentina, and be prepared to spend 1.5 hours in the traffic.
- By Boat: From
- Naples: Two companies are currently operating between the port "Napoli Beverello" and Sorrento: http://www.alilauro.it/ and http://www.snav.it (select "Capri e Sorrento"). The service is currently approximately every 120 minutes (July 2012). Price paid in port for a single trip, adult: 12,10€ (July 2012). It takes 35 minutes which is faster than by car or train.
- Ischia and Capri.
- By Private Transfer: It's possible to book a private transfer: 123Transfers.com from 90€ per vehicle; EasyPrivateTaxi.com from 75€ per vehicle; JackTheDriver.
A trip to Sorrento is full of possibilities, enjoy a splash in the Naples Bay, a walk through the lively pedestrian only streets at night, or an enjoyable day exploring the ruins of Pompeii. A short trip to Naples will take you to the National Museum that houses some of the best frescoes and art work from Pompeii. You can catch a bus that takes you on a spectacular but hair raising drive through the Amalfi Coast. You will pass through villages built along the cliffs that have some of the most beautiful churches and architecture in the area. Take a ferry to the Isle of Capri where you can shop like you are on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, or take the walk through tree lined walkways to the Nature Park. Capri also has the famed Blue Lagoon, and amazing cave with the most crystal blue waters imaginable. But, one of the most fun things you can do here is rent a motor scooter and explore on your own historic Capri.
Transportation - Get Around
- Local buses - the local bus service is good enough to visit all interesting places available in the area.
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One of the top souvenirs from the area is limoncello , the signature lemon liqueur. You can find it at Limonoro Via San Cesareo, 51. This is a good place to see it being made, after which you’ll know why it packs such a punch – it’s basically pure alcohol with flavouring.
- Wine and Limoncello shop located in the historical centre named l'Alambicco, offers limoncello free tasting, is located just few steps from the main square "Piazza Tasso". via San Cesareo 15.
- Leather and fashion shop located in historical centre named Iolanda moda e accessori, have large choice of bags, wallets, bijoux and shoes of the best signs like Valentino, Roccobarocco, Cromnia and more is in via San Cesareo 15 very close from the main square "Piazza Tasso".
- Notturno Intarsio. Has the most beautiful inlaid woods. Tables, tea carts, pictures, music boxes. Notturno has been in business for hundreds of years and has the best woodworkers around. Take their tour to see how they make these beautiful pieces of art.
- Gnocchi alla Sorrentina - potato gnocchi with tomato sauce and mozzarella baked to perfection.
- The Pastiera a typical cake that is produced in the area.
- The excellent olive oil produced in Penisola Sorrentina, this product to be prized in many events.
- The artichoke or aubergines parmigiana is a typical dish that is made with tomatoes and cheese.
- Gelateria Davide, Via Giuliani, 35. One of the best gelaterias in the city, this little ice-cream parlour is famous for its gelato that incorporates fresh local flavours. Don't miss the Profumi di Sorrento (with fresh local citrus fruits) or the Noci di Sorrento (with fresh local nuts).
- O Parrucchiano Restaurant, Corso Italia 71, 6, , fax: . Historical, traditional restaurant.
- Villa Rubinacci Restaurant, Via Correale 25, , fax: . Villa Rubinacci is Hotel Eden's restaurant à la carte, open to both the public and hotel guests. Elegant furnishings in a bright room including outdoor seating in the delightful park settings enhance the chef's traditionally local Sorrentina and Italian cuisine with a creative international flair. Don't miss the famous local pizza prepared in various specialities.
- The Red Lion is a small, cheap, and surprisingly delicious restaurant, known for catering to tour groups. Traditional limoncello is served after meals.
- Don Alfonso 1890 Restaurant, Corso S. Agata, 13, Sant'Agata sui due Golfi, , fax: .
- Pizzeria Da Franco, Corso Italia 265, . €6 pizzas, hot sandwiches, beer, wine, limoncello.
Coffe & Drink
- Limoncello di Sorrento, a strong liquor made from lemon rind. Also try other similar liquors such as Crema al Limone (like Limoncello but cream-based and less strong) as well as local wines (like Falanghina, Lachryma Christi).
Sights & Landmarks
- Lemon terraces
- The pretty Small Port (Marina Piccola)
- puntacampanella. The natural reserve
- Villa Pollio roman ruins in Capo di Sorrento.
- Hotel Tramontano, where Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen lived while writing parts of Peer Gynt (1867) and Ghosts (1881).
- Museo Correale di Terranova Sorrento's picture gallery
- Archeological Museum of the Sorrentine Peninsula
- Museo Bottega della Tasia Lignea A collection of local applied arts.
- Duomo (Cathedral)
- St. Francis Monastery
- Basilica di Sant'Antonino
Things to do
- Hire a private charter boat take a day trip to Capri and along the Sorrento Coast or to the emerging tourist destination island of Ischia. Charter La Dolce Vita are the industry leaders on the Sorrento, Amalfi and Neapolitan Coasts and can suggest beautiful itineraries to suit your time frame whether it be you are a cruise ship guest and only have limited time to experience the best coastal sightseeing or you are long-time Sorrento visitors and just want a lazy day at sea. [www]
- Water taxi.
- Swim - Go to Marina Grande or (the better option) Marina Piccola. Some reserved areas with sand will ask for a 5-10€ entrance fee (which will also get you a seat and an umbrella). A much better and more spectacular option might even me Bagni Regina Giovanna, a nice little cove from the ocean in a secluded spot. Though a bit far, it's worth the trip (ask the locals for direction).
- Bike rental Rent a bike and ride out of Sorrento to see the coast from above. There is only one bike rental (according to the woman in the tourist information, July 2012): Reaction Retail (http://www.emporiobici.com, homepage seems not to be up yet, 081-8770613) in Viale Nizza 58, Sorrento. Price for 24h was 20€ (July 2012) for a decent MTB, a helmet and a lock.