Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast

Joanne Cowdery on 10 October 2015
Sorrento is a maze of alleys crammed with tiny shops selling Capodimonte porcelain, leather goods, linen tableware, lace, plus fashionable shops with designer clothes. The pavements are lined with lively cafes and bars, and it is a place which should be on everyone’s ‘To Do List’. The Church & Cloister of St. Francis, The Old Walls and the church of the Servants of Mary are a few of the historical main sites worth a visit.

There are small villages outside of Sorrento which can be explored - S. Agata sui due Golfi, Sant’Agnello or Massa Lubrense; they give you a real flavour of Italy away from the hustle and bustle of Sorrento. At S. Agata sui due Golfi you can walk to the monastery called ‘Deserto’, which is open to the public at certain hours for you to admire the most marvellous views of the two Gulfs of Salerno and Naples. If you enjoy walking enquire locally as you may want to consider walking back to Sorrento after your visit. Areas with orange and lemon groves, olives and quince fill little fields and green areas as you travel around the Italian Countryside. Also from Sorrento you can walk to Marina Grande, a small fishing village with colourful if somewhat ‘shabby’ houses that face the waterfront adding to its charm. It has great seafood restaurants and is a nice place to sit back and watch the local fisherman at work. Fishing boats bob gently in the calm waters.

The Amalfi Drive which twists and turns along the full length of the Amalfi coast, offers stunning views at every corner.

Ravello is ideal if you love peace and tranquillity away from the crowds. If you get chance and have time visit villa Rufolo, the entrance is just a few steps away from the main square. Apart from the villa the gardens and views are stunning. Ravello also livens up for the Ravello Festival hosted during July and August.

The exclusive cliff-side fishing village of Positano with its pink, cream and yellow villas dramatically clinging to the terraced mountainside is well worth visiting for a day or half day. Narrow cobbled streets and flights of steps lead up and down past fashionable boutiques, bars and restaurants.

The beautiful island of Capri; rich in natural beauty and history is a great trip out for the day. The Gardens of Augustus are worth the few Euros entrance fee. In return you’ll get dramatic views of the coastline, immaculate and colourful gardens and tranquillity. Once you arrive on Capri it’s best to go up to Anacapri first and get the chair lift that takes you to the highest point of the island before the queue gets too long. Once you get off the chair lift you can take in the views, have some light refreshments and if you feel like it walk back down to Anacapri, or you can always buy a return chair lift ticket and enjoy the views.

Mount Vesuvius – Dominating the Bay of Naples, Mount Vesuvius is the one active volcano on mainland Europe. A drive to the original crater at 3,000 ft and a short uphill walk to the top gives impressive views of the inside of the crater. It’s an eerie place to visit knowing that for sure one day it will blow its top again. No one knows when! The volcano inspires both fear and fascination and it is constantly monitored for activity.

Devastated during the almighty volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79AD, the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum lay buried until the excavations unearthed bodies, houses, temples, works of art and everyday objects. Ash and debris showered Pompeii, and Herculaneum was buried by a landslide of thick mud.

To me this coastline and area is a place I have reflected on more once I’ve returned home. At the time I didn’t quite appreciate all its beauty!

Don’t forget to enjoy a Limoncello or two!!

My Top tips 1) Go on an organised sightseeing trip if you wish to experience the Amalfi Drive. Also to visit the Island of Capri and Anacapri. It saves a lot of hassle and time if you are on an organised trip. It’s worth the extra money in my opinion.

2) You can easily get the train to Pompeii and Herculaneum, but I’d recommend you pay a little extra once you arrive and join a small group tour so you are shown and told about the main highlights of the fascinating sights. Afterwards you can wonder around as you wish. This saves much time and gives you a greater knowledge of these fascinating places. Herculaneum is a must and if you have time also visit Pompeii.

3) Always try and sit on the opposite side to the driver on coaches so you can take in the breath-taking views (not for the faint hearted on the Amalfi Drive route)!

4) Why not visit in December when the area is decorated and very festive, plus great shopping.

5) April, May, June or September are good months to travel, but be prepared, Sorrento is a busy place. July is the quietest month as everyone avoids the heat.

6) The public buses and trains work well, but try and use early in the day to avoid the crowds. It’s quite normal to be stood up on a bus, packed in with another 101 people, so be prepared.

7) If you visit Positano, rather than catching the local bus, it’s worth paying a bit more money and getting the hop on /hop off city sightseeing bus, especially for the journey home! Or see if the ferries are operating and catch a ferry.