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Piazza Tasso, Sorrento
Photograph: nikolpetr / Shutterstock.comPiazza Tasso, Sorrento

The 13 best things to do in Sorrento

Soak up the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of this coastal stunner with our guide to the best things to do in Sorrento

Written by
Kate Lloyd
Contributor
Rosemary Waugh
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Stunning, splendid Sorrento. The Amalfi Coast is one of the great wonders of Europe, a shimmering conveyor belt of beautiful villages packed with the best limoncello going. Is Sorrento on top of the tree? Let’s not kid ourselves; it definitely is. After all, there are few things in life as enjoyable as settling down in a comfy chair, taking a deep breath and admiring the beauty of Sorrento from a shady patio with a Coll glass of that aforementioned limoncello in hand. It is what dreams are made of.


The best things to do in Sorrento go far beyond sighing and drinking, although you’ll do plenty of those along the way. The town has plenty of great restaurants for filling up, and every street seems to be beckoning couples in search of romantic strolls and the perfect spot to, you know, ask the question. Maybe. Sorrento is a stunner overlooking the Bay of Naples, a romantic place par excellence, a dream that is very much a reality.

Best things to do in Sorrento

What is it? The picture-perfect centre of Sorrento that will light up your Instagram feed.

Why go? After adjusting to the relaxed air of life on the Sorrentine Peninsula, you might find the sudden explosion of life, energy and noise in Sorrento’s Old Town something of a shock. But don’t be put off by the large number of tourists who flock here (or, for that matter, turn your nose up at that ceramic lemon fridge magnet on sale). This historic quarter with its gorgeous pastel houses and winding streets is popular for a reason, and you’d be a fool to miss out on it. Embrace the hustle and bustle, and you’ll be in for some real Italianate treats and a whole lot of fun.

What is it? A sunny, open piazza on the edge of Old Town.

Why go? Piazza Tasso is never quiet. The main hub of activity in Sorrento, you’ve got leisurely locals milling around, visitors with their cameras out, horse-drawn carriages picking up and dropping off tourists, and a string of cafes and restaurants housed in grand sunshine yellow buildings. Stop for an espresso in the sun, or swing by later for an aperitif and watch the world go by.

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What is it? The world-famous Italian coastline stretches 50km along the southern edge of the Sorrentine Peninsula.

Why go? The Sorrentine Peninsula is arguably one of the most picturesque stretches of coastline in the world, with its sheer cliffs, crystal clear waters and pastel-coloured houses toppled high on top of each other amongst cliffside lemon and olive groves. Truly mesmerising, the views are those that you’ll never forget. The drive, however… is hairy. With hairpin bends aplenty, corners so tight you’ll squeal, and a cliffside drop from the road that will have you sweating, it’s quite the thrill ride. It’s one road the whole way so you’re either in or you’re out.

What is it? A sweet lemon liqueur and Sorrento’s proudest export.

Why go? In Old Town Sorrento, you can barely move for bottles of Limoncello that come in all shapes and sizes — the more novelty, the better we say. It would be rude to come all this way and not sample a drop, right? And at 32% alcohol, you can expect a bit of a kick out of it too. Course, lots of restaurants will offer you a thimble at the end of a meal, but for more of an experience, try it at Limonoro, where you’ll learn a little more about the process, the varieties, and its origins too.

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Bay
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Eric Parker

5. Bay

What is it? Not beaches as such, but perfect spots for summer dips.

Why go? What with being a city on cliffs, Sorrento doesn’t have beaches as such, but there’s still plenty of places to cool off down by the waterfront. Take the steep road down to the harbour from Piazza Tasso where you’ll find a few piers that are just the ticket for jumping off or sunbathing. Most of them are owned by hotels, so you might have to buy a drink or fork out a few Euros for a sun lounger, but it’s worth it when you’re down there. Catch them rays!

'O Parrucchiano
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Selena Y.

6. 'O Parrucchiano

What is it? A charming Campanian restaurant filled with lemon trees.

Why go? There is no shortage of great places to eat pasta in Sorrento, but 'O Parrucchiano is an unique experience. Okay, it is probably not the most gastronomical spot in the city, and no, it is no secret from the tourists, but this place is worth it for the overall appeal. It isn't every day you get to chow down on seafood spaghetti under a canopy of lemon trees, is it? Like something out of a Disney film, it’s got major wow-factor and definite date night vibes. Just embrace the tourists!

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Gelateria Davide
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Jessica T.

7. Gelateria Davide

What is it? Dubbed the best gelato spot in Sorrento, dating back to 1957.

Why go? After all the salty seafood and heavy (but oh so heavenly) gnocchi alla Sorrentino, what you’re going to need is a little something sweet. Cue the classic Italian gelato, and why settle for anything but the best? Gelateria Davide is a family-run institution with the gelato skills passed down three generations. You’ll have a hard time choosing with over 30 flavours to pick from including tangy mulberry, ricotta, prosecco, classic pistachio, and sweet local lemon.

What is it? Named after Sorrento’s patron saint, this is the city’s oldest church.

Why go? Though a lot of Sorrento has been commercialised, much of the Old Town has maintained its precious old-school Italian charm. Twisting, winding streets are lined with quaint trattorias serving classic Campanian plates and scattered throughout, you’ve got numerous historical buildings that will take you back in time. Stop at the Basilica of Sant’Antonino, the 11th Century Cathedral, and the Cloister of San Francesco.

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Bellevue Syrene
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Miranda K. D.

9. Bellevue Syrene

What is it? One of Sorrento’s most bougie hotels, with a large shaded terrace that happily welcomes non-residents.

Why go? Sorrento’s sunset is something else, and come dusk, there’s one place you want to be; overlooking the Marina Grande, ideally with a glass of something fizzy in hand. There’s the Villa Communale Park park that has great views and a few benches for perching, but why not take it up a notch and hit up the beautiful drinks terrace of the €450-a-night Bellevue Syrene, which has even better views, plus drinks on ice.

What is it? The pastel-coloured fishing village down by the waterfront.

Why go? Set around a small bay, Marina Grande is the postcard-pretty fishing village in the western part of Sorrento, right down on the waterfront. A contrast to the razzle-dazzle of Piazza Tasso, Marina Grande has maintained its rustic charm and laidback traditional fishing harbour feel. Stop for some seafood antipasti and the classic gnocchi alla Sorrentino in one of the family-run tavernas that line the water’s edge.

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11. Frantoio Gargiulo

What is it? A traditional olive oil farm, 10 minutes drive from the city

Why go? It’s not just lemons that are big business here in Sorrento but olives too, with characteristic groves scattering the cliff sides of the whole region. If you’re not satisfied by the generous splash of the local stuff over your burrata at dinner, go all-in with a tasting and a tour of the olive farm sting at Frantoio Gargiulo, just 10 minutes out of Sorrento itself.

What is it? A beautiful Italian island off of the Sorrentine Peninsula. Expect to see A-listers and glamazons in their holiday homes and villas.

Why go? Live the high life and get yourself over to glamorous Capri. One of the most beautiful islands in Italy, just a 20-minute ferry ride from Sorrento, Capri is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike. Be warned — such beauty doesn’t come cheap. Capri is more expensive than Sorrento and the rest of the mainland, but worth it for the glistening waters, towering cliffs, and sleepy laid-back vibe. Take the chairlift up to the summit of the island for the most amazing views of the bay. You can stay overnight on Capri in one of the many five-star hotels, but if you’re on a budget, just do a day trip and go there and back from Sorrento in a day.

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What is it? The world-famous remains of an Ancient Roman city tragically reduced to rubble by the explosion of Mount Vesuvius.

Why go? While it can be tempting to spend all your time in Sorrento admiring those cute pastel houses or taking a dip in the ocean, there’s another very different attraction just along the way. From the town itself, Mount Vesuvius can be seen looming ominously in the near distance, which means Pompeii – the Roman city destroyed by its eruption – is also within reach via a doable train journey. Make time for possibly one of the most memorable tourist attractions you’ll ever visit: this is Big Important History with a notable dose of humanity and poignancy.

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