Sitting just a few minutes off the coast of Sorrento, Capri beckons as a special place that has been enjoyed since before the Roman civilization. Sorrento happens to be the place where you can access Capri the most quickly with trips being as short as twenty minutes.
Basically two options exist to get you from the docks of Sorrento to Capri. The cheapest is the ferry which departs and returns home only three times a day. Hydrofoils are more frequent departing approximately every hour but costing as much as 8 euros. If you are making a one day trip be sure and purchase one way tickets for each trip because if you miss your return you are not issued a credit. This almost happened to us and it would have been bad to be suddenly out 34 or more euros.
Once in Capri there is a funicular that can bring you up quickly to the town square. Numerous options await. There are several trails that take you up and around the island that are relatively easy to walk. We chose the trail that takes you up to the old fort. There are great views of the town from all around this trail. Some gorgeous homes can also be seen close up.
Regardless how you get there and back Capri is definitely worth at least a day trip. Plan on spending anywhere from 25 euros to 40 euros per person if you leave from Sorrento.
Most of Sorrento's city beaches are small and just piers extending into the water. West of the city is one of the best beaches of Sorrento: Punta del Capo. It can be reached from Sorrento by following the main street Corso Italia and then up the hill along Via del Capo.
We wandered down the cliff path from the lookout by the church of St Francis to the seafront, which was totally deserted. We walked over and under the boardwalks to the left as far as we could go and then cut into the cliff face we found this Roman Villa.
And not just any villa, this was Roman Emperor stuff.
Although Sorrento is largely a more modern town, you can find glimpses of its older roots.
Walk its narrow alleyways (which mainly lie between Corso Italia and Via Vettorio Veneto and are, in the main, home to souvenir shops and artisan workshops) . Try to explore them in the early morning, before the shops open and the crowds start arriving, or perhaps late in the evening, when the streets echo to only the occasional footstep and the odd scooter.
Keep your eyes open, for not only are there bits and pieces left over from the 1800s but also, around the Cathedrale, evidence of even earlier building. The present Italian fashion for permanently exposing such early architecture when renovating buildings helps enormously. What might seem to be a classic 19th century 'palazzo' (now, almost inevitably, divided into apartments) often turns out to have its roots in a much earlier Medieval building.
There is no doubt that Sorrento is an ancient settlement, existing long before the Romans turned it into a seaside-holiday venue, but there is little of this visible today.
However, if you turn left up Via Sersale from Corso Italia you will come to the Porta Parsano Nuova: the 'new' Parsano gate. The Roman town was built directly over the preceding Greek street-plan, and the later Medieval walls which replaced the Roman ones followed the same line. So, although the 'gate' itself dates from the 1500s, if you look down you will see the original Greek wall remaining as a foundation. The stone blocks are huge, and the walls must have been an imposing sight.
There's also a little bit of ancient wall remaining in Via Sopra Le Mura.
Although the walls are supposed to be open for walking them I have never, in my three visits to Sorrento, found the gate open.
A lovely little church tucked away in the middle of Marina Grande, the old fishing port of Sorrento.
Originally built by the fishermen of the San Giovanni in Fontibus Brotherhood, it was first dedicated to souls in Purgatory but later to Santa Anna (who is the patron saint of the village).
Sant'Anna has her saints day on July 26th, so if you are around Sorrento at that time you can expect processions, music, food and lots of fireworks.
I think it would be easy to wander past this rather good sculpture of St Francis, even if you are visiting the nearby ancient cloisters (recommended) and/or the Chiesa di San Francesco.
He stands opposite the church doorway and repays a moment or two of close attention.
The sculptor has managed to create a great sense of upward movement. I think it really works well.
Opposite Chiesa di San Francesco, at the end of Via San Francesco.
We decided that, armed with instructions from a book from home, we would walk to Massa Lubrense from Sorrento. Its about 4k but is nowhere level, it goes up and up then down and down!
The instructions were rubbish as crucial information was missed. This is the trouble with directions when you are wrong there is no way back. At least with a good map you can find yourself again.
Back at the walk, getting lost was no problem good guesswork and helpful locals soon put us right. In fact I recommend getting lost if time is not limited.
It is possible to walk between the towns hardly touching main roads and with panoramic views and local culture all the way.
There is a bus back to Sorrento!
As you go into the Basilica de S. Antonino (the patron saint of Sorrento) look up and to your right. There, high on the portico wall, is a whale bone. Why? Because, amongst other miracles, S. Antonino managed to save a child from the stomach of a huge whale which had come near to Sorrento beach (much to the its mothers relief.......the child, not the whale!).
The saint's exact dates are not known but he probably dates from between 600 and 800 AD. His special day is 14th February, when Sorrento comes alive with music, processions and market stalls.
As well as some in the base of the Medieval bell-tower, you can find some re-used bits of Roman (or, possibly, pre-Roman) masonry in the cloisters of St Francis.
This is a lovely little place anyway, dating from the 1300s. Within its calm cloister are the four corner columns which started their lives as three-sided columns from (it is said) a 'pagan temple'. Whether or not this is the case, they are definitely Roman and definitely worth a look.
There's nothing much to see of Roman Sorrento, even though it was a very popular holiday destination for the rich. Although they built their own villas (of course), many were destroyed in the earthquake and subsequent Vesuvian eruption. However, the gridded Roman street plan (itself thought to be based on the original Greek settlement) is still followed by the existing streets in the 'Medieval' centro storico.
Re-using already-carved stone makes perfect sense, of course. Why waste energy creating new if you can find old? So you'll see Roman columns, and sundry chunks of masonry (some with inscriptions) incorporated into the base of the Medieval bell-tower. It's worth a closer look for that reason alone.
This tip is not so much about “Off the beaten path” as above it! Everywhere we went in Sorrento we saw these beautifully looked-after shrines on the walls, with fresh flowers and often little votive candles. They made for a nice photo essay and for me captured the essence of this little town – very Italian in flavour, well-kept and well-loved, strongly traditional but with modern touches.
It was only when I got home and started sorting my photos that I realised almost all the shrines depict the same scene. I’ve tried to find out more but can’t track down any information about the story they tell, so if anyone can help I’d be grateful.
Some of my most memorable vacation moments were hiking the hills of the Amalfi Coast.
By all means, take the bus from Capri up to Anacapri - a fantastic experience - but take the less travelled back country path/steps back down through lemon groves. Pick up the "Fenician Staircase" in Anacapri at the end of Via San Michele after passing Villa San Michele and follow it all the way back down to the Marina Grande. These steps were built by the Greeks in the 8th century B.C. - it was the only acces to the sea or the village of Anacapri until 1877 when the current road was built.
Another great hike was from Ravello back down to Amalfi. Again, take the bus up but follow the paths through the hills and enjoy the sumptuous views and local gardens on the way down. There are a couple of tourist offices in Ravello that provide (free) maps of the area and there are numerous trails down, depending on how much time you have. Highly recommendeded.
This photo was taken of a local man harvesting lemons - the lemons were as big as grapefruits and their scent wafted by me as he passed.
This little town is situated near Amalfi, which is divided to tne "Aureo mountain". It had the same historical destiny of Amalfi Republic.
- The church of S. Maria Maddalena
- The Church of Santa Maria del Bando
- Piazzetta Umberto I
With a beautiful saracen defence tower overlooking the town, it is a quiet marine centre of the Amalfi coast, from where every night boats leave for fishing. The sea offers plenty of fish, partly salted and sold in jars. Its nice beach allows bathing to a lot of tourists, who like it for its familiar and friendly atmosphere.