Sorrento… Positano… The names conjure up such sun-drenched and exclusive fantasies, an ideal paradise beckoning… Did it live up to my dreams?
First of all, how could it? Nothing ever does… Secondly, I struggled to find anything at all to like in Sorrento. Tacky, spoiled, expensive… and lacking in any natural charm. A shortage of beaches – a smattering of grey volcanic grit doesn’t count; run down, flaking blocks of flats reeking of poverty interspersed with exclusive, inaccessible luxury resorts…
Yet I had a great time in Sorrento – there is a beautiful coastline, the views over red rooftops to the sea, a lovely sunset from La Marinella, gnocchi, carbonara and tiramisù at a great restaurant, two nights in a row, the smell of lemon soap at every souvenir shop on Via San Cesareo, ‘swimming’ in the crystal clear water (though the sea was still very cold), fishermen unloading their catch directly to the beachfront restaurants, lying on the beach to read, the hottest place on my trip…
What to do:
Sorrento was formed from a volcanic movement 33,000 years ago. It has been occupied by Phoenicians, Romans, Normans and Spanish and became a holiday destination in the 18th century.
Marina Piccola, right below Villa Comunale gardens
Marina Grande, on the edge of the town Both are crowded with sun loungers and parasols though there may be a couple of free strips of sand somewhere.
There is a free sculpture exhibition in the Villa Comunale gardens running until the 31st of August: L’Inferno di Dante. Benedetto Robazza’s hand-carved marble reliefs of many scenes from Dante’s famous epic.
Stroll through the warren of shop keepers displaying their wares to visitors – artisanal pasta in all different shapes and colours, limoncello liqueur, the ubiquitous lemon soap…
There are also some churches and the Correale museum
There are buses all around the peninsula and to the famous Amalfi coast…
Positano was, according to legend, founded by Poseidon himself. Built vertically into the cliffside, the pastel painted houses are evocative of precious jewels.
Amalfi is a bigger town with an amazing cathedral, lots of fishing boats and a few little inlets and coves.
Stay at the Florida Hostel and Hotel at the Sant Agnello side of Sorrento
Eat at La Tavola di Lucullo near here…
Have cakes and Lavazza at La Dolce Sorrento in Piazza Lauro near the train station