Perched on a cliff overlooking the Bay of Naples, Sorrento is a pleasant town to while away a few days.
From Rome, we traveled south by train into the area known as Mezzogiorno, or Southern Italy. Almost instantly, we felt a difference. Things seemed more raw and gritty. Not in a bad way, just more rural. This region of Italy is among the poorest areas in all of Europe, with a rate of unemployment almost double that of the north. However, we found Sorrento and the surrounding Amalfi Coast villages to be charming, middle-class towns.
At the Naples train station, we picked up an artecard for discounts on public transportation and various sites. From there, we continued our journey to Sorrento via an insanely wild ride on the Circumvesuviana train. Essentially, a rickety old roller coaster disguised as public transportation. The experience was akin to the crazy boat scene from the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In the hour-long trip, the train nearly came off the rails on more than one occasion.
Once we safely arrived, we were able to resume breathing again.
After some discouraging attempts to find affordable lodging, we stumbled on Hotel Linda, a cute and cozy family-run guesthouse. Due to the off-season and our proposed longer stay in Sorrento, we were able to negotiate a lower price for a room. We even secured the added bonus of a balcony. Quite a luxury for us.
Passing by the stunning Valley of the Mills gorge, we headed to Piazza Tasso. This main square, named for a Renaissance poet born here, is where we began our stroll around Sorrento. The ancient, narrow streets from the 5th century BC led us to Sorrento Cathedral. This stunning Catholic church features beautiful inlaid wood. This local tradition features different colored pieces of wood used to compose a design or picture. Eventually, we made it to Via San Caesareo, the central pedestrian street filled with quaint shops and sidewalk cafés. Here, we tasted a sample of the city’s renowned limoncello. The neon-yellow liqueur is made with the skins of locally grown lemons soaked in pure alcohol. Delizioso…
During our week-long stay, Sorrento proved to be the ideal home base for exploring nearby sites.
We braved the Circumvesuviana train for several day trips, visiting the frenetic city of Naples, climbing the crater’s edge of ominous Mount Vesuvius, and wandering the architectural site of the ruined city of Pompeii. As recommended by our guidebook, we took a local bus alongside the famous Amalfi Coast road. Its hairpin turns, serpentine twists and steep drops equally as scary, if not more so, than the hair-raising Circumvesuviana.
Every evening, Sorrento welcomed us back from the chaos with its calm, beguiling spirit. We sat on our balcony with a spread of antipasti: cheese, salami, olives and homemade bread with fresh sundried tomato pesto. As Vespas buzzed down Corso Italia, we sipped on Chianti, giving a toast to the sunset over the Isle of Capri, grateful for another full day on our Italian sojourn.L