The town appears suddenly, just after the bend of Scutolo Point, on the road which takes you from Naples to the Sorrento Coast. The appearance is beautiful and yet dramatic, with rock peaks falling into the sea and with a breathtaking landscape. The town seems suspended between the blue sky and blue crystal clear sea. The legend tells that in the waters of Sorrento the mythical Mermaids tempted Ulysse with an enchanting song, and when he refused to listen to the mermaids they decided to turn into rocks. Today, the rocks are called the Galli Islands.
Signs of prehistoric life may still be seen at Capo di Sorrento, in the Nicolucci Grottos.
Founded by the Ausoni, Sorrento was strongly influenced by the Greeks. Still today Greek remains are visible at the Porta di Parsano and at the Marina Grande. The town passed through Etruscan, Osci and later Roman dominations.
The historical centre still maintains the antique structure of crossroads and alleys.Testimonials of these histroical periods may be seen everywhere. In the past many temple columns were re-used to build churches. One of these churches is the splendid Sant’Antonino, dedicated to the Patron Saint of Sorrento, of which its side doors have been built using two supporting antique columns found during the costruction of the church. Another testimonry of re-utilisation of remains can be found in the Cloister of San Francesco annexed to the San Francesco Church.
The town of Sorrento was praised by Horatio and Stazio as a seaside resort. So much so, that during the reign of Tiberious, after abandoning Capri, many Romans decided to build their houses in Sorrento. One of the seven beautiful Roman villas still existing in the Campania region, the villae marittime, is the “Villa di Pollio Felice”. It may be reached by sea or by walking down a track which goes from Capo di Sorrento all the way down to the water, where you may visit the existing remains, notwithstanding the centuries which have passed. Coves emerge where you may admire the typical Roman built walls and imagine the antique splendor of this patrician home which extended along the coast as far as Marina di Puolo. During the period of the Grand Tour of the 1800’s, poets and writers, painters and dandies from all over Europe were particularly attracted to this seaside area which became a compulsory stay for all. Still today, along the coast, ninteenth century hotels may be seen. These testimonials of hospitality together with other hotel structures are suitable for all pocket books.
Sorrento today, as in the previous years, manages to attract visitors for its mild climate, walks in the hills, artisan workshops, gastronomy, warm atmosphere and its history. Traces of Sorrento’s history may be found at the Correale di Terranova Museum. A small but charming museum, which is worth a visit. The building is surrounded by a luxurious green garden and has a terrace where you may admire the entire Gulf of Naples.
Walking round the town is the best way to get to know the various districts. Go on foot to the fishing harbour of Marina Grande, Marina Piccola, and don’t forget to visit the Sorrento harbour. Admire the historical centre, the higher area which is the oldest and where you may walk down via Pietà, and the lower area, where you may visit via San Cesareo. The previous corresponds to the superior district on the old map, and which was modified during the remodernisation plans of 1861 when Corso Italia was built. In via Pietà the homes of 1700’s nobles follow each other, such as Palazzo Correale and Casa Veniero. Whereas, in the latter district, in via San Cesareo at the begining of the street you may admire the remains of the old gateway. This gateway, from the Angioin period, is just inside the gateway where you may admire the Largo dello Schizzariello and which was called Dominava. This is where nobility met to take important decisions for the benefit of the town. This square is the only one of its kind remaining in the Campania region.
Nevertheless, there is also a part of Sorrento yet to be seen. They are the hills and citrus groves which adorn the hillside around the town. Olive, walnut, orange and lemon trees decorate the area giving Sorrento fantastic colours all year round.