10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Sorrento
The little town of Sorrento (you'll hear it called Surriento in the local dialect) sits amid lemon and orange groves on the south side of the Bay of Naples, surrounded by craggy cliffs that rise 55 meters above the sea. While you won't find any of Italy's top 10 tourist attractions here, Sorrento is worth a stop for its laid-back holiday air, beaches, and its old streets lined by noble houses. The heart of the town is busy Piazza Tasso, surrounded by little streets where you'll find shopping and places to eat. It's a delightful town for strolling, relaxing, and enjoying a bit of la dolce vita. And with all the major attractions around it, there are plenty of opportunities for day trips from Sorrento.
In its history, Sorrento has been ruled by Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, French, and Spanish, and it was sacked by the Turks. You'll see these influences in its architecture and even hear hints of Spanish in its dialect. As you stroll, look especially for the early 16th-century Sedil Dominova, 14th-century Correale Palace, and the rare 13th-century Veniero Palace with flourishes that reflect late Byzantine and Arab styles. On a more modern note, be sure to stop in a pastry shop to sample the local confections - especially the Caprese almond cake.
See also: Where to Stay in Sorrento
1 Marina Grande and Marina Piccola
The two harbors, Marina Grande and Marina Piccola, extend along the steep coast. In terms of boats arriving and departing, Marina Grande, which means large, is actually smaller than Marina Piccola (small), but more interesting for tourists. Its waterfront has a boardwalk atmosphere, lined by seafood restaurants with terraces overlooking the water, and if you step away from the beach and swimming piers lined with sunbathers, you'll find a little fishing village. Fishermen still unload their boats here in the morning to supply the restaurants.
From busy Piazza Tasso, Sorrento's commercial hub, a road runs down to Marina Piccola, where the tourist boats come in. Here, you'll find ferries and boat tours to Capri (20 minutes), Naples (30 minutes), the Amalfi coast, and the islands of Ischia and Procida. Several of the Sorrento coast's nearly two dozen beaches are close to the Marina Grande.
2 Cloister of San Francesco
The monastery dedicated to St. Francis dates to the early eighth century, and its highlight is the late-13th-century cloister. On two sides are crossed arches of tufa, and the other two have round arches above octagonal columns. As in other Sorrento buildings, look for pieces of earlier structures - three of the corner columns were once part of pagan temples. The adjoining church dates to the 16th century.
3 Bagni della Regina Giovanna
At the point of Capo di Sorrento are the ruins of a Roman villa, the Villa Pollio Felice, dating from the first century BC, and one of the unique things to do in Sorrento is to swim in the beautiful natural pool below it. Separated from the sea by a rock arch, the pool is surrounded by steep rock cliffs. You can get here by boat or by a path from the road (a bus will bring you from the center of town or it's a half-hour walk); a walkway leads across the bridge formed by the natural arch. Although there are plenty of beaches in Sorrento, swimming here is an unforgettable experience.
4 Cathedral and Bell Tower
From its early 15th-century beginnings through the early 20th century, Sorrento's Cathedral of San Filippo and San Giacomo has been remodeled and updated repeatedly, but the 1474 Renaissance side door remains. So does the 12th-century base of the older bell tower, where you can make out classic and Byzantine capitals on the columns. The upper tower was rebuilt or cut to its current dimensions in the 15th century. Inside, the art also represents the continuation of many eras, featuring paintings from the Neapolitan school and outstanding wood marquetry - a Sorrento specialty - by contemporary artisans. Look for these in the door panels and the pictures for the Way of the Cross.
5 Basilica of Sant'Antonino
The ninth-century oratory dedicated to Sorrento's patron saint Sant'Antonino - St. Anthony Abbot - developed into a church in the 11th century. Today, you can find Roman columns and other pieces recycled from earlier buildings. Don't miss seeing the crypt, where grateful people have brought silver votive offerings, and others, primitive paintings in thanks for being saved from disasters at sea. Perhaps St. Antonino's fame for sea rescues stems from the story of his saving a Sorrento child who had been swallowed by a whale; inside the church you'll see bones that are believed to be from the same greedy whale.
Address: Piazza Sant'Antonio, Sorrento
6 Villa Comunale
One of the most enjoyable experiences, and certainly one of the most romantic things to do in Sorrento, is to watch the sunset from the terrace by the Villa Comunale, a park near the cloister of San Francesco. The park is directly above the Marina Grande, and views are down into the busy harbor filled with colorful boats. Beyond, looking east across the Gulf of Naples is Mount Vesuvius. Looking west, the view is toward the rocky point of Capo di Sorrento. A lift will whisk you from Villa Comunale down to the marina below, or you can take the winding pathway.
7 Correale di Terranova Museum
The museum that began with fine arts collections from the many houses of the Correale family in Naples and Sorrento has been described as "the most beautiful provincial museum of Italy." Especially strong in 17th- and 18th-century paintings, its collections are also known for European porcelains (including Meissen, Sevres, and Capodimonte), Bohemian and Murano glass, reliefs from the Augustan era, furniture, and Neapolitan paintings. The gardens of the villa are beautiful and also open to visit.
Address: Via Correale 50, Sorrento
8 Museo-Bottega della Tarsia Lignea (Wooden Marquetry Shop-Museum)
Detailed wood inlay is an art with a long history in Sorrento, and you'll see examples in its churches (especially the cathedral) and in shops throughout town. In this 18th-century patrician mansion - itself richly decorated in frescoes and hand-painted wallpapers - you'll find inlaid wooden furniture, boxes, and pictures created by Sorrento's 19th-century marquetry masters, as well as exhibits on the art.
Address: Via San Nicola, 28, 80067 Sorrento Napoli
9 Museo Archeologico Territoriale della Penisola Sorrentina (Archeological Museum)
In the Neoclassical Villa Fiorentino, set in its own gardens, the archaeological museum displays finds uncovered in Massa Lubrense, a little town southwest of Sorrento, and at other sites in the Sorrentine Peninsula. The focus of the collections, which feature sculpture, architectural elements, decorative arts, and artifacts of everyday life, are the centuries from prehistory to the end of the Roman era.
Address: Villa Fondi, Via Ripa di Cassano, Piano di Sorrento
10 City Walls
The Greeks fortified the town with walls that were strengthened by the Romans and remained through the Middle Ages. They were rebuilt again after the city was attacked by the Turks in the 1500s. Parts of all these remain today: you can see a section of original Greek walls at the Marina Grande gate and below Porta Parsano Nuova. You can visit the reconstructed walls at the Porta Parsano bastion.
Address: Via Sersale, Sorrento
Where to Stay in Sorrento for Sightseeing
We recommend these charming hotels in Sorrento, with easy access to the top attractions and beautiful bay views:
- Maison La Minervetta: nautical luxury, boutique hotel, spectacular bay views, floor-to-ceiling windows, superb breakfast.
- Villa Oriana Relais: mid-range rates, bright rooms with sea views, groves of lemon trees, amazing breakfast, gracious host.
- Boutique Hotel Helios: affordable rates, private beach, rooftop Jacuzzi with gorgeous water views.
- Best Western Hotel La Solara: budget-friendly rates, beautiful setting, lovely outdoor pool with plenty of sunbeds, free shuttle to town.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Sorrento
- Tours to Pompeii: Sorrento is a good base for full-day trips throughout the Bay of Naples region, or you can take a Half-Day Pompeii Sightseeing Trip from Sorrento. On this four-hour trip, your expert guide will lead you to the forum, the ruins of the Thermal Baths, Vetti's House, and other Pompeii highlights, while explaining the history of the AD 79 Mount Vesuvius eruption that destroyed the city. The tour will meet you at your hotel or at the port for cruise passengers.
- Tours to Capri: The full-day Capri and Blue Grotto Day Tour from Naples or Sorrento includes round-trip transport to the island by jetfoil and minibus transfer to Anacapri. With a small group, you'll see the island's highlights and stop for shopping and sightseeing at Anacapri and the village of Capri. A visit to the Blue Grotto is included.
- Tours of the Amalfi Coast: You can see the highlights of this beautiful peninsula on a Full-Day Amalfi Coast Experience from Sorrento, traveling in an air-conditioned minibus as you enjoy the spectacular scenery from the coastal roads. Leisurely stops allow time for strolling through the three most popular and beautiful villages - Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello.
More Must-See Destinations near Sorrento
Sorrento sits on the north side of the Amalfi Peninsula, whose southern shore is one of the top tourist attractions in Italy and among the most beautiful stretches of coast in all Europe. Among the many easy day trips from Sorrento are the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, destroyed by eruptions of Mount Vesuvius and both among the best places to visit in Italy. You can take a boat to the island of Capri or to the city of Naples, and you can drive or take a bus to the ancient Greek sites of Paestum, south of Salerno.