8 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. 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. Behind Piazza Tasso is a deep gorge with ruins of a mill that operated into the early 1700s, and at the point of Capo di Sorrento are the ruins of a Roman villa. On a more modern note, be sure to stop in a pastry shop to sample the local confections - especially the Caprese almond cake.

1 Marina Grande and Marina Piccola

Marina Grande and Marina Piccola
Marina Grande and Marina Piccola

The two harbors, Marina Grande and Marina Piccola, extend along the steep coast. Stop at the terrace by the Villa Comunale above the Marina Grande for views down into the busy harbor filled with colorful boats and out across the Gulf of Naples to Mount Vesuvius. From Piazza Tasso, near the town's center, a road runs down to Marina Piccola, where the 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 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

3 Cathedral and Bell Tower

Cathedral and Bell Tower
Cathedral and Bell Tower Elliott Brown

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.

4 Museo Archeologico Territoriale della Penisola Sorrentina (Archeological Museum)

An Etruscan Piece
An Etruscan Piece

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

5 Basilica of Sant'Antonino

Basilica of Sant'Antonino
Basilica of Sant'Antonino PracticalHacks

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 Cloister of San Francesco

Cloister of San Francesco
Cloister of San Francesco Dave & Margie Hill / Kleerup

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.

7 City Walls

City Walls
City Walls Elliott Brown

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.

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

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