As part of our three-month trip to Italy, we spent almost a month in Vico Equense on the Sorrentine Peninsula. It was just 11 kilometers from the city of Sorrento and we were able to do the best things to do in Sorrento, Italy using it as a home base.
Sorrento is one of the most popular places on the Sorrentine Peninsula, and definitely the most popular on the north side. The Amalfi Coast is on the south side of the peninsula. The summer months are, of course, the high season, but our first visit was at the end of October and the beginning of November. It was still busy, but not nearly as busy as June – August.
We found so many great things to do in and around Sorrento, but some of our favorite moments include an evening stroll through the main square and a beautiful garden, sipping cocktails at an outdoor cafe, and eating fresh fish on the coast.
Because we work while we travel, about half our time in Sorrento was free time and we made the most of it. It turned out to be a perfect place to work, play, and relax.
History of Sorrento
The Roman name for Sorrento was Surrentum and it has been inhabited since the 8th century BC.
The most important temples in the city were dedicated to Athena and the Sirens. The latter temple was the only one of its kind in all of the Greek world during historic times. The city was also famous for its wine, fish, and red Campanian vases. Coins from Massilia, Gaul, and the Balearic Islands have been found here, which indicate that Surrentum had a wide-reaching trade business.
Sorrento has been a tourist destination since the time of the Roman Empire. The city sits on top of high cliffs that overlook the Mediterranean Sea. In the past, it was used as a lookout point to watch for enemy ships. The views from Sorrento are still some of the best on the peninsula. On a clear day, you can see the islands of Capri, Ischia, and Procida. You can also see Mt. Vesuvius towering over the city of Naples.
The name Sorrento comes from the sirens that were said to live on these cliffs. In Greek mythology, the sirens were creatures that sang songs so beautifully that sailors would crash their ships into the rocks trying to get to them.
How to Get to Sorrento
Perched atop cliffs that overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea, Sorrento is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula. The city is easily accessible by train, bus, or ferry from major cities like Naples, Salerno, and Rome.
If you’re coming from Rome, the fastest way to get to Sorrento is by taking the high-speed Frecciarossa train from Rome’s Termini station to Naples’ Central station. From there, you can either take a regional train or the Circumvesuviana line to Sorrento. The journey takes about three hours in total.
If you’re coming from Naples Airport, you can take the Alibus shuttle bus to Naples’ Central station and then follow the directions above. The journey takes about an hour. There is also a hydrofoil and other boat options to get from Naples to Sorrento.
If you’re coming from elsewhere on the Amalfi Coast, there are regular ferry services that run between Sorrento and other major towns like Positano, Amalfi, and Capri.
We took a ferry across the Bay of Naples to Sorrento’s Marina Piccola since we came from Ischia. Upon leaving, we took the Circumvesuviana line to Naples and then another train to Rome. The local train is the easiest way to get around and we used it a lot while we were there.
The Best Time to Visit Sorrento
The best time to visit Sorrento is between April and June, or September and October. These months offer the perfect balance of mild weather and smaller crowds. We found that some things close at the end of October, including the ferry from Positano to Sorrento.
If you’re looking to escape the heat of the Italian summer, then visiting Sorrento in May or June is ideal. The temperatures are still warm but not as stifling as they are in July and August.
If lying on the beach or a boat while sipping an Aperol spritz is your thing, July or August might be perfect. It will be a party crowd and a big one.
If you want to experience Sorrento’s lively carnival celebrations, then plan your trip for February. This is when the city comes alive with music, costumes, and parades.
Where to Stay in Sorrento
Sorrento’s Old Town is the most popular area to stay in for visitors. This is where you’ll find most of the city’s historic sights, restaurants, and cafes.
If you’re looking for somewhere with a more traditional Italian feel, then staying in one of Sorrento’s beachside suburbs like Marina Piccola or Massa Lubrense is the way to go. These areas offer stunning views of the Bay of Naples and easy access to the city’s beaches and coastal walks.
We decided to stay in an apartment in Vico Equense, about 11 kilometers east of Sorrento. This was a great base camp for us as it isn’t very touristy. We felt like we were mostly among locals living their lives. It was also less expensive. Vico Equense is on the train line that runs from Naples to Sorrento, so we had easy access to Sorrento, Pompeii, Herculaneum, hiking trails, and more.
We stayed at Apartment Bougainvillea and it worked out well for us and was a five-minute walk from the train station and a 30-second walk to the grocery store. There are many other vacation rentals in and around Vico Equense.
You can see hotels in Vico Equense here.
Best Things To Do in Sorrento, Italy
Take a Self-Guided Walking Tour of Sorrento
Take a walk through the historic center and admire the architecture of this popular destination.
The historic center of Sorrento is best explored on foot. Piazza Tasso, the main square in the old town, is a good starting point for a walking tour. From here, you can easily reach some of the best places in Sorrento.
Start with a coffee or spritz in one of the outdoor cafes and then take a look at the statue of Renaissance poet Torquato Tasso who was born in the town and for whom the piazza is named.
For a little green mixed with history, peak over the wall at the end of the road behind the statue of Tasso in Piazza Tasso at the Valley of the Mills (Vallone Dei Mulini). This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Honestly, it’s not much to look at, but the history and geology are interesting. The ruins of 13th-century flour mills sit in a deep valley of tufa. The valley originates from the release of waters into a tufa plain about 37,000 years ago, following the eruption of the Campi Flegrei.
Ditch the map and lose yourself in the Centro Storico‘s (historic center) maze of narrow streets that branch off from the cliffside. These medieval alleyways twist and turn, leading past restaurants, bars, and shops. Explore hidden churches, gardens, doorways, and more when you take a walk through these backstreets.
Corso Italia and San Cesareo are the main shopping streets in Sorrento
You can purchase local souvenirs such as lemon products, lace, leather shoes and bags. You can also find craft workshops making intarsia (special inlaid wood carvings similar to marquetry). After a while all the souvenir shops look pretty similar, so you probably don’t need a lot of time to shop.
No visit to Sorrento would be complete without admiring some of its historic buildings, including the City Hall (Palazzo Torquato Tasso), and the cloister of San Francesco (Chiostro di San Francesco). The beautiful courtyard is among the most popular tourist attractions in Southern Italy.
If you’re looking for views of the sea, be sure to take a short walk to the Basilica of Sant’Antonio, which offers stunning panoramas of the Bay of Naples. This is the town’s oldest church, constructed in the 11th century, and named for its patron saint. It is across from Villa Comunale Park.
If you’re interested in learning about the local fishing industry, be sure to visit the harbor, where you can watch fishermen unload their catches. Sit down and one of the local restaurants to enjoy a seafood meal while you watch the local fisherman.
Sample Delicious Local Italian Food
If you’re looking to sample some of the delicious local food while you’re in Sorrento, there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to choose from. You can get into the whole dolce vita thing while eating outside and people-watching.
One of the most popular local specialties is Sorrento lemons, which are used in a variety of dishes including gelato, sorbet, and lemonade. You’ll see the lemon groves where they get the lemons as you tour around outside the city of Sorrento, as well as see lemon trees in the middle of every town.
Olive oil is another popular ingredient in Sorrento, and you can find it used in everything from pasta dishes to salad dressing. The area around Sorrento is also home to many olive groves, so be sure to try some of the fresh-pressed olive oil while you’re here.
There are several places in Sorrento to taste limoncello and olive oil (separately!). We had the best limoncello during our cooking class with Penisola Experiences.
And of course, no visit to Sorrento would be complete without trying some of the world-famous gelato. There are plenty of great gelaterias to choose from. Giardini di Cataldo is popular, but our favorite is Raki. Our local paddle-boarding guide recommended it and we went back several times.
Take a Cooking Class from Penisola Experience
Looking to learn how to cook like a local on the Sorrento Coast? Then look no further than Penisola Experience.
Our host and instructor, Cristiano, started with a tour of his family’s villa overlooking the Bay of Naples and the Sorrento Coast. We learned about the famous lemons grown on the Sorrentine Peninsula and a little about his family.
We did their “Cooking Experience” class and loved every minute of it. In addition to learning how to make traditional dishes from scratch – eggplant Parmesan, gnocchi alla Sorrentina, and tiramisu, we learned about the history and culture behind the dish, and how it fits into the broader context of Italian cuisine.
The recipes came from his grandmother and his sister helped with the class. We drank wine the family had made and toasted with homemade limoncello.
By the end of the class, we could cook a whole Italian meal and had a greater understanding and appreciation for local cuisine.
Go Paddleboarding in Sorrento
One of the best ways to explore Sorrento is from the water, and what better way to do that than on a paddleboard? With its calm waters and beautiful coastline, Sorrento is the perfect place to go paddleboarding.
Anders and I went out with Sorrento SUP, and as with the cooking class, we had a local guide who grew up in Sorrento and knew all about the area, so we learned a bit about the history of the place, too.
We paddled from Marina Grande to Bagni della Regina Giovanna or the Baths of Queen’Giovanna, a natural pool that you access through a sea arch. The gorgeous turquoise pool is named for Giovanna d’Angiò, a 14th-century queen from Naples. Our guide, Antonio, explained that she would meet her lovers there.
We also got to walk around the Roman ruins of the 1st-century Villa Pollio Felice at the tip of Cape Sorrento and Anders found a cliff to jump off of.
It was really lovely just being on the water. The paddling was easy as the water was surprisingly calm.
There was some trash in the water and at the village, but I guess that’s kind of how it goes in such a heavily traveled area.
Swim or Sunbathe at Sorrento’s Beaches
On sunny days, many of Sorrento’s beaches are crowded with locals and visitors alike. Despite the popularity of the surrounding area, there are still beautiful beaches to be found in Sorrento.
Beaches like Marinella offer stunning views of the Gulf of Naples. There are many beach clubs where you need to pay for a chair.
We preferred the beaches in nearby towns to the beaches at Sorrento. In Meta, there is a big, sandy beach that was quite inviting. In Vico Equense, we enjoyed both the private beach and the public beach.
If you don’t mind walking and being in the surrounding area, there is a lovely small beach at Baia di Ieranto. Read about that in the hiking section.
No matter what your favorite thing to do at the beach is, you’re sure to find a spot around Sorrento that suits your needs.
Go For A Hike Near Sorrento
The Path of the Gods
One of the most popular hikes near Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast is The Path of the Gods (or Il Sentiero Degli Dei in Italian). The trail is about 4.7 miles (7.5 km) and descends about 1,600 feet (500 meters) when you hike from Bomerano to Nocelle and Positano.
To hike the Path of the Gods, you’ll need to take a bus or taxi to the start of the trail, which is located in Bomerano. We took the regional train to Castellammare di Stabia and then the public SITA bus to Bomerano. It’s kind of time-consuming getting to and from the trail, but we decided it was worth it.
The bus will drop you off in the city center (village center?) called Piazza Paolo Capasso, which is where the main street of the town curves left. We had tea/coffee and some food at a cafe before following the signs to the Path of the Gods.
From there, it’s about a 3-hour hike to Nocelle, with stunning views of the Amalfi Coast the entire way. The trail is mostly downhill, with a few ascents thrown in. In summer, there isn’t any shade so it could get quite hot. We hiked it at the end of October and the weather was perfect. There were still a lot of people on the trail, but nowhere near the crowds we heard about in summer. This is a great place and it gets packed!
Be sure to stop at Il Chiosco del Sentiero Degli Dei (The Kiosk of the Path of the Gods) at the end of the trail for an icy lemonade. They also serve food and other drinks, all with a killer view of the sea.
From Nocelle you can take a local bus to Positano or walk about an hour down to Positano. From there you can catch a SITA bus back to Sorrento. Or take a ferry. We were too late in the season to catch the ferry so we took the bus. Competition for space on the bus was fierce and a couple passed us by without even stopping since they were so full. Then we walked to another bus stop and got on, but we stood the whole way back (which was fine since not everyone at that stop got on). And this was the end of October.
Monte San Michele Hike
Another walk near Sorrento is to the top of Monte San Michele (also known as “The Molar,” “Monte Molare”), the highest mountain on the Amalfi Coast.
We accessed it from the top of the Faito Cable Car at Monte Faito. Take the local train to Castellammare di Stabia and hop on the cable car. Buy tickets for the cable car in the train station.
From the top of Faito Cable Car, follow path n. 350 to Pian del Piero and then to Casa del Monaco and path n. 338. Following this path, you arrive at Croce della Conocchia (1387m) and follow path 300 which turns into path 350 and reaches Monte San Michele (Molare) (1444m). Use Kamoot or Google Maps to find your way.
This hike has some of the best views of the Gulf of Naples, Capri, the Amalfi Coast, and more. We read that there are aggressive Shepard dogs protecting their flocks, but we didn’t see any.
Hike to Baia di Ieranto
Baia di Ieranto is a small beach located near the tiny town of Nerano. Again, we took a SITA bus to get to Nerano. It is a harrowing bus ride that reminded us of how much we respect Italian bus drivers and how little we would ever want to be one.
Once in Nerano, we grabbed snacks and drinks at The Welcome Cafe, which is run by a lovely and friendly artist.
To find the trail, walk south for a couple of minutes on the main road until you see a sign for Sentiero Bahia di Ieranto on the right.
The hike takes about 45 minutes and is fairly steeply downhill at the end. It’s a 2.9 miles (or 4.7 km) out-and-back trail, with a turnaround point at Capitiello beach. We took a little side tour to the Torre di Montalto on the way down, but honestly, I don’t think it added much to the outing.
The views from the trail are gorgeous and you should plan to spend some time at the beach with a picnic or a bottle of wine and enjoy the crystal clear water and a beautiful sandy beach.
Take a Boat Trip from Sorrento
As I said earlier, one of the best ways to see the Sorrento Coast is from the water, and there are plenty of boat tours to make that happen.
Whether you’re looking for a sightseeing tour or a more adventurous excursion, you’re sure to find a boat trip that’s perfect for you. For breathtaking views of the coastline, take a tour of the Amalfi Coast.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even take a boat tour to the nearby island of Capri. This beautiful island is home to dramatic cliffs, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation. No matter what kind of boat trip you’re looking for, be sure to check out the options available from Sorrento.
There are ferries as well as shared boat tours. The ferries are a little less expensive and get the job done, but if you really want to enjoy a day on the water, a shared or private boat tour is a good idea. It’s worth the extra cost to do a shared boat trip because you get more out of it and spend less time waiting around.
I use Get Your Guide to book a lot of our tours and recommend checking out the Sorrento Boat Tours they offer.
Take a Day Trip to Pompeii, Herculaneum, or Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius is an active volcano in southern Italy that last erupted in 1944. It is best known for the destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the year 79.
Mount Vesuvius is located about nine miles east of Naples and is thought to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world. We could see Mt. Vesuvius from almost everywhere we went around Sorrento. Its iconic profile was our nearly constant companion.
Pompeii Archaeological Park
The archaeological site of Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in Italy. You should still visit it though. Take the local train to the Pompei Scavi Villa Dei Misteri stop and you will be right at the entrance to Pompeii. There are several cafes, street food vendors, and souvenir shops there.
Visitors can explore the ruins of the city, which was destroyed by the volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The archaeological museum displays many of the archaeological finds from Pompeii, including frescoes, mosaics, and sculptures.
Since it is so crowded and such a huge site, we took a tour through Get Your Guide. Our local guide took us off the beaten path and gave us a good understanding of what life was like at Pompeii.
We did a small group, skip the line tour at Pompeii, and learned so much. Since we toured in the morning, we had the rest of the day to explore on our own…and the knowledge to know what we were looking at.
If you do go on your own, know afternoons are less crowded than mornings. I imagine it gets really hot in there in the summer. Carry water and food, or eat at the only cafe inside Pompeii. It was a 30-minute wait in the off-season, but we had some of the best sandwiches we had in Italy from the Pompeii cafe.
Herculaneum Archaeological Park /Parco Archeologico di Ercolano
Herculaneum is another archaeological site that was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79. To get to Herculaneum, take the local train to Ercolano Scavi and walk about 7 minutes down Via IV Novembre to the Archaeological Park of Herculaneum. It’s a straight shot from the train station.
Unlike Pompeii, Herculaneum was not rediscovered until the 18th century. Whereas Pompeii was buried largely by a thick layer of volcanic ash and lapilli, Herculaneum disappeared under pyroclastic surges and flows.
Today, visitors can explore the ruins of this ancient city and see some of the best-preserved Roman houses. Herculaneum was sort of a summer getaway for the wealthy, while Pompeii was a working city.
Herculaneum is much smaller than Pompeii but better preserved. And a lot less crowded. We were really glad we had the chance to visit both.
You can take a tour of Herculaneum through Get Your Guide, from one of the tour guides at the site, or with a self-guided audio tour. Since we had taken the Pompeii tour, we went with the audio tour. We found that a lot of what we learned at Pompeii transferred to Herculaneum.
We originally planned to visit Mount Vesuvius on the same day as our trip to Herculaneum, but the road to the top was closed due to construction. I’d recommend going to the top of Vesuvius on the day you go to Herculaneum because you can access both from the same place. Plus, Pompeii is so big, it would be hard to fit another big activity into that day.
There is no way to get to the top of Mt. Vesuvius without doing some walking. The bus or shuttle you take will only take you up the lower part of Mount Vesuvius, the rest is up to you.
To take the Vesuvio Express bus to the Mount Vesuvius crater, buy your tickets ahead of time and hop on the bus in front of the Ercolano Scavi train station. The bus tours usually depart every hour, operating from 9 am until 3 pm. The tour is approximately two-and-a-half hours, returning you back to where you started.
There are also tour operators that offer guided tours of Mount Vesuvius if you are interested in learning more detail about Mount Vesuvius. Some offer a wine tour as part of the day. Or a boat tour from Sorrento to Pompeii and Vesuvius.
Visit Nearby Towns and Villages
The Sorrento Coast is home to many beautiful towns and villages. Some of the most popular places to visit include Amalfi, Positano, and Ravello. I definitely recommend adding another coastal town to your Sorrento trip.
These towns are located along the Amalfi Coast and offer stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. Visitors can explore the winding streets, shops, and restaurants, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
There are also many churches and museums to visit in these towns. For a more laid-back experience, be sure to visit the villages of Massa Lubrense (a small town near the Baia di Ieranto hike) and Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi. These villages offer a glimpse into traditional Italian life and are the perfect place to relax and enjoy the stunning scenery.
The Sorrento Coast is one of the most beautiful places in Italy and there are plenty of activities to keep you busy.
If you’re looking for a gritty, but interesting and historic city to explore, look no further than Naples. There are many things to do in Naples
Things to Do in Naples, Italy
1. Visit the Royal Palace of Naples / Palazzo Reale di Napoli– Explore the history and architecture of this centuries-old palace, built by the Bourbons in the 18th century.
2. Explore the Naples Underground / Napoli Sotterranea – Walk through underground passages and chambers while learning about their history from Ancient Greeks to WWII. You have to take a guided tour to visit Underground Naples. Get your ticket to Naples Underground ahead of time because it does sell out.
3. Tour the Archaeological Museum of Naples / Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli – Admire some of the finest Greek and Roman artifacts in the world at this renowned museum.
4. Visit Chiaia – Check out one of the liveliest districts in Naples, where you can find fantastic shopping and dining options, as well as street musicians playing traditional Neapolitan music.
5. Check Out the Bay of Naples – Get a spectacular view of the city and water by taking a boat tour around this beautiful bay.
6. Go Shopping at Mercato San Lorenzo – The largest and oldest open-air market in Europe, you can find almost anything here from fresh seafood to spices and clothing.
7. Stroll Through the Historic City Center – Discover architectural gems such as churches, palaces, and monuments along with narrow alleyways and colorful street life. There are lots of sidewalk cafes to enjoy the food and people-watching. Seafood in a paper cone and fried pizza seem to be particularly popular.
8. Visit Castel dell’Ovo – Explore this 12th-century castle located on a small island in the bay of Naples. It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in Naples.
9. Experience the Nightlife at Piazza Bellini – This popular square is full of lively bars, pubs, and clubs where you can dance the night away.
No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for, you’ll find plenty to do in Naples. From sightseeing and shopping to hiking and partying, there is something here for everyone. So why not make the most of your trip by exploring all that this amazing Italian city has to offer?
The Sorrento Coast is home to many incredible places to explore. From the historic towns and villages along the Amalfi Coast to the bustling city of Naples, there are plenty of activities for all kinds of travelers. Whether you’re looking for a relaxed beach holiday or an adventure-filled urban getaway, make sure to add some of these places to your travel list!