Sorrento has been one of the most iconic resort towns in southern Italy since it was discovered by travelers setting off across Europe on their 19th-century Grand Tour. But millennia before British nobility and intellectuals, well-to-do Romans would also head south from Caput Mundi to relax on this stretch of coastline. In fact, there are still ancient ruins of villas and baths scattered across the area, a testament to its beauty that has attracted visitors for millennia. In this guide we present the best places to visit in Sorrento.
Though it is often considered part of the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento is actually located on the clifftop of the Sorrentine Peninsula overlooking the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius on the horizon. A busy port for cruise ships and a popular bus tour destination, Sorrento sits halfway between Naples and Positano, the perfect position for setting off to explore for the entire swath of the region of Campania from the bustling city of Naples to sleepy Vietri sul Mare, which sits on the southernmost reaches of the Amalfi Coast.
The town’s unbeatable location, however, draws formidable crowds of shore excursionists and day-trippers from June through September, and the narrow lanes of the old town and waterfront restaurants in Marina Grande can get overrun with tourists. We recommend staying at a hotel or villa in Sorrento for spring and fall getaways and opting for quieter spots to use as a base during the high-season summer months.
Sorrento is ideal if you plan on spending your coastal holiday out and about sightseeing, but the town itself has plenty to offer as far as sights, activities, and dining. Since Sorrento’s old town is relatively flat and the Corso Italia, the main shopping street, is closed to traffic, it’s easier to get around than many of the other steep fishing villages along the coastline.
Here are a few of the best places to visit in Sorrento:
The Best Things to See in Sorrento
There are a number of important cultural and historic sights in Sorrento. Among the most popular are:
Sip an espresso and watch the world go by in Sorrento’s bustling main square, Piazza Tasso. This square is set above the “Valley of the Mills”, one of the many many “valloni”, or small gorges, which have been carved out over millennia by streams rushing from the hills set behind Sorrento down to the Mediterranean sea. Peer over the railing and you can spot the ruins of one of the many water-powered mills that once lined these gorges at the very bottom.
Sorrento’s pedestrian-only high street sets off from Piazza Tasso and is lined with high-end boutiques, welcoming restaurants, and a handful of gelato shops. This is an ideal spot to rub elbows with locals during the evening “passeggiata” before heading into the warren of tiny lanes in the old town that sits between Corso Italia and the cliff edge over the sea.
The Historic Center
The “centro storico”, as it’s known in Italian, is the most historic quarter of Sorrento. It is home to a warren of mostly pedestrian lanes lined with shops selling lemon-themed wares (echoing Sorrento’s history as a lemon producer), tiny traditional trattorias, gelato shops, and other businesses.
It is also home to some of the most important cultural treasures in the town, including the frescoed Sedil Dominova, once the gathering place for Sorrento’s high society, and the Church of San Francesco with its lovely 14th-century cloister. The Cathedral and Basilica di Sant’Antonino are also set in the historic center, which is still encircled by the ancient city walls that were built to protect the coastal town from marauders and certainly one of the best places to visit in Sorrento.
The Villa Comunale Gardens
Set right on the cliff’s edge on the far side of the historic center, this public park boasts a panoramic terrace that offers one of the most spectacular sunset views in town.
The Museo Correale di Terranova
This enchanting museum houses the personal collection of the Counts of Terranova in their historic family residence. Stroll through the rooms to admire historic artworks, ancient artifacts, and Capodimonte porcelains dating from the 1700s.
The Museo della Tarsia Lignea
Sorrento is known for two things: heirloom lemons and the art of wood inlay, or, more precisely, marquetry. One of the most historic crafts on the Sorrentine Peninsula, this local art form is celebrated at this small museum dedicated to its history and evolution. Make time to admire the astonishingly elaborate works of marquetry in the collection.
This villa dating from the 1930s sits about halfway along Corso Italia and houses modern art exhibits, concerts, and other events dedicated to Sorrento’s artisan traditions organized by the Fondazione Sorrento.
Perhaps the most charming quarter of Sorrento, this antique fishing village sits on the water’s edge beneath the historic center and is home to a number of excellent casual seafood restaurants, some of which are part of beach clubs. Three favorites include Da Emilia, a family-run traditional trattoria; Bagni Sant’Anna, a contemporary seafood restaurant that is part of the beach club of the same name; and Bagni Delfino (+39 081 878 2038), another beach club serving classic dishes with an unforgettable view making it one of the best places to visit in Sorrento.
The Best Beaches in Sorrento
Sorrento is, after all, a resort town that sits directly on the Bay of Naples, so it comes as no surprise that there are a number of beaches. Keep in mind that the beaches in town are small stretches of coarse dark volcanic sand that can get quite overrun in the summer. For more picturesque and less crowded spots, you’ll need to head slightly out of town.
Marina Piccola Beach
Set at the foot of the cliff directly below the Villa Comunale gardens and next to the Marina Piccola port, this small strip of volcanic sand has a number of beach clubs with a small area of the waterfront and sundeck over the water. You can rent sun loungers and umbrellas and there are beach club restaurants and/or snack bars.
Marina Grande Beach
Lining Sorrento’s charming historic fishing village, this small volcanic sand beach is an ideal spot to bask before or after your lunch at one of the famed seafood restaurants located here.
Regina Giovanna Beach
A local favorite, the “Regina Giovanna” beach (also known as the Capo di Sorrento) is a small tongue of land jutting out into the sea where you can swim among the Roman ruins of Pollius Felix’ villa. Pass through the ancient walls and follow the flight of stairs down to a small lagoon that is joined to the sea via an archway. Queen Giovanna d’Angiò loved to bathe in this hidden spot, hence the name. Along the pathway to the left, the Solara beach is lined with flat-topped rocks where you can sunbathe; there is also a private beach club here, which rents sun loungers.
Best Restaurants and Wine Bars in Sorrento
Sorrento has excellent restaurants, most of which are casual eateries that serve traditional fare based on local seafood and fish.
You will probably come across standards like Gnocchi alla sorrentina (fresh pasta tossed with a bright tomato sauce and local mozzarella); dishes that highlight the Limone di Sorrento, a particularly aromatic heirloom lemon; Provolone del Monaco, a slightly sharp cow-milk cheese aged six to 18 months; local extra-virgin olive oil; and walnuts from Sorrento, used to make “nocino”, another after-dinner liqueur.
Located just behind the square of the same name, this landmark restaurant has large, airy dining rooms, excellent cuisine, and serves pasta dishes, meat and fish main courses, and pizza. This is certainly among the best places to visit in Sorrento.
Ristorante Zi’ Ntonio (+39 081 878 1623)
A spacious eatery located in the historic center between Piazza Sant’Antonino and Piazza Tasso where you can often find seating even if you haven’t reserved in advance. Locals love the “risotto special” made with fresh seafood and shellfish, lobster, and prawns and served in a piping-hot skillet large enough to feed two (or three) people.
Sample classic Sorrentine cuisine at the historic restaurant that has been famous for over a century for their cannelloni, invented here in 1870. You can dine al fresco in the internal garden and covered patio.
La Cantinaccia del Popolo Trattoria (+39 366 101 5497)
Set outside the crowded downtown, this trattoria is a favorite among locals for its authentic traditional cuisine like gnocchi alla sorrentina, as well as locally sourced beef for steaks.
Dedicated to the famous Neapolitan tenor, who spent his final years in the nearby Hotel Excelsior Vittoria, this endearing restaurant is covered in opera memorabilia.
A contemporary bistrot-like spot Corso Italia that offers creative updates on traditional dishes.
This wine bar near Piazza Tasso has a vast selection of labels personally selected by the chef, a menu of local cheese and charcuterie boards, and even offers guided tastings.
Another casual wine bar for a glass of Italian red or white paired with light finger food, tucked in the narrow lanes of the historic center.
Set outside Sorrento in Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi, this 2-Michelin-starred restaurant is considered one of the best fine-dining establishments in southern Italy. Dishes highlight local ingredients sourced from the family’s farm on Punta Campanella and other area producers.
The Best Places to Stay in Sorrento
The timeless elegance and breathtaking terrace overlooking the sea make this Grand Dame hotel a favorite for everyone from couples to families. There are internal restaurants and bars, a spa, pools, and sprawling clifftop grounds.
This chic Mediterranean hideaway sits above the sea and has contemporary white-on-white interiors, private indoor pools, and panoramic outdoor terrace dining – our final choice of the best places to visit in Sorrento.