Sorrento is a coastal town in the Sorrento peninsula and is located in front of the Bay of Naples, in the south-western part of Italy.
Land of colors, sirens, city of gardens: there are so many definitions attributed to Sorrento, home of the great Torquato Tasso. In fact, in each one there is a background of truth, a piece of history of this millenary city influenced over the centuries by different cultures: Greeks, Romans, Normans, Aragonese have all passed through here leaving, each civilization, its own imprint and receiving in return the fruits of a generous nature and the poignant landscapes of one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in the world. Since the nineteenth century, Sorrento is a pleasant tourist city, with a very strong bond with the Anglo-Saxon world dating back to the so-called “Grand Tour”, when knowledge of the Mediterranean was an essential part of the formation of the Central European aristocracy. The result is a very different atmosphere compared to other tourist resorts in Campania. Perhaps less inclined to folklore, but certainly more orderly, more welcoming, more civilized. As for things to do, there are so many.
Virtually attached to the Villa Comunale, the Cloister of San Francesco is a must to see in Sorrento. It is part of the church of the same name, although, unlike the latter, it has preserved several traces of the original fourteenth-century architecture along with other decorative motifs added in later centuries. Porticoes of crossed tuff arches alternating with round arches resting on columns surmounted by capitals. A mixture of styles that does not leave you indifferent and, above all, gives the cloister a solemn and mystical atmosphere.
Many say that abandonment is the most authentic form of preserving beauty.
Hence also the charm of Vallone dei Mulini or, to put it in English (English and Americans are regular visitors to Sorrento) “Deep Valley of the Mills”. It is a natural riverbed that once reached the sea where, in the seventeenth century, the Correale family (the valley, previously owned by the Tasso family) built a mill for grinding grain to make the mill turn the rainwater that swelled in the canal provided. The activity went on until the beginning of the ‘900 and since then it is abandoned. The result is that a thick vegetation has taken possession of the area covering almost entirely the traces of the activities that took place there (there were also a sawmill, a tuff quarry and several caves used as cisterns for collecting rainwater). All in the historic center of Sorrento. The valley is inaccessible and therefore we must be content with photographing the ruins.
Originally located outside the city walls, the Cathedral of Saints Philip and James has been in the historic center of Sorrento for over a thousand years, although, it must be said, it used to stand earlier upstream than the current location. Almost nothing remains of the primitive aspect and the present form is the result of successive renovations completed in the 20s of the last century with the neo-Gothic facade. The interior is instead in Baroque style, mostly realized in the XVIII century. As for the works of art there are of great value: from the paintings, made by Giacomo del Pò, depicting the Assumption and the Saints Philip and James (in the ceiling of the Presbytery), to the “Madonna with Child and the two Saints John” by Silvestro Good (on the pulpit).
The wooden choir (in the presbytery) and the large organ that overlooks the main entrance portal are also impressive. Outside, on Corso Italia, the bell tower with the ceramic clock of the ‘700. Majestic. Three floors, twenty-four rooms, a library and a beautiful garden. The Correale Museum of Terranova, a testamentary legacy of brothers Alfredo and Pompeo Correale counts of Terranova, is a must for anyone visiting Sorrento. Inside, there is really a lot of stuff: precious furniture, Capodimonte porcelain, canvases from the ‘600 inspired by the spirit of the Counter-Reformation, still lives, views of the Posillipo School and many, many books and other documentary material on the history of the Kingdom of Naples. The garden is also pleasant, one of the most beautiful in Sorrento.
Capri, the island in the Gulf of Naples, the “queen of rock” by Pablo Neruda, has always been associated with a glamorous and elite tourism. A photograph that only partially reflects the island that for a long time owes its fortunes to cruise tourism and day trips (here the ferry and hydrofoil timetables for Capri). In the ability to reconcile these two aspects, the main merit of the people of Capri is to be able to make the “dream” more accessible without, however, selling it off.
As for things to do, one cannot but start from the magnificent Blue Grotto.
Just landed on the port of Marina Grande, the signs for the boats that make the transfer to the most famous cave in the world are clearly visible. There are two options: one is the island tour with a stop and visit to the Blue Grotto; the other is the direct passage. Once in place (upon payment of another ticket) it is necessary to pass on the traditional rowboats that accompany the tourists in the blue of this marvellous ravine protected by the Ministry of Cultural Heritage.
The church of Santo Stefano is the largest parish on Capri. Originally dedicated to Santa Sophia, the building was designed by the Neapolitan architect Francesco Antonio Picchiatti to recover the ancient Benedictine convent of the ‘500 of which only the bell tower overlooking the small square remains. Inside the church, a former cathedral, there is also a statue of San Costanzo, protector of the island.
The Gardens of Augustus are a must for anyone who wants a photo with the background of the Faraglioni, the famous cliffs of Capri. From April to October the visit costs one euro. Crowded all day, it is preferable to visit them in the morning and in the evening. There is less turnout and these are the moments of the day that give the best photos. Under the Gardens of Augustus there is the splendid Via Krupp, the bendy road “whim” of the German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp. Unfortunately, due to the risk of landslides, it is almost always closed and therefore can only be seen from the Gardens of Augustus.