Around Us / The Sorrento Coast
I can only immagine that heaven on earth looks more or less
like the Capo di Sorrento. Outside my window an emerald sea
spreads out, olive, orange and lemon trees climb up the my
front doorstep. Only now do I begin to regain some of my
senses in the face of all of this grace of God.
Isaak E. Babel, 1931
Celebrated throughout the world, the Sorrento Coast, with its views and perfumes, has enchanted, since the eighteenth century, illustrious visitors arrived in Italy for the Grand Tour.
But many centuries before, the balmy climate and beautiful landscape had conquered the Romans who, in the Augustan age, built sumptuous villas along this coast.
This part of territory, that it extends from Castellamare di Stabia to Punta Campanella, is a perfect watershed between the gulfs of Naples and Salerno.
Between citrus groves, vineyards and olive groves that softly pour down the slopes towards the sea, the tortuous coastline, curve after curve gives us naturals beauties of great charm.
Art, nature and tradition characterize the numerous towns of Peninsula. Vico Equense, famous for its thermal baths and for “pizza by the meter”, also preserves numerous traces of the past like the Annunziata Church, the only gothic church on the Peninsula and Castello Giusso, founded by the Angevins.
From Vico Equense the road becomes tortuous, following the sinuous slopes of Mount Lattari and follows down all the way to Meta, a holiday swimming area with its lovely beaches.
The Coast continues through Piano di Sorrento and Sant’Agnello, a natural terraces of tuff rock from which you can admire the nearby Sorrento and Capri profile.
Soon after is Sorrento itself, the most famous place on the coast. Sorrento, built on a mound of tuff, is of Greek origin, as its chessboard design indicates.
At the ancient crossroad stands piazza Tasso, dedicated to the author of Gerusalemme Liberata, who was born here in 1544. The piazza is the heart of Sorrento; on one side it opens on to Corso Italia, a street full of boutiques. On the other side stands the Correale Museum, “the most beautiful provincial museum of Italy”, according to Amedeo Maiuri, an important Italian archaeologist.
The Museum occupies an 18th century villa, set in a citrus grove, overlooking the sea. Inside you find a variety of objets d’art: masterpieces of the local speciality of inlaid wood, paintings, furnishings, old clocks, oriental porcelain, and both Italian and foreign majolica ware.
In the historical center of Sorrento, there are also many important churches like the Cathedral, dedicated to Saint Philip and Saint James, and built on the ruins of an ancient Roman temple, the basilica of Sant’Antonino, famous for its XVIII century crib and the church of San Francesco d’Assisi with its medieval cloister.
From there you can get to the Villa Comunale, a public garden on the edge of a sheer cliff that offers spectacular views. From the Villa a paved road takes you to the Marina Piccola, which has numerous bathing establishments and a port from which the boats for Capri and Naples leave.
If you are set on immersing yourself in nature, archaeology and legend, the Baths of Queen Joan are the place for you, with a natural rock arch enclosing a pool of sea water. The waterside ruins are thought to be those of the villa of Vedius Pollio, a rich Roman aristocrat, but legend has it that it was here that Joan, Queen of Anjou gave trysts to her lovers.
The coast road beyond Sorrento winds through citrus and olive groves, with scintillating views. After 7 km you come to Massa Lubrense, one of the most popular resorts along the Peninsula.
This stretch of the coast, round past Punta Campanella, is particularly impressive, with bays, creeks and grottoes overlooking an expanse of sea, which is particularly rich in marine life and multicoloured seaweed.
The Sorrento Peninsula is full of nature, traditions, gastronomic excellences and events. The best way to discover it is a leisurely walk among the streets in the historical center, among alleys filled with local shops, maybe stopping to taste a glass of Limoncello or sitting down on a bench overlooking the Gulf of Naples.
What to ask more for a dream vacation? You just have to visit it!