Beyond Rome: A Travel Guide to Sorrento, Italy
As you may know, I hit up Italy at the end of August and the first stop of the trip was Rome. We stayed in Rome for a grand total of two days before moving onto a part of Italy that we hadn’t visited before: Sorrento, Capri and the rest of the Amalfi coast. Sorrento was a breath of fresh air (literally), and a complete 180 from the fanny pack and selfie-stick-toting tourist-filled streets of Rome.
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Getting there and getting around
By train: Getting to Sorrento from Rome should have been easier and more pleasant than it actually was. Here’s the short version of the story: from Rome Termini, there are regular Frecciarossa trains to Naples. We took business class because we fancy. 55 Euros, air conditioned, wifi, comfortable seats with a view of the Italian countryside and you get to Naples in an hour and ten minutes – what’s not to love? This part of the trip was wonderful.
And then came the Naples to Sorrento leg of the journey. Many people choose to take the Circumvesuviana train because the station is just below the main Napoli Centrale station. We should have known something was up when we paid eight Euros for two tickets. This was a massive blow after our previous train journey, which was simply put, delightful. The train itself was old, stuffy, packed, dirty, stinky, and I’m not even kidding (I have a witness), I nearly didn’t make it.
Photo taken after approximately 20 people got off this carriage. Still stinking hot.
To make things worse, we missed the direct train so stopped every two minutes on this ride from hell. I can’t and don’t want to even imagine what this would have been like in the dead of summer.
Since taking the Circumvesuviana 2 years ago, it has only gotten worse. In June 2017 we took the train from Pompeii back to Naples, and witnessed a massive argument that nearly escalated into a fight, and then were accosted by a gang of hooligans who stole from us. After hopping off the train and confronting them, they gave our property back and promptly decided to try to spit on us. Honestly one of the most infuriating travel experiences to date – avoid the Circumvesuviana train!
By express train from Naples, the Campania Express: There are only a handful of trains each day but they are newer trains that are catered towards tourists. It costs approximately 6 Euros each way and stops at Naples Garibaldi station, Herculaneum (Ercolano), Pompeii and Sorrento.
By ferry from Naples: Because of our horrific experience on the Circumvesuviana train, I would recommend that you look into forking out the 15-20 Euros to take a ferry from Naples to Sorrento instead. It’s much, much nicer, only takes half an hour, and what we ended up doing on the way back to Naples at the end of our first trip in 2015. There are frequent ferries every 2 hours or so.
By shuttle bus (Update June 2017) from Naples: Fantastic news, there are also shuttle buses between Naples Airport and Sorrento operated by Curreri Viaggi. The timetable is available here and the journey takes just over an hour! The shuttle costs 10 Euros each way and is a great way to get to Sorrento if you are not keen on the ferry.
By taxi from Naples: Taxis cost approximately 100 Euros each way and are worthwhile if you are traveling in a group and have lots of bags.
By private transfer from Naples: I can recommend ADM’s chauffeur service highly for transfer between Naples and Sorrento. We paid approximately 85 Euros for transfer in a Mercedes Benz sedan. You will need to book your transfer in advance here.
By car from Rome: It is actually also possible to get to Sorrento by car from Rome, skipping Naples entirely. The drive will take you just over 3 hours.
TLDR: Avoid the Circumvesuviana train. From Naples: take the ferry, shuttle, taxi or private transfer. Taxis/private cars from Naples to Sorrento cost approximately 100 Euros and worthwhile if there are several people & lots of bags.
The best way to get around is by scooter. Parking is far and few inbetween, and traffic can be a nightmare. We rented a scooter from Freeway Scooter and their service & rates are outstanding. Make sure you email ahead during the peak season to book a scooter in advance.
We witnessed some of the most beautiful sunsets in Sorrento. No filter. True story.
What to do in & around Sorrento
Sorrento was much less hectic than Rome and what I imagined every day Italian life to be like. It was relaxing to stroll through the small side streets and explore, people were nicer and far less pushy than in Rome, and food was infinitely better.
1. The first thing you should do in Sorrento is wander around the historic center and check out the incredible handmade Italian leather sandals and limoncello, a local specialty.
2. Do a day trip to Capri
Sorrento is also a great base if you want to make a day trip to Capri, which is a quick 30 minute ferry ride away. If you’re feeling adventurous you can rent a small rigid inflatable from Sorrento Boat – we paid approximately 200 Euros for a full day and organized our own food and wine – such a great way to explore Capri! You don’t need a nautical license for the smaller boats and it takes approximately 30-40 minutes to get to Capri. The benefit of doing it this way is that you can visit the blue, white and green grottoes and Faraglioni rock formation with more flexibility, it’s also more cost effective as return ferry tickets can cost upwards of 60 Euros per person.
3. Or go on a day trip to Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius
There are a number of ways to get to Pompeii from Sorrento including the Circumvesuviana (but you know how I feel about that) and Campania Express trains. To get to Mount Vesuvius from Pompeii, hop on the EAV Bus that departs from outside the Pompei Scavi Circumvesuviana station; the journey takes approximately 50 minutes and costs 2.70 Euros each way, tickets can be bought directly from the bus driver.
4. Explore the Amalfi Coast
There are lots of ferries to Positano and other towns along the Amalfi coast, just make sure you check the ferry times as the return ferries tend to be in the early afternoon so you wouldn’t be able to stay for dinner. If you don’t feel like splurging on accommodation in the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento is a great place to base yourself to explore the surrounding regions! If boats aren’t your thing, there are hop on/off buses but they can get extremely packed during the peak season.
5. Go for a dip at Bagni Della Regina Giovanna
This hidden cove is just 10 minutes away from the city by scooter, and is the perfect place to go for a swim (or jump off a rock, if you dare!).
6. Sail over to Ischia and Procida
During the summer months, there are direct ferries from Sorrento to the colourful islands of Ischia and Procida. These two islands make for a perfect day trip and the tourist crowds are minimal. The ferries don’t run every single day, so make sure you check the ferry times ahead of your trip.
Where to eat and drink in Sorrento
I’ve gone over my iCloud allotment and keep getting notifications from iOS telling me I’ve run out of storage space, probably because of the number of sunset pictures I took in Sorrento. If you read my website you’ll know that I like a good cocktail to go with my sunsets, so we stopped by the Hotel Bellevue Syrene for a mojito (at half the price that we paid in Rome, I might add).
Photo credit: Bellevue Syrene’s Facebook Page
We had two nights in Sorrento and were desperate for some good Italian food after the dining disaster in Rome. Luckily, our prayers were answered in the form of L’Antica Trattoria. The restaurant is one of many along a street in Sorrento near the bay, and if you didn’t know any better you would just pick one restaurant over the other haphazardly. This place was so good, we have since returned another 3 times. Amazing, amazing zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta, ravioli, lamb shanks and calamari. If you make it over, get the tiramisu for dessert. I have never tasted tiramisu as delectable as this, and I will never feel the same way about any other tiramisu for the rest of my life. It has my heart. Oh, and prices are extremely reasonable.
For a slightly more budget-friendly, no-frills option, head to Il Leone Rosso – their menu is massive and food is decent. Try their diavola pizza and gnocci!
Where to stay in Sorrento
For our first trip to Sorrento in 2015, we stayed at Vhome, a lovely B&B located in a residential building down a side street in a relatively low-key area of Sorrento. It is a quick ten minute walk from the heart of the city, and the people who run it are amazing and packed us cake for our day trip to Capri, in case the two salami-stuffed croissants I had for breakfast wasn’t enough. Click here to book your stay at Vhome!
Another fantastic option is B&B Veru, right on Corso Italia (the main street running through Sorrento – the location can’t be beat). Cristiana is a wonderful host and the boutique rooms are spacious, clean and modern. Although it is on the main street, street noise is non-existent. Click here to book your stay at B&B Veru!
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