Italy. A country that is known for its architecture, scenery, history and of course romance! One of our favorite cities was Sorrento. The ambiance, the food, and the views made this city a must-see. My husband and I visited many areas of Italy during a trip that lasted 23 days. We considered this a trip of a lifetime. We knew that we may never get a chance to return, so we made the most of our time there.
As with all trips, especially out of the country, it was not without a few quirks. My first suggestion is, do not overpack! We made the grave mistake of taking a lot more than just essentials. That would have been fine, had we not been moving around the country. We traveled from Pisa to Montepulciano, to Florence to Rome, and ended our trip in Sorrento. When they refer to planes, trains, and automobiles, they were not joking. We had 4 large bags between us. Boy was Rick Steves correct in saying, pack lightly! We learned that the hard way. I am passing that suggestion on to you, my fellow travelers! Pack lightly!
The next quirk we encountered was apparently our travel agent had no concept of distance. Perhaps she did not know the metric system well? We asked to be centrally located and near all public transportation. Well, that did not happen. In some instances, we were miles from public transportation to our hotels! So, remember that over-packing we did, so you can imagine how long and tiring our walks were to our destinations!
Now that I got that out of the way, let’s get back to our time in the beautiful city of Sorrento. Sorrento is high on the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Naples. It has the best of both worlds, a city, and a beach. We arrived in Sorrento by train from Rome. It was the fastest train that my husband and I had ever experienced. That in itself was quite the adventure! We boarded the train, it looked like an ordinary train, but when it started to move, boy did we learn it was not your typical commuter train! It was a “rocket train”! How fun is that, right? We arrived in Sorrento, 164 miles later in just about 2.5 hours. We did not have the hassle of the airport, a crowded bus navigating the crazy winding roads of Italy. We had comfortable seating and lovely scenery. This mode of travel is highly recommended.
My First Look at Sorrento
We stepped off the train and found our way to the street. I was in awe! Now mind you, I had already seen other areas of the country, but Sorrento seemed almost magical, all the things your mind thinks of when you think of Italy all rolled into one town! The smells, the people, the sounds, the architecture, the views, the food, and oh the colors! So many colors!
Once we found our way to our hotel, the Esperidi Resort and yes it was far yet again, we finally settled in. We rested, and set out to explore the city! As we walked, we took in the sights! Beautiful trees, brick sidewalks, and as we approach the Piazza Tasso, the streets open up and there are people everywhere! There are shops, restaurants, and my favorite part, the outside markets! You can find anything in the markets, from fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, and handbags!
We find our way through the crowds and find a place to eat. Just like you see in your mind, outside cafes! They are real and oh so romantic just like I pictured! The food was fantastic! The people-watching is even better. We eat and take in the sights! Brightly painted murals or mosaics along with the buildings and walls.
We then continued our journey down the smaller side streets and right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle, is the most aromatic lemon grove! Of course, Sorrento has lemon trees as they are known for the Limoncello! The tart but yet sweet alcoholic beverage that is simply delicious! It is like having a citrus circus in your mouth! It is made of fresh lemons, pure grain alcohol, and sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. It is a must-taste if you visit Sorrento! We bought some to bring home, of course! Someday I would love to make my own!
We encountered the weirdest item on our trip around Sorrento, there were nets hanging around under the trees in some areas. Nets? For what, bugs? There had to be a reason, right? What is one of the other things that Italy is famous for? Olive oil! The nets were collecting the ripe olives as they fell from the trees. Pretty clever, right?
We made our way to the outskirts of town and the view was phenomenal! There are sailboats, yachts, and cruise ships! The water is lapping up against the side of the cliffs. There is no land between them. Talk about where the water meets the land! It was absolutely breathtaking! We knew right then and there, we could not leave here without swimming in the Bay of Naples.
Beautiful Beach Meta in Sorrento
The next day we set out to find a beach! We finally are able to locate the “local’s beach” called Meta. It was a 15-minute bus ride from the center of Sorrento to Meta. The beach was crowded for the middle of the week and the middle of the day in October, but remember, the customs of Italy are far different than those in the United States. The beach was crowded because of Italy’s riposo, or midday siesta. Businesses and schools all close from 90 minutes to 2 hours. That explains why the beach was heavily populated. We find a spot on the beach and begin to explore the sand and water. The water was clear as crystal! I would say, not exactly warm, but lovely all the same.
We settled back in our chairs and the breeze was a tad strong on this particular day. I am resting and watching the people and all the kids play. Suddenly, I look over and I see kid’s Pokemon cards blowing away with no one in sight! I quickly jumped up and ran to save the cards!! Having a then 6-year-old, I know just how special those cards are. While I am cleaning up the cards, the family returns. I do not speak enough Italian to explain what I was doing. I began to use my version of sign language to tell the mom that the cards were blowing away. She began to laugh and thanked me. Unbeknownst to me, she spoke English. We laughed and introduced ourselves. That day we met Elena and her twin boys, Carlo and Antonio. They lived, worked and attended school right in Sorrento. Sant’ Agnello to be exact. We said our goodbyes and parted ways.
We decided to call it a day. We pack up our things and head back to the bus stop. Now, the Italian bus system is, should we say, not exactly prompt. We were waiting for quite a while when along comes our new friend, Elena and her boys. She offered us a ride back to our hotel! Complete strangers from another country as of an hour ago. We took her up on her offer and off we went. We got to know her and her boys more as we traveled along the crazy close roads and into the city. She dropped us off and we thanked her profusely for her time and kindness and said our goodbyes.
Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii
The next day, we booked a tour to see Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. I recommend a bus tour as you will see why soon. We climbed aboard the bus that picked us up right outside our hotel entrance. Now, I am not a tour group kind of gal, but I am glad we did the tour. We had a first-class, hilarious tour guide to explain all the ins and outs of Pompeii. Tidbits of information you would not have gotten on your own without first having a history lesson. The Pompeiian ruins are magnificent! Highly recommended that you see. Among the ruins where thousands of people perished were the remains of homes, theaters, sculptures, temples, thermal baths and of course the freely spoken about brothels and the men they served. Was that perhaps the reason for their demise?
Now imagine you are on a tour bus with about 100 other people and you are winding your way up a mountain! The bus takes you about halfway up to the drop-off point. From there you have to climb to the edge of the volcano. Boy am I thankful for my sneakers at this point. The trail is about 4 km about 2.5 miles up and back, with a change in altitude of about 140 meters and an average slope of 14%; the trail reaches 1,170 meters above sea level. We reach the edge and look in and yes, it is smoking and in several areas inside the volcano. Since there is much more sophisticated equipment to warn people of an eruption, we were assured there was nothing to fear. The view was fabulous and we took many pictures, how could you not? We descended back down the mountain, to me, down seemed harder than up. The loose volcanic rock made not sliding impossible.
We again boarded the bus to head to Mount Vesuvius. Remember how I said the roads were “close” in Italy? As we make our way back down the mountain, talk about a white knuckle experience! The views were beautiful if you looked out and not down. There were times that I could no longer see the ground and all I saw were the side of the cliffs and the water. I had to put my confidence in the hands of the driver. Once back at our hotel, a full night’s rest was in order. The next day was again filled with walking, shops and exploring.
Time to wake up! Today is street market day! The street alongside our hotel was full of vendors and natives shopping. This is also a bargain day. The market had anything from fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, fresh fish and meats, pastries, clothes, shoes, and toiletries. Such a fun tradition to partake in. We were strangers in the country, but yet, we were accepted as one of their own. Everyone was so kind and helpful.
Oh, How Lovely are the Views!
We cross the street and head closer to the cliffs and water. We stood on a dock up above the water and all you see all along the cliffs are open passageways and balcony-like structures built right into the side of the cliffs. Down we go along a long staircase that leads to the open passages. These passages winded wound around and around through the side of the cliffs. They were cool and wet and a welcomed temperature from the hot sun.
Later that night, we decided on traditional Italian pizza for dinner. After the pizza in Italy, I never look at pizza in the United States the same. The freshness of the ingredients and flavors are out of this world. We pick a little cafe, with outside seating, of course, and order our pizza. Italy is the only place that can make eating pizza seem romantic. The weather was perfect and the atmosphere even better. We finished our pizza and were about to leave when, much to our surprise, there was Elena and her family. We were so happy to see her and her boys again. Such a small world even in a whole different country. We have remained friends with Elena with the hopes of someday returning to visit her. Her boys are much older now but we stay in touch through Facebook. She would love nothing more than to have us visit again someday.
Our time in Sorrento was coming to an end. We were exhausted but had the time of our lives. We had great food, met great people and of course unforgettable scenery. As you can see that even amongst the quirks and the novice travel errors, we would not trade it for the world. I highly recommend Sorrento, Italy on your next trip abroad!
Guest Writer: Nicole Lytle
Nicole lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and 12-year-old son.