Time spent visiting the Amalfi coast, Sorrento and Capri is a decision you will not regret. The Amalfi Coast is probably one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. There is the turquoise blue sea and the pale blue sky and wonderful white rocky cliffs. The coastline brings its own beauty with terraced lemon groves, little towns and narrow roads winding up to them. Wherever you look, the vista feels so peaceful and it makes you smile.
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Sorrento is a popular destination for tourists and it serves a hub for the Amalfi Coast and Capri. Only an hour or so from Naples airport, it’s easy to get to. Depending on your travel preferences and budget, there are several choices to get to Sorrento. You can use a ferry service, the train, bus, taxi or drive yourself. The ferry is the fastest option at about 45 minutes and the train is the cheapest at around 3 euros.
Sorrento is situated atop seaside cliffs with views over the Bay of Naples. Due to its cliff top location, there are very few beaches. Most access to the sea for swimming is off wooden pontoons. There are extensive views across the Bay of Naples to Mount Vesuvius. Just the place to take in a sunset from a roof top bar or restaurant.
The historic town centre remains intact with its narrow streets, interesting architecture, cafes and bars. Piazza Tasso is the main square. It’s a city for leisurely strolling the narrow streets and exploring the shops and relaxing in the cafes. Sorrento is most well-known for ceramics, lacework and marquetry (woodwork). Almost every shop you enter will be offering all manner of ceramics decorated with lemon or olive motifs that the region is so famous for. English is widely spoken here due to the city’s long tourist history.
Whilst in Italy but particularly the Amalfi coast, you must indulge in some of the local Limoncello. There are Limoncello tastings on offer in a lot of the shops. Make sure it is ice cold. For the younger visitor, the non-alcoholic lemon gelato is just the thing. On the topic of lemons, don’t be surprised if you see lemons in the market that look more like a grapefruit size. The Amalfi lemon really is something unique in size and taste.
For us, the main attraction to Sorrento is its location. From Sorrento, you can easily access the island of Capri, go towards Naples to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum or head off the other direction to the Amalfi coast.
Eating out in Sorrento
As with all locations I would say, if you can see the main attractions don’t eat in the restaurants. You will pay twice (or more) the price for often very average food. Look where the locals eat.
We arrived in Sorrento on Easter Sunday, yes by some weird planning mishap we flew into the most Catholic country in the world on their major religious holiday. Luckily some restaurants were still open and following advice from our hotel, we ventured into a local pizza restaurant. Neither of us speak Italian past the basics of hello and thank you so the sight of a Italian language menu left us somewhat lost. The waiter offered to pick our pizza and a matching drink. We trusted that he would bring us something nice. Both meals were absolutely delicious, literally the best, lightest pizza we had ever (and still have) ever tasted.
When we returned to the hotel, we commented just how amazing it was and thanked them for the recommendation. The hotel staff told us that the chef had previously won Italian Pizza Master which is similar to a Master Chef style TV competition. Given how amazing the food was and the pedigree of the chef, it was all the more surprising that each pizza was only €13. This is the value of eating local and eating by recommendation.
Our other meals in Sorrento continued in the same manner. All were all of good quality with varied menus. If you like seafood, then the Marina Grande is the place to go. Here you can have your meal by the harbourside.
Amalfi By Sea
Being on the coast, it’s well worth taking a boat tour from Sorrento to get a different perspective. The coastline is truly stunning. The relaxed atmosphere onboard the boat combined with the warmth and sea air will relax you beyond your expectations. Our trip departed Sorrento and we cruised along the Amalfi coast passing the villages of Positano, Praiano and turning for the return journey at Amalfi. There are views of the villages terraced down to the sea or clinging tightly into small coves and extensive agriculture on the steep terraced slopes. In some places, there are ancient fortifications standing proud on headlands.
I could not help but admire the fortitude of the people who have built there homes on these slopes and who farm the extensive terraces running down to the sea. Life here for the locals looks hard but idyllic. For the tourists, none of that hardship exists and we can enjoy the vista without the work.
Amalfi By Land
In contrast to the sea views of the Amalfi coast, we decided we wanted to see more so we took a bus tour to Positano and Amalfi. The drive along the roads carved into the mountainside is not for the fainthearted. The roads are narrow and the coach seems to get very close to the edge. I am sure it is very safe but sitting on the ocean side of the bus was often scary. Once focussed away from the roads edge, the views are beautiful. We stopped in Positano for a brief walk around and then on to Amalfi. The Cathedral in Amalfi is located central to the town in Piazza del Duomo and easily visited. There shops and cafes surrounding the Piazza, with plenty to look at and places to eat.
It was a memorable visit to Positano and Amalfi and we recommend the bus tour as it is an entirely different perspective to the coastal cruise.
Around 20 to 30 minutes by either train or taxi will get you to Pompeii and it is well worth a visit. Be prepared for the assault of the stall holders and souvenir hawkers as you arrive to enter the site.
Once inside, you are completely free of any distractions. We were very surprised by the large size of the site and the amount of semi-intact buildings and monuments. Be prepared to walk a good distance and I would advise you wear trainers or walking shoes as the ground is very uneven in places. Allow at least 3 hours to explore the area. In the height of summer the temperatures can get stifling hot so make sure to pack sun cream, water and clothing to offer shade protection. There is little in the way of covered areas in which to shelter on the walk. Bring food with you from Sorrento as the concessions around the site are expensive.
I will not attempt to describe the highlights of the site as there were so many. Do take a guided tour as the information from the guides greatly helps you understand what you are looking at. A lot of really interesting detail is easily missed if you do not either know what it is or even where it is. For us, it was certainly a life experience not to be missed.
There is a ferry service across to Capri from Sorrento. Capri is a magical island that offers a lot in a small package. It’s very hilly place and not pedestrian friendly. You are best to travel any distance by vehicle.
Capri and Anacapri are the two towns on the island. The ferry and port area is Marina Grande which is part of the town of Capri. You can reach the downtown of Capri and the Piazzetta by funicular. Anacapri is located on the slopes of Mount Solaro, and an exciting 10 minute ride on a local bus from Capri.
By day, the port area and Capri bustles with day trippers. At night the whole island slows down. What nightlife there is centres around Capri and the Piazzetta. We chose to spend our five days in a small hotel in Anacapri. This town is more quiet and authentic Italian and filled with restaurants, cafes and wine bars.
Relaxing in Capri
There are not a lot of things to do on Capri. Most of your time is spent wandering, exploring the shops and cafes and taking in the atmosphere and the scenery. For us, this was the whole reason we came to Capri and we were not disappointed.
Italians are famously passionate about their food. In Anacapri, you have the ability to walk into any local shop, supermarket, restaurant or café and get wonderful locally produced food and wine. Our hotel had a lemon grove in the garden and our balcony overlooked it. One of my fondest memories is sitting on our balcony most evenings drinking delicious local wine (€3 per bottle!!) and local cheese whilst looking out over the lemon grooves watching the sun go down.
The prospect of our breakfast each morning was happily anticipated. Our hotel provided a breakfast that was simple but delicious. A particularly Italian feature of food is that they use a few simple but well produced ingredients and present them superbly. Our morning omelettes were absolutely sublime.
The daily influx of day tripper tourists did not greatly affect us in Anacapri as the bulk of the visitors stick to the port and Capri area. On a few days, we ventured down to the port area to watch the buzz of the place.
Activities on Capri
One of the things to do is to take the 12 minute chair lift ride to the top of Mount Solaro for the views over the island. It is quite a low level chairlift and it travels a lot of the way on the lower slopes immediately adjacent to the back gardens of many locals. You can also take the bus to the summit or walk up in about an hour. Once there, the views are of the whole island and the Bay of Naples. There is a restaurant at the summit chairlift station if you wish to eat and take in the vista.
Another of the must do activities is a cruise around the island. Most boat trips available take in at least one or two of the local grottos. The most famous is the Blue Grotto. Some tours do charge extra if you want to see inside the Blue Grotto. It’s usual for them to move you from your tour boat to a smaller gondola style boat with a local oarsman. The small boat is necessary to get into the grotto as it’s a small entrance. Check the tour itinerary and see if you want to pay extra for this.
The views from the ocean back to the island were fascinating. A lot of what you can see from the sea cannot normally be accessed from land or is private property. There are many beautiful cliff top homes, some owned by celebrities. My favourite sight of the cruise was the Natural Arch (pictured). We passed through the Arch to the excitement of all on board.
Overall, the boat trip along the coast was very enjoyable. I returned ashore with many photographs, a bit of sunburn and lots of happy memories.
We are the authors of our travel blog. Wayne is semi-retired and travelled quite extensively during his working years. Cally is a freelance business consultant who has also travelled widely. Both of us love to travel and we get away as often as our finances will allow us.
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