Perched atop seaside cliffs, the small town of Sorrento overlooks the Bay of Naples in Southern Italy. The city of 16,000 residents is a popular tourist destination during warmer months. However, Sorrento’s small town charm is palpable year-round. During the winter, lights and wreaths are strung along every street, Christmas trees dot the squares, and locals and visitors alike revel in the holiday spirit. There are also plenty of attractions to enjoy in the off-season, including museums and boat trips to Capri.
There are clear benefits to visiting cities in their off-seasons — fewer tourists, lower prices, and a better sense of what life in the town is really like. When the weather turns cold, this Campanian town is enchanting in a whole new way. Here’s how to spend a winter weekend in Sorrento.
Above: The main avenue in Sorrento, where locals take an evening stroll
As far as Italian coastal towns go, it’s pretty easy to get to Sorrento. From Naples, you can take the Circumvesuviana regional train. While it feels like the slowest train in Italy, it is the cheapest option, with tickets going for just a few euros. There are also a variety of charter buses from the train station to Sorrento. The most expensive option is hiring a car service in Naples or booking a car through your hotel in Sorrento. This will be more comfortable and convenient, but it will cost you (most hotels charge around 100 euros for the service; those in Naples can be somewhat less expensive).
Taking in the Town
Once settled in Sorrento, explore the town. It’s small enough that it can mostly be covered on foot, though there are buses and taxis available as well. Have a walk through the piazzas, such as Piazza Tasso (named for poet Torquato Tasso), and have an aperitivo at a local cafe. In the evening, join the locals for a stroll. Most evenings the Sorrentines take a leisurely walk along the main road, admiring store windows, talking with neighbors, and admiring the holiday decor.
Above: A first course at Sacro & Profano in Sorrento
As is the Italian way, you will not find yourself starved in Sorrento. In addition to the pasta of the rest of the country, restaurants offer more regional dishes as well; local cuisine features seafood, and of course, lots of limoncello. For a traditional meal, visit L’Antica Trattoria, a Sorrento institution since 1930. For a more modern take on Sorrentine cuisine, visit Sacro & Profano.
Art & History
The community of Sorrento predates ancient Rome and the town has been a favorite of writers and artists for centuries. Lord Byron, John Keats, and Sir Walter Scott are among those who’ve spent time the picturesque coastal city. Immerse yourself in the local history and art by visiting the Museo Correale di Terranova. The museum is inside a villa owned by Pompeo and Alfredo Correale. The villa is surrounded by gardens and a citrus grove, complete with scenic pathways that overlook the bay. The museum collections include paintings by Neapolitan artists dating primarily from the 18th and 19th centuries. The collections also feature a variety of local sculptures, glassware, and clothing.
Above: Winter calm on Capri
Day Trip to Capri
While you probably won’t get to see the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), it’s still worth taking a day trip to the island of Capri during the winter. Once a hideaway for Roman Emperor Tiberius, today Capri serves primarily as a vacation destination. During the summer, the island is overrun with tourists, and it feels more like an amusement park than a real community. During the colder months, however, the crowds are gone and you can really see the island.
From the main marina in Sorrento (Marina Grande) take a ferry to the main marina on Capri (Marina Grande). Boat tickets are around 20 euros. Once on the island, take a bus up to the town of Anacapri and ride the chairlift to the top of the island (Seggiovia Monte Solaro). The single-chair chairlift (which might be a bit unsettling for those with a fear of heights) transports you all the way up the highest mountain on Capri. From there you have a magnificent view of the Italian coastline on one side and endless ocean on the other. After exploring Anacapri, make your way to the main town of Capri. See the main square, then pick a side street to wander along, and see what you find. There are many shops, restaurants, and historical sites to see. You can also walk over to the opposite side of the island, where the small marina (Marina Piccola) is located.
Above: A holiday piazza in Sorrento
As you can see, just because there’s a chill in the air, doesn’t mean you should count Sorrento out of your travel plans. There’s plenty to enjoy in this southern Italian coastal town in the winter — and a lot of limoncello to keep you warm. Cin cin.