Sorrento is located in a beautiful and serene part of Italy, just south of Pompeii where we based ourselves to explore the area around the Bay of Naples. It’s a small city nestled at the foot of a beautiful mountain range that graces the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. Most of the coastline is textured with steep cliffs, deep gorges, narrow winding roads, and tiny fishing villages clinging to its shores. Mount Vesuvius can be seen on a clear day across the bay. It’s an attractive scene and it’s very easy to get to from nearby Naples or Pompeii by train via the Circumvensuviana line.
Aside from the beautiful scenery, Sorrento is also a popular jumping off point to other famous sights nearby, including the islands of Capri (which we would visit another day) and Ischia and the glitzy Almafi Coast. This draws in thousands upon thousands of tourists each year and in mid-summer we were at the peak of the season. The city caters to tourists and getting caught up in the tourist trap was something we weren’t keen on doing. So since it was a hot day, we decided to go swimming. There are a few beaches near the city center that you have to pay to use, but they’re small, pebbly, and quite crowded. I had heard from someone about a swimming hole that the locals like to hang out at about 3 km outside of town, so finding it was our mission for the day.
The walk was very nice. Most of it was just following one of the narrow winding roads that leads out of town, heavily congested with tourist buses and Vespas. There are nice views of the city and the bay along the way. Eventually we left the crowded road for a long, quite cobblestone street that descended toward a hidden natural pool surrounded by a wall of rock. It was amazing! There was a cave at the other end that you could swim through and out into the open sea. We swam and did some cliff jumping for the afternoon and had a nice picnic lunch admiring the views across the bay. A magical little place.
The following day we came back to Sorrento and just nearly missed the last morning ferry to Capri. The island, only 5 kilometers from the mainland is a giant craggy monolith of limestone rising out of a shimmering cerulean blue sea. In the Greek epic, The Oddysey, the island was known as the isle of the Sirens–seductive woman-like creatures whose songs lured sailors toward the island causing them to crash into the rocks. While the Sirens may exist only in the storybooks, the island is still undoubtedly alluring. It’s been a popular destination even since the era of the Roman empire and in the summer time it attracts thousands of visitors a day. The tiny little towns are packed full of day trippers. Glamorous villas and vacation homes hang high on the cliffs above the water. All around the island’s many coves and hidden beaches, multi-million dollar yachts are anchored just off shore. Yet despite the tacky souvenir shops, the crowded beaches, and inflated prices that come with all the tourism, it doesn’t take away the enchanting atmosphere of the island.
While most people come here to see the famous blue grotto, we decided to spend our limited time on the island ascending to the top of Mount Solaro–the highest point. Upon stepping off the ferry, we were greeted by a rather long line of people waiting for the bus going up the road to the Anacapri, the lofty little town on the western slopes of the mountain. Since the roads in Capri are so narrow and windy, the buses are very small and can only hold a limited number of people at a time. So rather than waiting in line for an hour we decided to hike up. The 1.6 mile (2.7 km) path between Marina Grande and Anacapri seems to be only a tame little walk…on a map. In reality, it was a very hot, sweaty, and exhausting climb. Albeit it only took us about 40 minutes, trudging up the seemingly endless stairways under the hot Italian sun left us beat. And I’m used to lots of hiking! Still, I felt better doing that than waiting in the bus line in town. And the views along the way were rewarding.
Upon arrival in Anacapri we made our way over to the chairlift that would take us up to the summit. From what I remember, it cost about €10 round-trip and took about 20 minutes. At the top we marveled at the amazing 360 degree views of the island and the Gulf of Naples.
We stayed up there for about an hour before coming back down into town. This time we managed to hop right on a bus and made it down to the marina in no time. Since we only had about an hour left before our ferry departed for the mainland, we decided to go for a swim at one of the nearby beaches. So refreshing after a long day of walking up and around the upper reaches of the island.
Capri has been a place I’ve always wanted to go to and despite our short day trip, it will always be a memorable one! We left the island late in the afternoon and upon arrival in Sorrento, took the crowded train back to Pompeii. We indulged in our nightly ritual of getting a pizza for dinner before passing out for the night, having to get a good night’s sleep for the long train ride to our next destination–Florence!