The Amalfi Coast, a World Heritage Site recognized by UNESCO in 1997, starts from Punta Campanella and develops along the south coast of the Sorrento Peninsula until it reaches Vietri sul Mare. It is located about 50 kilometers south of Naples, north of the Cilento coast. At the eastern end is the city of Salerno.
Sorrento sits on a tuff cliff overlooking the sea, an area also suitable for trekking with a wonderful view of the Gulf of Naples. The city of Sorrento has a historic center made up of small streets crowded with shops selling typical products as well as bars and restaurants. On one side is a crystalline sea, and on the other, green hills and citrus trees. Capri, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Vesuvius and Ischia are a few kilometers away, all providing a mild climate all year round and excellent local cuisine.
Hints of History
The iconic Russian dancer, Rudolph Nureyev, did not make it to see his project come true: a school of dance on the island.
Seen from above, the island looks like a dolphin. In reality, it is Li Galli, a very small archipelago made up of 3 islets that overlook Capri and Positano. The archipelago is also known as La Sireneuse where, according to legend, it was once inhabited by sirens who charmed the sailors in transit with their song. According to mythology, only 2 ships survived being shipwrecked against the rocks – that of Ulysses whose story is told in Homer’s Odyssey and that of the Argonauts who were saved thanks to Orpheus.
Other Historical Guests
In the native town of Torquato Tasso, Sorrento, the poets Byron and Shelley; Henrik Ibsen, who wrote his comedy Ghosts; Mark Twain; and James Fenimore Cooper stayed at the destination which today welcomes such celebrities such as the Russian tycoon, Roman Abramovich; the 007 movie actor, Pierce Brosnan; actor Richard Wagner, Fredrich Nietzche; Charles Dickens, Maxim Gorky and many more. Giacomo Casanova visited Sorrento, but this was before the invention of photography.
In the 1870s, the Tsarina of Russia, Maria Alexandrovna, with a following of 200 people, stayed in Sorrento for just over 6 weeks.
In its history, the coast was lined with magnificent villas of ancient Roman aristocrats and wealthy characters. Some were members of the court of Emperor Tiberius who, in his later years, ruled from Capri. The remains of the villa of the adopted son of Emperor Augustus are located under the Bellevue Syrene hotel in Sorrento.
The most visited archaeological find today is that of Queen Giovanna in the area called Baths of Queen Giovanna. It is a site full of magical stories and charm. From Capo di Sorrento, there is a path in the shade of vines and orange trees that leads on a slope towards the sea to the Baths of Queen Giovanna. Visitors have a view of rare beauty – a large natural basin connected to the sea by a narrow crack between the rocks.
The space on the promontory is occupied by the remains of a majestic Roman villa, built at the time of Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD) and belonging to Pollio Felice.According to the legend, Queen Giovanna II Durazzo d’Angiò often stayed here with a lover on duty. These ruins are the most fascinating of the Sorrento Peninsula and were discovered in 1624 by Giovanni Vinaccia.
No other villa from this period has been described in detail like this one in the verses sung by Publio Papinio Stazio Napoli Poet, (circa 45-96). Like other seaside villas of the Roman era, it has a landing place and a “murenarium” for the breeding of fish and a nymphaeum. From the villa, there is a passage on the rocks from where it is possible to swim in crystal clear waters.
The Circumvesuviana railway (Sorrento-Naples) stops both in Pompeii and at another notable archaeological site in Herculaneum. Pompeii is closer to Sorrento than Naples, and Herculaneum is about halfway, but these are Italy destinations to be storied for another day.