Sorrento. The perfect base to explore Italy

July 2017.

A seven day trip to Sorrento, Italy. Followed by a two day trip to Roma.

Italy is a beautiful country with stunning scenery. It has a wonderful dramatic coastline, a rich and fascinating cultural heritage, warm climate and delicious food and drink. The pizzas alone are worth the journey.

Unfortunately the Italians can sometimes come off in my experience as quite rude and unhelpful – which I’ll also touch on where relevant. Usually this is a stereotype reserved for the French, though I have to stress I’ve always found Frenchmen to be courteous and helpful and love that country.

Now, before you berate me for making sweeping generalisations, I must also counter the above statement by adding we (that is, my wife and I) met some very helpful and friendly Italians indeed and also encountered some wonderful kindness from people of several different nations.

As for the Italian public transport system and it’s general organisation, it’s a kind of dysfunctional set up that often makes little sense but somehow seems to work…eventually. Don’t expect things to run to schedule.

As one doctor in Rome put it, while talking about the Italian health service, “…this is Italy, just expect things to go a bit slower than in the UK. They will eventually get done.” The statement works just as well at explaining their public transportation.

Sorrento – Attractions and Things to Do

Sorrento is the ideal base point for exploring the area around the Gulf of Napoli and Amalfi Coast, and that’s exactly what we did. We based ourselves here for six nights.

From Sorrento you can easily visit Napoli, Pompeii, Herculaneum, Positano, Amalfi, the Island of Capri and, of course, the ever present Mount Vesuvius, which is deemed to be one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world today.

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Markers on the map show key places of interest.

Of these we chose to visit the historic Roman ruins at Pompeii and Herculaneum, along with the picturesque towns of Positano and Capri, on the island of Capri. We also explored the beautiful town of Sorrento itself.

I’ll also be typing up a list of recommended eating establishments based on personal experience. These are all places also rated well on TripAdvisor too, so don’t just take my word for it.

Getting to Sorrento via Napoli Airport

Napoli (Naples) is the nearest main Airport serving Sorrento. We arrived at Napoli Airport through a combination of British Airways and EasyJet flights – the former to Menorca (Mahon) for a family event, the latter from Mahon to Napoli. The EasyJet flight was particularly good value for money at £20 (plus baggage).

Unfortunately due to time of arrival of the Easyet flight no public transport options were available for our onward journey to Sorrento. We therefore booked a private shuttle from Napoli Airport to our hotel in Sorrento, at a cost of £76 via Travel Republic.

JJ Travel Tip: Interestingly the private shuttle was both cheaper and faster than booking a shared shuttle, so if you arrive at night I recommend this option. It was an executive style Mercedes-Benz people carrier driven by a well-presented and courteous chauffeur, who was awaiting us at arrivals.

Alternatively, trains run from Napoli to Sorrento every half hour at a cost of €3.90 per person for a single ticket. This train service is called the Circumvesuviana. It’s likely to be a memorable journey!

JJ Travel Tip: Be very careful if buying tickets from the ticket desk in the train stations – there are countless cases of tourists being deliberately overcharged by railway ticket staff. The Italian rail network themselves admit its a problem! You can buy the same tickets instead at newsagents and tobacconists – and I recommend you do this instead. They’ll often sell them at the slightly cheaper rate the locals get them at.

Just remember to always validate your ticket before boarding the train, or risk a fine.

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A Circumvesuviana train (image courtesy of Rick Steeves travel community).

We used the Napoli-Sorrento (Circumvesuviana) line several times throughout our stay. The trains are quite old, covered in graffiti, have no air conditioning and can be quite busy. This is the line that Pompeii and Ercolano (Herculaneum) Scavi (ruins) stations are on. The seats are hard plastic and there is no space to put your luggage and, besides, you probably want to keep it in sight anyway. There are musical performers, and no doubt pick pockets, that works these trains due to the number of tourists.

If going by road you should factor in that the road into Sorrento is mountainous, very twisty and only has one lane running in each direction. Traffic volume is high and it’s likely to be a pretty slow (also difficult and stressful, if you’re driving) journey during the day.

Ferry

It’s also possible to go by ferry from Napoli to Sorrento and vice versa. This is a more expensive option than the train, though ferries do run frequently. The train, according to locals, is quicker and easier. Your choice.

Next Blog – Sorrento

In my next blog  I’ll cover getting around Sorrento, eating out there and provide useful travel tips. You’ll also find a map of the area with train and ferry times and some more handy travel tips.

 

 

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