All Articles 3 perfect days in Sorrento, Italy

3 perfect days in Sorrento, Italy

Siobhan Reid
By Siobhan Reid14 Dec 2023 9 minutes read
Rear view of tourists photographing Marina Grande, Sorrento, Italy
Marina Grande
Image: Glow Images/Getty Images

Many travelers pass through Sorrento on the way to Italy’s iconic Amalfi Coast or after visiting the islands of Capri and Ischia. But this charming clifftop town is more than a stopover point—it’s also the perfect base for all your southern Italian adventures, with great restaurants, stunning seaside hotels, exotic gardens, and more. Oh, and did we mention the breathtaking views of the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius?

Three days gives you plenty of time to discover all of Sorrento’s top sights while also carving out time for day trips to Pompeii, Ischia, and the Amalfi Coast gems of Positano and Ravello. It also uses real Tripadvisor reviews and ratings, so it’s like getting a list of recs from a worldly, in-the-know friend.


DAY ONE

Seafood dish at Parco dei Principi
Image: Parco dei Principi

MORNING: Explore the historic center

Soak in the atmosphere strolling around Piazza Tasso—the town’s bustling main square—where there are quaint shops like Gargiulo & Jannuzzi selling traditional inlaid wood souvenirs, famous sights like the 15th-century Sorrento Cathedral, and plenty of pretty restaurants and cafés like Fauno Bar. The area is surrounded by a maze of narrow streets, and there’s also a steep staircase leading down to the harbor.

Travelers say: “This Catholic cathedral is dedicated to St. James and St. Philip and is located just off the Corso Italia. Although it is more of a church than a cathedral, it is nonetheless very beautiful and very spiritual. Rebuilt in the Romanesque style, you can admire the exquisite paintings and architecture in relative peace and quiet.” —@Budgie

The historic center can get quite crowded, so if you need a break, head to the Villa Comunale park to sit on a bench and take in bird's-eye views of the Gulf of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Right next door is the Chiostro di San Francesco. The church is known for its magnificent 14th-century cloister, which features an Arabic portico and bougainvillea-draped arches—a stunning backdrop for classical music concerts in the summer months. At the top floor of the church is an art gallery dedicated to the work of Sorrento-born photographer Raffaele Celantano, whose black-and-white frames depict scenes of Italian life. Pro tip: Don’t leave without taking in the views from the gallery’s panoramic terrace.

AMALFI COAST TOURS

  • Beat the crowds on a morning boat tour to the popular Blue Grotto as well as around the island of Capri.
  • On this full-day bus tour, you’ll see all the highlights on the Amalfi Coast, with plenty of leisure time in Positano, Ravello, and Amalfi.
  • Take a private sunset boat tour around Sorrento, passing Marina Grande, the Roman Villa of Pollio Felice, and the Sarecena Tower. Prosecco and fresh fruit are provided.

AFTERNOON: Appreciate high design

Built into the cliffs and designed by one of Italy’s most influential 20th century architects, the Parco dei Principi is one of Sorrento’s iconic hotels. And you don’t need to be a guest to enjoy wood-fired pizza and fresh seafood at the Poggio Siracusa marina restaurant, constructed on stilts and jutting out over the hotel’s private beach. After lunch, stroll around the property’s 7.4 acres of exotic gardens, where narrow stone passageways are flanked by towering palm trees, marble sculptures, and flower gardens.

Walk 20 minutes back to town and buy a ticket at the Museo Bottega della Tarsia Lignea, dedicated to the history of Sorrento’s famous intarsio (marquestry) furniture. You’ll want to set aside at least two hours to explore the museum’s four floors of inlaid furnishings, learning about the art of marquetry and intaglio design. The space itself is worth a visit (picture 16th-century ceilings and hidden staircases!)

EVENING: Have a sundowner

At sunset, the place to be is Ristorante Bagni Sant’Anna, located on a pier that extends out of Marina Grande into the Gulf of Naples. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sky turn vivid shades of pink-purple, with views of the Sorrento coastline and Mount Vesuvius. Here, seafood is the star (we recommend the sautéed clams and the seafood risotto), but there’s also pizza and regional specialties like homemade Sorrento-style gnocchi.

Worthy detours along the way

DAY TWO

Villa Cimbrone Terrace, Ravello, Italy
Villa Cimbrone Terrace
Image: Greg Hahn/Getty Images

MORNING: Take a scenic hike

Wake up early and lace up your sneakers: Today, you’ll conquer a 4.5-mile hike along the Sorrentine Peninsula. Take a 30-minute bus to Termini and follow the signs for Punta Campanella, a historic trail that dates back to Roman times and is believed to be the place where Ulysses met the Sirens. You’ll pass by olive trees, a medieval watchtower, and remnants of ancient temples as you take in spectacular views of Capri and the Bay of Ieranto. Don’t forget to pack a swimsuit: the Cala di Mitigliano beach is one of the best in the area, with crystal-clear water and a wild, rocky shore.

Travelers say: “I started the trip from Termini main square. It's about one hour of walking on the paved or cobblestoned road. I continued my hike up the mountain on Punta Campanella. It was quite difficult climbing among the stones, but with a beautiful view to Ieranto Bay. You’ll arrive [to a wooded area] and will see a small white church on the top of Monte San Costanzo. From here, you can see the Sorrento peninsula and with good visibility also Vesuvius and Naples. I recommend not doing this trip on a sunny summer day as there isn’t much shade.” —@Kateřina B

AFTERNOON: Visit the Amalfi Coast

After the big hike, you’ll be ready for a feast at O Parrucchiano La Favorita, a Sorrento institution opened in 1868 by an ex-priest (‘o parrucchiano means “the priest” in the local dialect). The setting couldn’t be more beautiful: tables are scattered amid fruit trees in a glass-ceilinged greenhouse. It can get busy (the restaurant seats up to 1,000 patrons), but there is no better place to try Sorrentine cuisine including the signature cannelloni.

After lunch, rent a set of wheels and cruise 40 minutes down the coast to the postcard-perfect town of Positano. There, wander around the cobbled streets, snapping pics of the colorful villas and popping into shops like Latteria, a quaint deli and wine bar where you can browse Italian olives, cheese, and wine. Most travelers will hang out on the main beach fronting the town, but we recommend walking 15 minutes along a pine-covered trail to the quieter and prettier Fornillo Beach.

Alternatively, take your snacks to go, driving down to the coast to the hilltop town of Ravello, considered by many to be the true jewel of Amalfi. If you only have time to visit one of the sights, make it the Villa Cimbrone Gardens, home to terraced gardens, classical sculptures, and the best views of the Amalfi Coast, hands down.

CULINARY TOURS

  • Roll up your sleeves to make ravioli and gnocchi alla Sorrentina by hand at a three-hour cooking class. You’ll source seasonal ingredients from the garden to make a four-course meal using the chef’s family recipes. Wine, coffee, and limoncello are included.
  • Visit an organic family farm in Sorrento to learn about the area’s history and cuisine. You’ll see how olive oil is made and explore the wine cellar, with plenty of tastings along the way. You’ll also try cheese, honey, and jam as well as have a traditional Italian meal.
  • Make a pie of your own at this pizza-making course. Yes, they’ll even show you how to toss the dough around.

EVENING: Plan a date night

You can’t visit Positano and not stay for dinner—seriously. The town has some of the best restaurants in the region, and if you are looking to splurge, you can’t beat the Michelin-starred La Sponda. It’s one of Amalfi’s most romantic restaurants, with 400 flickering candles, live music, breathtaking coastal views, and chef Gennaro Russo’s interpretation of classic recipes like pasta al pomodoro or the Neapolitan babà dessert.

If you’re on a budget, your best bet is Chez Black, a historic taverna that’s been serving its famous spaghetti alle vongole (clam pasta) since the 1950s. It’s right on the beach, and there’s always live accordion music to set the mood.

Worthy detours along the way

DAY THREE

Tourists viewing ruins at Pompeii
Pompeii
Image: photooiasson/Getty Images

MORNING: Tour an iconic archaeological site

Today you’ll visit the 2,000-year-old archeological treasure of Pompeii, the ancient Roman city destroyed by the violent eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. Instead of driving there (parking can be a bit crazy), we recommend taking the Circumvesuviana train, which will get you to the site’s entrance in just 20 minutes. Some visitors will dedicate whole days to exploring the complex, and it’s truly worthwhile to hire a guide (expect rates of about $100 for a 2.5-hour tour). But if you’re squeezed for time, we recommend setting your sights on the restored Villa dei Misteri, which houses the most important fresco on site, the amphitheater (the oldest in existence), and the 2nd century BCE Terme bath complex.

Travelers say: “You need good walking shoes, water, and an audio guide. Pompeii is huge. We spent more than four hours there constantly on the move. The train stops right outside. After around 1 p.m. it gets quieter because the coach tours head off to the next stop.” —@Lesley

AFTERNOON: Go island-hopping

Back in Sorrento, you’re ideally positioned to discover the trio of islands that make up the Phlegraean archipelago. The ritzy isle of Capri is about 20 minutes away by ferry while the lesser-visited Procida is an hour-plus away, depending on the ferry and the weather conditions. Meanwhile, Ischia, which combines the chicness of Capri with the sleepy charm of Procida, is approximately 45 minutes from Sorrento—making it perfect for a day trip.

While it’s hard to pull yourself away from the action of the port, no trip to Ischia is complete without a visit to the island’s thermal springs. The underwater volcanic activity has led to the creation of dozens of natural pools and steam caves. We recommend renting a scooter or hiring a cab and driving 30 minutes to the Giardini Poseidon Terme—the island’s largest thermal park—comprising 20 pools (all of which are heated to different temperatures) overlooking the Bay of Citara. The healing waters are believed to detoxify the body and improve conditions such as arthritis and respiratory problems.

If you’d prefer sightseeing to soaking in the healing waters, scooter east of the port to Ischia’s best-known landmark: the Aragonese Castle, occupying a commanding perch on a volcanic islet. The complex includes terraced grounds, small chapels, an 11th-century crypt with 14th century frescoes, and fortified bastions with sweeping views. Fun fact: The 1963 film Cleopatra, starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, was partly filmed here.

HISTORY TOURS

  • This full-day guided tour of Pompeii will explain all the fun facts about the UNESCO site as well as provide round-trip transportation for easy access.
  • Join a local guide to discover the secrets of Sorrento on a walking tour. Beyond seeing the sights, you’ll explore quiet side streets and try regional delicacies (think: gelato, pastries, and street food).

EVENING: Splurge at a fine-dining restaurant

Your last night deserves a special-occasion dinner. The swankiest table in town? The restaurant at the Bellevue Syrene Hotel, built into a towering cliff in a sleepy corner of Sorrento and featuring a terrace with seriously heart-stopping views. Here, the chefs transform local ingredients into decadent dishes like risotto with shrimp and Sorrento lemon zest or gnocchi with clams, courgette flowers, and basil pesto. Leave room for the tiramisu; insider sources tell us it’s the best in town.

Worthy detours along the way

Know Before You Go


Avoid the chaotic summer crowds (and the sweltering heat) by visiting in the shoulder seasons. March through May or late September through early November are quieter and prices are lower. Keep in mind that many shops, tours, and restaurants close in the winter, with January and February being particularly slow.



As is common in most places, weekends are the busiest. There’s less traffic on Mondays and Tuesdays, but some shops may be closed. Wednesdays are ideal, IMHO. If you’re visiting Pompeii, admission is free on the first Sunday of every month; plus, many coach tours don’t operate on Sundays, so you’ll have the archaeological site to yourself.



Spain isn’t the only place that has a siesta. Italians take a riposo or rest in the afternoon between 1 and 4 p.m. Since Sorrento is a tourist town, some shops stay open all day (including Sundays) and close around 10 p.m. However, other businesses like banks, supermarkets, pharmacies, and even a few museums are open 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.



For tranquility and sweeping vistas: The design-forward Maison La Minervetta is situated just above Marina Grande (the original fishing port) and features 12 nautical-styled rooms with floor-to-ceiling views of the sea.

For mid-century glamor: Consider the wallet-friendly Gran Hotel Aminta, set inside a 1960s-era building up in the Sorrentine hills.

For a worthy splurge: It’s hard to top the aforementioned Parco dei Principi, designed by modernist icon Gio Ponti, one of Italy’s most influential 20th-century architects, who conceived a clifftop hotel with clean lines and breathtaking gardens.



By bus: Orange and red EAV buses go between Sorrento and Meta, Piano, Sant'Agnello, and Massa Lubrense. Tickets cost about a euro and can be purchased at tabaccaio (tobacco shops) or at the bus terminal, next to the Circumvesuviana train station. Tickets can’t be purchased on board. The larger Sita buses link Sorrento to the towns along the Amalfi Coast. Tip: You’ll have a better chance of snagging a seat (ocean views can be seen from the windows on the right side) if you catch the bus at the main terminal instead of waiting at one of the stops on the way. The road is quite curvy, so be aware of possible motion sickness.

By train: The Circumvesuviana is the train that connects Sorrento to Naples and Pompeii. It is a commuter line that can be packed around rush hour. Note: It’s not possible to reserve a seat in advance and there’s no luggage storage, so keep an eye on your bags. However, it’s the fastest (less than 30 minutes!) and the most affordable way to get to Pompeii. Tickets cost between two to three euros.

By ferry: One of the most fun ways to explore is by boat. You can take a ferry from Sorrento to Naples and Capri year-round. In the summer, routes to Ischia and the Amalfi Coast are added. Ferries are comfortable, convenient, and have jaw-dropping views, but they cost more.

By taxi: You can ask your hotel to call a taxi or arrange a driver in advance. Uber and other ride-sharing apps do not operate in Sorrento. Renting a car or scooter is not recommended as the roads are difficult to drive, and there’s usually traffic.


Siobhan Reid
Siobhan is a writer and editor based in New York City. Previously, she was an editor at Travel + Leisure, where she covered culture, style, and wellness. Before that, she wrote hotel reviews and travel articles for Jetsetter, a TripAdvisor Company. Her writing has appeared in Vogue, The Washington Post, and Condé Nast Traveler.