The Self-Guided Walking Tour of Sorrento, Italy

Pastel buildings perch on cliffs over the sea in Sorrento.
Pastel buildings perch on cliffs over the sea in Sorrento. (Image: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Homer, in his epic poem "The Odyssey," wrote of Sorrento's mystical sirens, mermaids and idyllic landscapes. Luring travelers for centuries, this region on Italy's Amalfi Coast has been influenced through the ages by the Etruscans, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, French and Spanish. Nestled on the Bay of Naples and Tyrrhenian Sea, Sorrento is rich in culture, history and artisan shopping. This coastal home to olives, lemon groves and limoncello is easy to navigate in a day by foot.

The Main Square -- Piazza Tasso

Begin your tour in Piazza Tasso, the main square and heart of this cultural city. Kick-start the day by indulging in a morning espresso on the terrace of Fauno Bar, then sit back and take in this bustling epicenter of Sorrento. By the statue of St. Antonio, walk the chic shopping street of Corso Italia. Parallel to Corso Italia, on your left, is the historic street Via Pieta. The first building on the left corner is the Palazzo Correale, home to one of the most important noble Sorrento families; farther down Via Pieta, view the older and original Correale homesite. Visit the Cathedral of Sorrento on your left, on Corso Italia, to admire the interior frescoes.

Via San Francesco -- Cathedrals, Cloisters and Sea Views

Walk the picturesque street Via Tasso to Via Veneto. Turn right and proceed to the Chiesa di San Francesco. This magnificent 18th-century cathedral is open to the public, and the masses are said in English. Don't miss the cloister right next door; its 14th-century Italian architecture provides a perfect photo opportunity. Continue across the street through the public gardens and soak in the panoramic vistas of the Bay of Naples and Tyrrhenian Sea from the observatory off the cliff face. This is an ideal spot to return to at sunset. Enjoy a glass of prosecco at the outside Bar Villa Comunale on Via San Francesco.

Sorrento Beach -- Soak Up the Sea and Sun

Walk down to the beaches below Sorrento, or take the Sorrento Lift -- a quick, inexpensive elevator -- down to the water's edge. You can dine on local seafood for lunch on the pier at Maremere Beach Restaurant & Resort, then rent a sun chair or lounger for a few euros to rest and soak under the Italian sun. Indulge in a therapeutic and detoxifying swim in the sea. Showers, baths and private cabanas are available for a few euros to refresh yourself. Peter's Beach Bar also offers lunch on the sea overlooking the local sandy beach.

Via S. Cesaro -- Artisan Shopping

Take the elevator back to the cliff top to Via San Franceso, returning to the Piazza Tasso by passing through Piazza San Anronio. Just between Corso Italia on the left and Via S. Cesaro on the right -- under the square's big clock tower-- is Sedile di Portor, a building where nobles once gathered to discuss government. Walk down Via S. Cesaro, where many local trade products are sold. Stop in Limonoro, the local limoncello manufacturer, for a complimentary limoncello tasting and epicurean gifts made from locally grown lemons. Across the street, visit Leonard Jewels to see the exquisite showcase of Italian cameos, which are carved by hand from coral shells using traditional techniques. Nearby, you'll find hand-painted ceramic tiles, urns and platters at L'Artigianato A'vanti boutique.

Piazza Vittoria -- History and a Sunset Toast

After shopping your way up Via S. Cersaro or the parallel Corso Italia, turn onto Via Sersale to view the historic Greek defensive walls, which stood to defend Sorrento through the Middle Ages. Rebuilding began in 1551 and was completed in 1561 after invasion by the Turks. Across the street, view the Church of the Servants of Mary, hailed for its lavish Baroque style. Next, take the Via Torquaro Tasso down to Piazza Vittoria, a public park that provides panoramic views over the Bay of Naples. Finally, stroll over to the Bellevue Syrene Hotel for a prosecco at sunset on the vine-covered pergola overlooking the sea.

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