Sorrento Introduction Walking Tour, Sorrento

Sorrento Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Sorrento

The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus claims that Sorrento was founded by Liparus, son of Ausonus, king of the Ausponi and son of Ulysses and Circe. Ancient Greek sailors were popular with the local goddesses.

Sorrento was ruled by the Ostrogoths after the fall of the Roman Empire. It later was ceded to the Byzantine Empire. After Byzantium's influence faded, Sorrento was passed among a number of competing powers. The Duchy of Naples, the Amalfi, the Lombards, and roving bands of Sarecens. There were periods of self-rule followed by more duchies.

Starting in 1558 the Ottoman Navy made a number of calls. In the 17th century there were the Spanish, and the plague. In the 18th century the Republic of Naples briefly held sway. At last, in 1861, Sorrento was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. Tourists have never stopped coming since then, but the invaders had finally slacked off.

The waves of tourists have been led by Lord Byron, John Keats, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Charles Dickens, Richard Wagner, Hendrik Ibsen, and Friedrich Nietzsche. The great Italian poet Torquato Tasso was born here. The town's main square is Piazza Tasso. The Soviet writer Maxim Gorky lived here. Possibly he was writing.

Celebrities and regular tourists alike may visit: Marina Grande, Port of Sorrento; Piazza Tasso, the main square; Museum Correale for archeology; San Cesareo Street, a shopping Mecca; the Cathedral of Sorrento from the 14th century; the Church and Monastery of Saint Francis and; the ominous Valley of the Mills.

The song says, "Come back to Sorrento." You may come come back, again and again. Invaders may stay home. Only tourists are welcome. Ciao.
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Sorrento Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Sorrento Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Italy » Sorrento (See other walking tours in Sorrento)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.2 Km or 1.4 Miles
Author: Linda
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Piazza Tasso (Tasso Square)
  • Valley of the Mills
  • Cattedrale di Sorrento (Sorrento Cathedral)
  • Corso Italia (Italy Avenue)
  • Via San Cesareo (San Cesareo Street)
  • Chiesa di Sant'Antonino (Church of Saint Antonino)
  • Chiostro di San Francesco (Church and Cloister of Saint Francis)
  • Villa Comunale Park
  • Piazza della Vittoria (Victory Square)
  • Marina Grande (Big Marina)
Piazza Tasso (Tasso Square)

1) Piazza Tasso (Tasso Square) (must see)

Torquato Tasso, born in 1544, stands on a granite pedestal in the square named for him. Tasso was the greatest poet of his era. He died in 1595, days before being crowned King of Poets by Pope Clement VIII. His statue shares the square with that of Saint Antonino, who sought asylum in Sorrento during the Lombard invasions of the 6th century.

The square originally was called Big Castle (Largo del Castello). Where the statue of Saint Antonino stands today was once the location of the 15th century castle of Ferdinand of Aragon, which was demolished in 1843. The monument of Torquato Tasso was dedicated in 1870. The square sits astride the deep gorge that divides the center of Sorrento.

Surrounding the square are grand historic edifices. There is the Correale Palace, with its tiled courtyard, rebuilt in 1768. On the north side of the square is the church of Santa Maria del Carmine. Inside is a 1710 ceiling painting by Onofrio Avelino of the Virgin with Saint Simon. It also has 16th century gilded reliquaries of saints' bones.

Tasso Square is the main square. It is regarded as the entry point to historic old Sorrento. There are shops, restaurants and bars all around the square. The Fauno Bar is a popular spot for cappuccino and pastry. The big shopping street, Italy Avenue (Corso Italia), branches off the square. There are many more smaller shopping side streets.

Cross over the forbidding gorge to find access to Sorrento Big Marina. This is where one may catch the water bus (vaporetto) to the Isla of Capri, Tiberius's exotic playground. From the square there are tour trolleys and hop-on, hop-off open-top sight-seeing busses. Did we mention horse carriages as well? Yes, we did, just now.

The square is very busy. Be wary of motor traffic, especially those crazy scooters.
Valley of the Mills

2) Valley of the Mills

Some 35,000 years ago, in the area of today's Sorrento, a volcano erupted. It cut a deep gorge through the limestone on the spot where the center of the city is currently located. Waters moving through the gorge sculpted out fast-running channels to the sea. Over the centuries, settlements arose, leaving historical evidence of their passing in the caves of the area.

There are mysteries and legends about the caves. Many people of Sorrento believed the gorge was patrolled at night by a huge medieval figure, armed head to foot. It was the mission of the ghost to kill anyone who did not know the magic words to unlock the treasure of the caves.

While there may not have been a ghost, there was "treasure." In 1885, Leonardo Lorenzoni, director of the Technical School of Vigiano, discovered a number of rare and precious artifacts of early settlers. He donated his find to professor Justinian Nicolucci of the University of Naples. He called the artifact cave "Nicolucci's Cave."

A good view of the mills can be had from behind Tasso Square. There are two streams, the Casariano-Cesarano and the Saint Antonino. Where the two meet the gorge widens and here is where the mills were built. Mills of one sort or another have been in the Gorge since the 10th century. A grain mill, a sawmill and an old wash house are among the ruins.

When Tasso square was built in 1866, the mills were isolated from the sea. They were later abandoned. The gorge was taken over by exotic vegetation and rare ferns.
Cattedrale di Sorrento (Sorrento Cathedral)

3) Cattedrale di Sorrento (Sorrento Cathedral)

The Sorrento Cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin of the Assumption and the Apostles Philip and James. The cathedral was consecrated in 1113. It underwent several significant changes in the years 1450 though 1573.

Its appearance was initially in the baroque style but the facade was redone in 1924 in a neo-Gothic style. The church is built on the remains of an ancient Greek temple (thought to be dedicated to Zeus). There are three entrances. The 16th century main entrance, in the center of the facade, is flanked by ancient marble columns.

The columns support the ogival arch of the center. On the three entrances are lunettes. The central lunette is for the Virgin, the smaller lunettes are for Philip and James. The upper part of the facade has battlements and a blind rose window.

The interior takes the shape of a Latin cross with three naves. The naves are set off by 14 pillars. The ceiling is flat with canvas paintings of 2nd century martyrs. The dome was frescoed in 1902 by Pietro Barone and Augusto Moriani. On the right side of the altar is the chapel where the poet Torquato Tasso was baptized.

The bell tower is almost 200 feet away from the church with an 11th century Romanesque base. It has four square sections with arches, niches, cornices, ceramic tiles and a clock.
Corso Italia (Italy Avenue)

4) Corso Italia (Italy Avenue) (must see)

Italy Avenue is a primo shopping street. It is busy of course with bars, restaurants and shops. A good part of the road have been pedestrianized so shoppers may enjoy their strolls (passeggiatas) without fear. The Tasso Square also is a Controlled Traffic Zone where the rights of motorists may suffer some abridgment.

Prices on the street seem to be more moderate than those of the connecting side streets. Products available include leather goods, hand sewn tablecloths, olive oil, wines, groceries, novelties and souvenirs. There is a wide variety of lemony things like candy, soaps, and Limoncello, a local liquor made from lemons.

The street is also known for its carved and inlaid wood products, like tables, music boxes and boxes for jewelry. The shop, Primavera Gelateria Sorrento, should not be overlooked. They have dozens of flavors and a portrait of the Pope (NOT eating gelato). The Italy Avenue will lead to a view of the Big Marina, a colorful fishing village.
Via San Cesareo (San Cesareo Street)

5) Via San Cesareo (San Cesareo Street)

San Cesarea Street has always been a "main" street. In Roman times it was the central cross street of ancient Sorrento. It is a bit shorter than Italy Avenue. In the Italy Avenue the shops are larger and the street roomier. The San Cesarea Street is often cramped with people and merchandise jammed together. Feels like Naples.

Maybe it's the crowding, maybe the lemon liqueur, but San Cesarea Street seems to be more fun than the Italy Avenue. Ultimately the San Cesarea Street merges into the Fuoro Street, essentially a continuation of the same street.

The San Cesarea Street is only a few seconds' walk from the Tasso Square. Find the Bar Ercolano in a corner of the square. Exactly to the right of the bar is the beginning of the San Cesarea Street. Close by the street is the Wood Inlay Museum, dedicated to the art of inlaid wood.

The Dominova Seat (Sedile Dominova), built in 1319, is an ancient meeting place where nobles would meet to have discussions. Now it is a venue for card players. To the left of the Dominova Seat is the Addolorata Church, a baroque style church built in 1739. Sorrento Cathedral is on the Italy Avenue, only a short distance away.

Since the old days of the Roman Empire, the street has remained essentially the same. It has always been a go-to street for shopping. Here one can stuff shopping bags with souvenirs, merchandise, novelties, curios, arts and crafts and whatever else.
Chiesa di Sant'Antonino (Church of Saint Antonino)

6) Chiesa di Sant'Antonino (Church of Saint Antonino) (must see)

Leaving Tasso Square, walk along De Maio Street. After a short walk arrive at the Saint Antonino Square. The church will be on the right. Saint Antonino is the patron saint of Sorrento. He arrived in Sorrento in the 6th century, seeking refuge from the Lombard invasions of Italy.

One day a whale came up to the beach at Sorrento and swallowed a boy. Not to worry. Antonino got the boy out, safe and sound. Saint Antonino is credited with this and other miracles and he is the patron saint of shipwrecked seafarers. At the entrance to the church is a set of whale bones to memorialize the miracle of boy meets whale.

The Church of Saint Antonino, built in the 11th century, stands over a 7th century oratory built to cover the bones of the Saint. The grey tuff facade is Romanesque. The facade and the bell tower date from the 18th century. There are three naves divided by twelve Corinthian style columns salvaged from ancient Greek and Roman buildings.

At the time of his death, the story goes, Saint Antonino said he did not wish to be buried within or without the city. So, he was put to rest between the walls. In the crypt is a life-like statue of the saint. On one wall are paintings of ships at sea. On another wall are silver talismans of believers who were saved by his grace.
Chiostro di San Francesco (Church and Cloister of Saint Francis)

7) Chiostro di San Francesco (Church and Cloister of Saint Francis) (must see)

The Church and Cloister of Saint Francis is near to the public gardens of Sorrento with stunning views of the fabled Gulf of Naples. The church was built in the 8th century. Originally it was an oratory founded by Saint Antonino dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours. It was reconstructed in Baroque style by the Franciscans in the 14th century.

The Church has a simple white facade. The facade is divided in two parts. On the lower part, the well preserved 14th century portal is flanked by five pilasters on each side. There are two arched blind windows on either side of the portal. In the left window is a painting of Saint Francis. A similar portrait of Saint Antonino appears on the right.

The upper part of the facade has a mullioned rose window in the center flanked by two pilasters on each side. A scalloped roof front surmounts the crenelated edges of the upper facade.

The church has one nave and six chapels. On the right facing the altar, in the first two chapels, are statues of Saint Francis and Saint Antonino. On the left we may find a statue of Saint Rita of Cascia and a statue of the Immaculate Madonna. Above the altar is a 1735 painting of St Francis with the stigmata.

In the sacristy are several marble artifacts from different eras. In the reception hall there is a 16 century painting of the Madonna and infant with Saint Michael and John the Baptist.

Next to the church is the monastery cloister of San Francis. The cloister was founded in the 7th century but it was ceded to the Franciscans in the 14th century. The cloister is a mish-mash of architectural styles. Two sides of the porch have crossed 14th century tuff arches. Two other sides have rounded arches on octagonal columns.

Architectural artifacts extracted from ancient temples and buildings have been integrated into the construction of the cloister. The cloister is often used for art exhibitions and musical events. It is also a popular venue for weddings.
Villa Comunale Park

8) Villa Comunale Park (must see)

The Villa Comunale Park or Gardens is next door to the St. Francis Church and Cloister of Sorrento. It is not a large park. It has palm trees, oaks, holm and ancient pines. It also has great views of the Marina and coast. Plus, there are elevators down to the Marina Piccola ferry and the San Francisco swim towers.

High up on the cliffs of Sorrento, the park seems to be focused more on vistas than trees. There are sweeping views of the bay and Mount Vesuvius. The park has carefully tended flower beds and close cropped lawns in the shade of tall palms. There is a small cafe featuring espresso, pastries and ice cream. Sunset is the best time.

Villa Comunale Park is only a brief walk from the Tasso Square in the city center. The most direct walk will take one past the 11th century Church of Saint Antonino.
Piazza della Vittoria (Victory Square)

9) Piazza della Vittoria (Victory Square)

The Victory Square snuggles between the two important marinas of Sorrento, Big Marina (Marina Grande) and Small Marina (Marina Piccola). In the middle of the square is a garden with plenty of shade under the palms. People often stop in the square just to take in the incomparable views of the bay and the Gulf of Naples.

On one side of the area there is the Imperial Hotel Tromontano overlooking the harbor. The famous Norwegian playwright Hendrik Ibsen stayed in the Imperial Hotel Tromontano for six months in 1881 where he wrote his masterpiece play "Ghosts". Disenchanted with his native home Norway, Ibsen took his family into self-imposed exile and settled in Sorrento for four years.

On the corner of the Square and the Vittoria Veneto Street, just next to the Imperial Hotel Tromontano's elegant bridge across Vittorio Veneto Street, one can find a plague commemorating Ibsen's stay.

Part of the building that forms today's Imperial Hotel Tromontano was known as Villa Laurito Mastrogiudice. It was here Sorrento's favorite son, poet Torquato Tasso was born on March 11, 1544.
Marina Grande (Big Marina)

10) Marina Grande (Big Marina) (must see)

It's not a great idea to take the names of the two marinas literally. Big Marina is actually the smaller of the two. It is a fishing village and it has restaurants. Small Marina, oddly enough, is the larger marina but it is really a ferry terminal and a transport hub. One is a destination. The other is but a link to a destination.

Big Marina is a community in itself. It has restaurants and bars, hotels and a church. It's also a pretty place to walk in. The Marina actually nestles in a nook of the Amalfi coast. It is like a world waiting to be discovered, but much better than Rockaway Beach in the old days. It has kept its rustic insouciance.

The Marina port is secluded from the rest of busy Sorrento by a rocky promontory which is said to be the site of a Roman villa of Emperor Augustus's nephew, Marcellus. The Marina village still clings, in some ways, to its pre-industrial life. See a bit of that life at sunset, when the fishermen clean up their nets and boats for another day.

Walking Tours in Sorrento, Italy

Create Your Own Walk in Sorrento

Create Your Own Walk in Sorrento

Creating your own self-guided walk in Sorrento is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Sorrento's Historical Buildings Walking Tour.

Sorrento's Historical Buildings Walking Tour.

Sorrento has a rich culture and history. The influence of different historical periods can be seen in the center of the town, where a number of notable buildings have withstood the test of time. In Sorrento you can also find a number of beautiful churches and monasteries, which keep the history and the valuable memories of the city alive. Take this self-guided walking tour to discover...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles