Spring has sprung, which means sunshine and warmer weather – yay! When the weather gets better I instantly get into holiday mode and yesterday it made me think about my favourite family holiday to date. Last May we visited Sorrento in Italy and I instantly fell in love with the place. The people, the food and drink, the culture – it felt homely and we were greeted with so many friendly faces.
As I have re-discovered so many photos (some I don’t remember even seeing before), I thought I would take a step back down memory lane and tell you about some of the best things to see and do in Napoli and surrounding areas of the beautiful Italian coast line.
Hopefully you’ll find these guides helpful and may even inspire you to make some travel plans!
Located 45 minutes from Naples, Sorrento is a beautiful town that overlooks the Bay of Naples. We had a driver to take us from the airport to our hotel, and we were grateful that he spent most of the journey informing us on the places we were passing – including Mount Vesuvius. He even told us all about how much Sophia Loren loved Sorrento, so I knew we were in good hands.
We soon arrived at our home for the week, the Hotel Cesare Augusto. It’s central to most of the attractions in the town, including a stone’s throw away from the railway and coach station and a few steps to the main square. First impressions were great and our room had a balcony with a beautiful view of the hills. We had an itch to explore so we left our suitcases unpacked and headed out to see the sights. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t too good but we made the most of it before the rain set in!
The Piazza Tasso is the town’s main square and offers plenty of restaurants. It was lunchtime and we only had one thing on our minds – food and coffee!
The Aurora Light is sat on the main square, next door to it’s sister restaurant Pizzeria Aurora, and the friendly waiter ushered us to a table. The menu had a lot to offer and I was particularly enticed by the avocado, bacon and mozzarella toasted sandwich. I was most excited for an Italian coffee, though! The size of the cappuccino was considerably smaller to what we are used to here in the UK. We are always being offered to upgrade to a medium or a large cup, encouraging us to perhaps drink more than we should consume, so it was a refreshing change to just have a ‘regular’ size. The Italians sure do know how to do coffee, delizioso! (My attempt at Italian got much better throughout the week, I promise!)
We discovered a cute market along one of the side streets of the square, which quickly became a favourite place to visit during our stay. From gelato and Limoncello to handbags and hand-painted plates and bowls, there was so much to look at and be tempted by. Even street performers and stunning architecture at every turn, I was mesmorised by it all.
It didn’t feel overcrowded but I can imagine once you get into June and the high season, Sorrento would be packed with tourists. With gloomy weather setting in for the night, we bought a bottle of red wine to take back to our hotel room to enjoy on the balcony before dinner. Even with an overcast sky the views are still breathtaking, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The Hotel Cesare Augusto is a four star establishment in the heart of Sorrento, offering great value for couples and families. From stepping through the doors on day one to the very last day, we were treated well and the staff made us feel like we were coming ‘home’ each night. Surrounded by greenery and an old town, the hotel staff are on hand to help you with your excursions and also offer a delightful menu where you can taste the local cuisine (as well as Mediterranean and International food). With 120 good sized rooms, equipped with minibar, a safe, TV and a free WiFi connection, there wasn’t much to complain about. The only negative would be the entertainment, which is possibly aimed at a slightly older generation (although I did enjoy it, I wonder what that says about me?!)
My favourite part of the hotel was definitely the roof garden with swimming pool and private bar, boasting breathtaking views of the Gulf of Naples. Bikini, book and an Aperol Spritz – perfection.
I usually struggle with breakfast but in Italy it was my favourite meal of the day. I started each morning with a fresh fruit salad, scrambled eggs and a sausage or bacon roll, and occasionally Nutella on toast. The lovely waiter I grew so fond of even made me a cappuccino on a couple occasions. We always snuck out some kind of sugary snack from the buffet to keep hunger at bay later on in the day, the doughnuts were definitely a favourite.
Lemons are famously grown all year round in the communes of the Sorrento Peninsula and around the island of Capri, with the best being obtained between spring time and the end of autumn. The presence of these lemons were everywhere we went – hanging from the trees, used as decoration and inspiration on tourist souvenirs, and of course in the Limoncello. I loved seeing all of the lemon and orange trees on our walks through town, they were everywhere.
We were woken up by stunning sunlight most mornings, which we took full advantage of. This is one of my favourite parts of the town, where you can take a slightly longer stroll but capture the day to day life of locals.
The views are captivating. From the distant views of Vesuvius to the impressive buildings we passed, this is why I fell in love with Sorrento. The serene beauty is everywhere.
Passing the market and shops along the way, we arrive at this lovely location that offers food and drink with a view.
Picture the scene: The sun is out, sunglasses are on, you are people watching (plenty of Japanese tourists with their selfie sticks), a beverage in hand… no cares in the world!
There is a lift to take you down to the harbour where you can wine and dine, sunbathe or take the boat over to the island of Capri. If you’re feeling more adventurous you can take the stairs from the main square in town, a steep but worthwhile walk, and there is also a train that takes you around town and down to the harbour.
It’s a completely different vibe, much more peaceful. We discovered one of my favourite eating spots at Leonelli’s Beach.
The pizza is freshly made each day and tasted incredible. Authentic Italian pizza, washed down with a glass (or two) of Prosecco – I could have spent hours sitting there! The owner was so kind and friendly, we were chatting to him about the restaurant for what seemed like ages. He told us that it’s actually a historical bathing establishment and has been managed by Leonelli’s family for three generations. With views to admire like these, I can see why so many people love it.
After lapping up the fantastic views, we took a walk in search of a light refreshment. I found a fresh lemonade cart, where they make it right in front of you. It tasted fresh and definitely had that citrus kick to it – it’s just a shame that I spilt most of it down myself!
After dinner we liked to explore the town at night. The restaurants were thriving with business, tourists and locals drinking their wine overlooking the square. Market stalls were still open too, if you fancied a bit of late night shopping.
What I Wore
Aside from the first and fourth day when the weather wasn’t particularly ‘sunny’, we were sun-kissed for the rest of the trip. I had overly-packed as per usual so I had plenty of options to choose what to wear each day. I dressed practically during the day, especially as we walked a lot and needed comfort, and then in the evenings I threw on a dress and wedges. I shouldn’t have been surprised by how casual the local Italian women looked during the day and night, they looked so effortlessly chic and beautiful without the makeup and high heels – I felt inspired by them!
The weather was warm, not unbearably hot, and there was a gentle wind in the air. I couldn’t wait to get my pale pins out and enjoy the sunshine! These are 3 of my favourite looks from my time spent in Sorrento itself, a mix of casual attire and slightly more glam.
The last few tips…
One of the first things I learnt was that no driver stops at the Zebra crossing – you walk, they stop. You have to trust that they will stop and they do, and by the end of the week I felt confident in judging when I should walk and when I should wait. If in doubt, follow one of the locals.
The Italians appreciate it when you attempt to speak their language. They are some of the friendliest people in the world (from my experience) and enjoy conversation with tourists – Sorrento is a popular tourist destination so their English is pretty good.
The shopping is amazing, especially in the market, but you haven’t always got to the pay the price attached. It’s a market, so bring out your inner Del-Boy and barter – you may get more than you bargained for. It’s also worth looking around before you make a purchase, most of the shops seem to sell similar souvenirs and charge different prices.
I found that most restaurants I visited were generous with their portions. The toasted sandwich I ordered on the first day was certainly large enough to share, even if you’re after more than a snack. Sharing a pizza is common and if you’re still hungry after demolishing one, you can always order another! I wouldn’t say it was too expensive eating out, if anything it’s the drinks that bump the bill up.
Just looking back on it now, I miss it so much!
Next week’s post is going to be about my day trip to the beautiful Capri.