We The Italians | Italian culture and history: The Sorrento peninsula

Italian culture and history: The Sorrento peninsula

Italian culture and history: The Sorrento peninsula

  • WTI Magazine #160 Feb 17, 2023
  • 1135

The Sorrento peninsula extends from Castellammare di Stabia to the promontory of Punta Campanella at the far extremity spectacularly overlooking the Gulf of Naples: between sea, nature walks, archaeological sites and astonishing locations, here are 6 masterpieces that reveal all its beauty.

Sorrento: the city of Torquato Tasso

Sorrento enjoys a scenic location on a cliff overlooking the sea - as well as the Gulf of NaplesVesuviusIschia and Procida (designated the Capital of Culture 2022). While strolling around typical small shops along characteristic streets, you can breathe the scent of lemons and oranges growing nearby and stumble across its most unmissable points: the central Piazza Tasso and his birthplace, now a luxury hotel, the cloister of San Francesco with the adjacent public gardens of the Villa Comunale, the Basilica of Sant'Antonino, the Correale di Terranova Museum, and the characteristic seaside village of Marina Grande.

Punta Campanella: nature walks

This is the extreme tip of the Sorrento peninsula, separating the Gulf of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno and behind which the Amalfi coast begins. It can be discovered on foot along a nature trail set deep in the Mediterranean scrub: there are several important panoramic points, such as the one overlooking the bay of Ieranto with its populations of rare birds such as the peregrine falcon and the red woodpecker. According to legend, Punta Campanella was home to the Sirens of Ulysses, since the rough seas arising from the meeting of currents makes navigation difficult, causing the sailors to shipwreck on the rocks called by their song.

Bagni della Regina Giovanna, an archaeological jewel

The ruins of the majestic Roman villa Pollio Felice are to be found not far from Sorrento. They date back to I century B.C. and stand on a huge rock overlooking the sea. Yet the site is best known for being where, in later centuries, the Queen of Naples, Giovanna d'Angiò, entertained her young lovers in a kind of natural pool with sparkling emerald waters, protected from prying eyes by its particular position among the rocks. It is still possible for tourists to take a plunge, after accessing it through a special downhill path carved into the rocks.

Beaches and small unspoilt coves

The entire peninsula is dotted with small coves lapped by transparent, crystal clear waters. Some of the finest are the small beach in the Bay of Ieranto, reached along a path that sets off from the extreme tip of the promontory, the nearby beach at Marina del Cantone in Nerano, and the Bagni della Regina Giovanna, the heart of a centuries-old archaeological site. The centre of Sorrento itself has the tiny volcanic sand beaches of Marina Grande and Marina Piccola, mainly involving wooden palisades above sea level, and Puolo, divided between a sandy part and the rocks of Pignatella.

Sorrento pizza: a local speciality

Sorrento and its surroundings boast their own style of pizza, whose characteristic ingredients and preparation differ distinctly from the typical Neapolitan version. The traditional thick border often filled with ricotta gives way to a thinner, ungarnished one, Sorrentine fiordilatte takes the place of Campania Bufala mozzarella, and the water used to prepare the dough comes from the pure springs on the Lattari Mountains overlooking the peninsula. Overall, this pizza is crunchier and more consistent. Gnocchi alla sorrentina are an equally typical dish, with tomato and fiordilatte, as well as the Delizie al Limone dessert and, of course, Limoncello.