Saturday, November 28, 2015


Sorrento is our home for two weeks in southern Italy. We use it as our base for touring Naples, Pompeii, Herculaneum, the Amalfi Coast, the Isle of Capri, Paestum, and Matera. While we had good weather mostly, the days we thought we might go to Capri turned out to be windy, cloudy, rainy, or all three so we never made that trip. One always needs a good reason to return to a place and that is certainly one. We would find many more before we ended our stay. We also found a couple of days to just relax and pretty much do nothing but eat and read.

Sorrento's  main street
We arrived in Sorrento in the afternoon, so after unpacking we walked down the hill to get a feel for the city and find a place for dinner. We first noticed as we crossed under a bridge a deep ravine. At the bottom the stone walls have doors and windows carved out of them. Obviously, not used in any way today, they were clearly lived in many centuries ago. The ravine leads to the beach which today is the marina where we would have caught a boat to Capri or even Naples.

We reached the Piazza Tasso and looked around deciding to take a narrow street that looked interesting. It turned out to be a fun shopping street where yellow is the dominant color. Our travels have led us to two fabulous liqueurs. First we discovered Amarula in South Africa. Made from the Amarula nuts and mixed with cream it is a bit like Bailey’s only better. We were already enjoying Lemoncello after having dinner at an eponymous Lemoncello restaurant in Boston. Lemoncello was served as a complementary after-dinner drink and we were hooked. Sorrento is the home of lemoncello. About every third store on this little street features the drink in several formats including a cream version. Many offer free tastings. Other stores sell lemons of various sizes and shapes. It seems that there are a lot of variations, something we aren’t used to in our homogenized produce sections at home. What we did not know and will have to try on our return home is that it is made from the rind, not the fruit inside.

Other stores sell clothing or souvenirs and there are even a few restaurants one of which we chose for dinner. More than a few restaurants around town have closed for the winter limiting the choices a bit. This one we liked enough to return to a couple of times. The most interesting building on the street is the Sorrento Men’s Club housed in an old palace. The entry way is a 16th century frescoed domed alcove. The frescoes are amazingly fresh made even more interesting by the tables of men sitting underneath playing cards or just drinking and talking. This really is a men’s only club, a nice retreat for the retired men who frequent it.

The Sorrento Men's Club
We started our first day as we often do by doing a tour of the city. We use a guide book when possible, but might just head out on our own and see what we see. We are fortunate here to again have a great location for our stay. We are just about four blocks above the main Piazza Tasso around which everything in Sorrento revolves. While the road is narrow for two lanes of traffic and pedestrians, it is safe enough as long as you watch and listen. The only real danger then becomes the silent bicycles and electric scooters. A nice thing about Italy everyone is used to the narrow streets so drivers and pedestrians are attentive to each other. As long as you don’t make any sudden, erratic moves you should be safe. The only negative really is that at the end of the evening we do have to walk uphill for those four blocks. At least our building has an elevator and the store is only one block away.
Not even wide enough for two cars, but we had to walk it in the dark.
We began our walk by heading towards the beach. A couple of viewpoints along the way provide great view of the bay all the way around to Naples on the other side. As one would expect, it is really just one long city divided by imaginary boundary lines for administrative purposes only. We walked down to the marina where we had lunch and admired the view before heading back up. We decided to spend €1 each and take advantage of the elevator back to city level.

From there we walked back to Piazza Tasso and down the main street to the cathedral. The beautiful inlaid wood doors remind us that this is also a town famous for inlaid wood furniture and decorative items. We decided to buy a lazy Susan and a couple of coasters as something we could actually use and not have to find a place for in our small condo. The Stations of the Cross are also made of inlaid wood which makes them among the finest we have seen among the dozens of churches we have visited. The manger scene is one those we see so often in this part of Italy with the Holy Family surrounded by residents of the local community. This one even includes a table with local foods and drink and Mount Vesuvius in the background.

One of the door panels
 On another day, I took a walk by myself ending up in Marina Grande. The other is Marina Piccola even though Marina Piccola is larger and the one that gets the larger boats to Capri and Naples. Marina Grande is a small fishing village with only a few shops and restaurants. I chose to eat at one of those still open during the winter where I had an appetizer of marinated seafood that is one of the best meals I have ever had. Seven different fish filled the plate: anchovies, smoked tuna, mahi mahi, swordfish, octopus, salmon, and shrimp. Each was elegantly prepared and presented. The octopus, much to my surprise, was the best item on the plate. Each piece was tender and juicy with a great flavor. The shrimp was like a shrimp cocktail with large chunks of shrimp instead of those little things that we usually get at home. Marina Grande has no elevator to the top, so I walked back up.

This is a real fishing community, so I was sure the fish was fresh.

We spent our last full day in the apartment before going out to dinner. Across the street we were entertained by three people harvesting the olives from their two trees. They worked by hand without any of the power tools we have seen before. One man climbed up in the tree knocking olives out of the tree with a stick and pruning the tree mercilessly – or at least it seemed to be without mercy as he cut limb after limb. Two others worked down below stripping the olives off the branches and carrying them off to somewhere for crushing. The two trees took most of the day.

Stripping the olive branches with bare hands.
I'm staying out of her way.
We are most certainly happy with our choice of Sorrento and this particular apartment. It’s hard to know without having been somewhere before if you have chosen a good spot, but we have done very well this trip. We hope our good fortune continues.

They still have traveling sales trucks.
A few honks of the horn brings out the customers.
Christmas in Sorrento. 
This store had one of the best Christmas displays ever. Each room had its own theme and everything was for sale, even the houses in the train set.

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