As a hub for visiting must-see sites—Pompeii and Naples to the north, Capri to the west, and the Amalfi Coast and Paestum to the south—the beautiful resort town of Sorrento is unequaled. The rest of the peninsula, with plains and limestone outcroppings, watchtowers and Roman ruins, groves and beaches, monasteries and villages, winding paths leading to isolated coves and panoramic views of the bays of both Naples and Salerno, remains relatively undiscovered.
Gently faded, Sorrento still exudes a robust appeal. Because it is relatively free of the urban grit found in Naples, the town's tourist industry that began centuries ago is still dominant, although the lords and ladies of bygone days have been replaced with tour groups.
The Sorrentine Peninsula was first put on the map by the ancient Romans. Emperors and senators claimed the region for their own, crowning the golden, waterside cliffs of what was then called Surrentum with palatial villas. Modern resorts now stand where emperors once staked out vacation spots. Reminders of the Caesars' reigns—broken columns, capitals, and marble busts—lie scattered among the area’s orange trees and terraces. Sorrento goes as far back as the Samnites and the Etruscans, the bons viveurs of the early ancient world, and for much of Sorrento's existence it has remained focused, in fact, on pleasure. The Sorrentine Peninsula became a major stop on the elite’s Grand Tour itineraries beginning in the late 18th century, and by the mid-19th century, grand hotels and wedding-cake villas had sprung up to welcome the flow of wealthy visitors.
Eons ago, when sea levels dropped during glaciations, the peninsula's tip and Capri were joined by an overland connection, and today it still seems you can almost make it in a single jump. Separating Sorrento from the Amalfi Coast, this hilly, forested peninsula provides the famed rivals breathing space, along with inviting restaurants and an uncrowded charm all its own.