16 Best Sights in Sorrento and the Sorrentine Peninsula, Italy

Basilica di Sant'Antonino

Gracing Piazza Sant'Antonino and one of the largest churches in Sorrento, the Basilica di Sant'Antonino honors the city's patron saint, St. Anthony the Abbot. The church and the portal on the right side date from the 11th century. Its nave and side aisles are divided by recycled ancient columns. A painting on the nave ceiling is signed and dated by Giovan Battista Lama in 1734. The crypt, housing the saint’s bones, is enriched by polychrome marble and votive offerings. In addition, a relic case contains two whale ribs, which commemorates one of the saint’s miracles, when he saved a child from the cetacean. Directly opposite across the piazza is the turn-of-the-20th-century Municipio (town hall).

Piazza Sant'Antonino, Sorrento, Campania, 80067, Italy
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Capo di Sorrento and the Bagno della Regina Giovanna

Just 2 km (1 mile) west of Sorrento, turn right off Statale 145 toward the sea, and then park and walk a few minutes through citrus and olive groves to get to Capo di Sorrento, the craggy tip of the cape, with the most interesting ancient ruins in the area. They were identified by the Latin poet Publius Papinius Statius as the ancient Roman villa of historian Pollio Felix, patron of the great authors Virgil and Horace. Next to the ruins is Bagno della Regina Giovanna (Queen Joan's Bath). A cleft in the rocks allows the sea to channel through an archway into a clear, natural pool, with the water turning iridescent blue, green, and violet as the sunlight changes angles. The easiest way to see all this is to rent a boat at Sorrento; afterward, sailing westward will bring you to the fishermen's haven of Marina di Puolo, where you can lunch on fresh catch at a modest restaurant.

Sorrento, Campania, Italy

Convento di San Francesco

Near the Villa Comunale gardens and sharing its view over the Bay of Naples, the convent is celebrated for its 12th-century cloister. Filled with greenery and flowers, the Moorish-style cloister has interlaced pointed arches of tufa rock, alternating with octagonal columns, supporting smaller arches. The combination makes a suitably evocative setting for summer concerts and theatrical presentations. The interior's 17th-century decoration includes an altarpiece, by a student of Francesco Solimena, depicting St. Francis receiving the stigmata.

Piazza S. Francesco, Sorrento, Campania, 80067, Italy
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Duomo dei SS Filippo e Giacomo

Ancient, but rebuilt from the 15th-century right up to 1924, the town's cathedral follows a Latin-cross design; its nave and two side aisles are divided by thick piers with round arches. A Renaissance-style door and artworks, including the archbishop's 16th-century marble throne and ceiling paintings attributed to the 18th-century Neapolitan school, are easily viewable. Twentieth-century marquetry ornaments the choir stalls with representations of the Stations of the Cross. Torquato Tasso, Sorrento's most famous native son, was baptized here in the 16th century (probably at the front in the first chapel on the right). The delightfully florid three-story campanile, topped by a clock and a belfry, has an open, arcaded base and recycled Roman columns.

Il Convento di San Paolo al Deserto

Sant'Agata's most famous vantage point is on the far north side of the hill, where an ancient Greek sanctuary is said—somewhat fancifully—to have been dedicated to the Sirens of legend. That choice location became Il Convento di San Paolo al Deserto, a monastery built by the Carmelite fathers in the 17th century and now occupied by an order of nuns. The monastery's famed belvedere—with panoramic views of the blue waters all around, and of Vesuvius, Capri, and the peninsula—was a top sight for Grand Tour–era travelers. To access the belvedere's tower, ring the bell at the monastery and ask for the key to open the gate. To get to the Deserto from the center of Sant'Agata, take the main road (Corso Sant'Agata) past the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie on your right, and keep walking uphill on Via Deserto for a little more than half a mile.

Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Campania, 80061, Italy
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Marina Grande

Close to the historic quarter (but not that close—many locals prefer to use the town bus to shuttle up and down the steep hill), the port, or borgo, of the Marina Grande is Sorrento's fishing harbor. In recent years it has become unashamedly touristy, with outdoor restaurants and cafés encroaching on what little remains of the original harbor. The marina still remains a magical location for an evening out on the waterfront. Don't confuse this harbor with Marina Piccola, at the base of the cliff, below Piazza Tasso and the Hotel Excelsior Vittoria; that's the area where ferries and hydrofoils dock.

Museo Bottega della Tarsia Lignea

The 18th-century Palazzo Pomaranci Santomasi houses an assorted collection of the celebrated Sorrentine decorative art of intarsia, or intarsi (inlays), comprising mainly 19th-century furniture and some modern artistic creations. Also on view are 19th-century paintings, prints, and photographs of the Sorrentine Peninsula. 

Via San Nicola 28, Sorrento, Campania, 80067, Italy
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Museo Correale di Terranova

In an 18th-century villa with a lovely garden, on land given to the patrician Correale family by Queen Joan of Anjou in 1428, this museum is a highlight of Sorrento. It has an eclectic private collection amassed by the count of Terranova and his brother—one of the finest devoted to Neapolitan paintings, decorative arts, and porcelains. Magnificent 18th- and 19th-century inlaid tables by Giuseppe Gargiulo, Capodimonte porcelains, and rococo portrait miniatures are reminders of the age when pleasure and delight were everything in wealthy circles. Also on view are regional Greek and Roman archaeological finds, Old Master paintings, and 17th-century majolicas—even the poet Tasso's death mask.

Palazzo Correale

Just off the southeast corner of Piazza Tasso, this palazzo was built in the 14th century in Catalan style but transformed into a Rococo-era showstopper, thanks to its exquisite Esedra Maiolicata (Majolica Courtyard, 1772). This was one of the many examples of majolica and faienceware created in this region, a highlight of Campanian craftsmen. (The most notable example is the Chiostro delle Clarisse at Naples's Santa Chiara.) In 1610 the palazzo became the Ritiro di Santa Maria della Pietà and today remains private, but you can view the courtyard beyond the vestryway. Its back wall—a trompe l'oeil architectural fantasia—is entirely rendered in majolica tile. As you leave the palazzo, note the unusual arched windows on the palace facade, a grace note also seen a few doors away at Palazzo Veniero (No. 14), a 13th-century structure with a Byzantine-Arab influence.

Parcheggio Achille Lauro

The municipal parking facility is in a convenient central location.
Via Correale 23, Sorrento, Campania, 80067, Italy
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Parco dei Principi

Sant'Agnello's two most famous estates sit side by side. In the early 19th century, the Jesuit Cocumella monastery was transformed into a hotel, welcoming the rich and famous. Next door is the Parco dei Principi, a hotel built by Gio Ponti in 1962 surrounded by a botanical park laid out in 1792 by the Count of Siracusa, a cousin to the Bourbons. Traversed by a diminutive Bridge of Love, this was a favorite spot for Désireé, Napoléon's first amour, who came here often. Shaded by horticultural rarities, this park leads to the count's Villa di Poggio Siracusa, a Rococo-style iced birthday cake of a house perched over the bay. Green thumbs and other circumspect visitors can stroll through the romantic park, now part of the Hotel Parco dei Principi. It's notable for Ponti's alluring nautical design motifs and features, including a pool straight out of a David Hockey painting. 

Piazza della Vittoria

Tree-shaded Piazza della Vittoria is book-ended by two fabled hotels, the Bellevue Syrene and the Imperial Hotel Tramontano, one wing of which was home to famed 16th-century writer Torquato Tasso. Set by the bayside balcony, the facade of the Casa di Tasso is all the more exquisite for its simplicity and seems little changed since his day. The poet's house originally belonged to the Rossi family, into which Tasso's mother married, and was adorned with beautiful gardens (Tasso wove gardens into many of his poems). The piazza itself is supposedly the site where a temple to Venus once stood, and the scattered Roman ruins make it a real possibility.

Piazza della Vittoria, Sorrento, Campania, 80067, Italy

Piazza Tasso

This was the site of Porta Catello, the summit of the old walls that once surrounded the city. Today it remains a symbolic portal to the old town, overflowing with cafés, Liberty Style buildings, people who congregate here day and night, and horse-drawn carriages. In the center of it all is Torquato Tasso himself, standing atop a high base and rendered in marble by sculptor Giovanni Carli in 1870. The great poet was born in Sorrento in 1544 and died in Rome in 1595, just before he was to be crowned poet laureate. Tasso wrote during a period when Italy was still recovering from devastating Ottoman incursions along its coasts—Sorrento itself was sacked and pillaged in 1558. He is best known for his epic poem Jerusalem Delivered, which deals with the conquest of Jerusalem during the First Crusade. At the northern edge of the piazza, where it merges into Corso Italia, is the church of Maria del Carmine, with a Rococo wedding-cake facade of gleaming white-and-yellow stucco. Step inside to note its wall of 18th-century tabernacles, all set, like a jeweler's display, in gilded cases, and the ceiling painting of the Virgin Mary.

Piazzo Tasso, Sorrento, Campania, 80067, Italy

Santa Maria delle Grazie

Today's travelers head to Sant'Agata less for the sublime beauties of Il Deserto than for its lodging options and to dine at Don Alfonso 1890, one of the finest restaurants in Campania. Across the way from Don Alfonso on the town square is the beautiful 16th-century Renaissance church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. The shadowy, evocative interior features an exceptional 17th-century altar brought from the Girolamini church in Naples in 1843. Attributed to Florentine artists, it's inlaid with lapis, malachite, mother-of-pearl, and polychrome marble.

Corso Sant'Agata, Sant'Agata sui Due Golfi, Campania, 80061, Italy

Sedile Dominova

Enchanting showpiece of the Largo Dominova—the little square that is the heart of Sorrento's historic quarter—the Sedile Dominova is a picturesque open loggia with expansive arches, balustrades, and a green-and-yellow-tile cupola, originally constructed in the 16th century. The open-air structure is frescoed with 18th-century trompe-l'oeil columns and the family coats of arms, which once belonged to the sedile (seat), the town council where nobles met to discuss civic problems as early as the Angevin period. Today Sorrentines still like to congregate around the umbrella-topped tables near the tiny square.

Largo Dominova, Sorrento, Campania, 80067, Italy
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Villa Comunale

The largest public park in Sorrento sits on a cliff top overlooking the entire Bay of Naples. It offers benches, flowers, palms, and people-watching, plus a seamless vista that stretches from Capri to Vesuvius. From here steps lead down to Sorrento's main harbor, the Marina Piccola.

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