Sorrento is just on the other side of the Bay of Naples, so it was a short hop for Prinsendam and we arrived early on the morning of April 28. Founded by the Greeks, it was named after the Sirens in the Odyssey who failed to lure Odysseus to crash his ship into the cliffs supposedly on this spot. Thinking they had lost their powers (he had actually tricked them) they committed suicide by throwing themselves on the rocks, which made this area habitable.
The previous day in Naples, with touring Pompeii in the rain, had been pretty tiring so we decided to make Sorrento a leisurely stop, particularly since there wasn’t anything there we felt we had to see. This worked out great, since we had a nice day and Sorrento is a nice small (16,000) city for just walking around & soaking up the ambience. So we started the day by sleeping a little later & having a leisurely breakfast in the main restaurant, then we went out on deck for some pictures & took the tender to Marina Piccola, the (yes) tiny port at the bottom of the cliffs on which the city is situated.
Fortunately, HAL had a shuttle bus to take us up the hill to Tasso Square, which is the center of town, because it is a steep climb. This was a very nice plaza, with several large outdoor cafes & a statue of St. Antonino (St. Anthony), the local patron saint whose relics are in a basilica near the statue, in the middle of the street. But the best thing is that this square was built over a large gorge that cut in through the cliffs from the sea. Before this plaza was built in the 19th Century the gorge divided the city, so the part of the city to the right is the ancient Greek city while the part to the left (beyond St. Antonino) was farmland before the square was built, There are buildings sitting precariously on the edge of the gorge with great views. I tried going into the gardens of one but was politely informed that this was private property and I was not welcome. Hmpf!
We walked on toward the Via Santa Maria della Pieta, a street built several centuries BC. We went into the courtyard of the Palazzo Correale, said to be typical of 18th Century aristocrats. We also saw a small shrine to Mary, closed but you could see the picture and flowers through the door. There is supposed to be a 13th Century palace on this block as well but we must have walked right by it, not noticing anything that looked palace-like.
Next we came to the Duomo, the cathedral of Sorrento. It was Sunday and they were having services so we didn’t go inside, but I took pictures of the beautiful inlaid wood doors (inlaid wood is a specialty of this region) & the elaborate ceiling from the entrance. There was also a lovely reddish clock tower, which I think was on the other side of the courtyard from the Duomo.
Next we came to the Sedile Dominova, an 18th Century building that was once the meeting place of the city’s nobles and is now a men’s club. The outside has beautiful old frescoes, again with effective simulated 3D. And there was a local band playing in front of the club’s loggia.
We continued strolling around the charming streets of Sorrento. One of the things Sorrento is known for is lemons, and we saw a whole lot of them in all shapes and sizes, in stores and outdoor stalls. They are also loaded with lemon product, like soap & ceramic lemons & a liqueur called limoncello. It was Sunday, so there were a lot of townspeople on the streets after services along with the cruise folks and other tourists. So the streets were the opposite of deserted.
Sorrento was also full of beautiful flowers and other flora of all varieties.
We had a delicious pizza for lunch at Ristorante Pizzaria da Gigino, a spot recommended by Rick Steves. Pizza, of course, was invented in the Naples region. Many Americans are disappointed by Italian pizza because it tends to be rather simple and has few of the toppings and spices Americans are used to, but we found it delicious. One of the most famous (but not what we had) is the Margherita pizza, named in 1889 after the first queen of united Italy, which is made with just red tomato, green basil & white mozzarella representing the colors of the Italian flag. We ate out on their patio surrounded by several local families who seemed to have come here after church. It was on a narrow street that was infested with a cloud of gnats, but for some reason they never came over to the tables. Walking back through town toward the shuttle bus stop we also stopped for gelato at Gelateria Primavera (also recommended by Rick Steves). They have 70 flavors, all home made, but you have to pick just 2 or 3. I had the noce, made from local walnuts, but I don’t remember the other flavors. Great stuff. We saw an interesting style of sign for gelaterias around town. Then on the bus ride down the hill was a sign with an evocative way to say “go slowly.”
After a leisurely & enjoyable day we took the tender back to the Prinsendam. It occurred to me that I had never posted a picture of the inside of a tender, so here are a couple. Not luxurious (or even comfortable), but its good enough for a short ride.
I will leave you with a few pictures of interesting parts of the Sorrento cliffs taken from the ship before we sailed in the evening.