Sorrento, Pompeii and the stunning Amalfi Coast

It can be hard to know where to start when planning a trip to the Amalfi coast. What is the difference for example between Sorrento, Amalfi and Positano. They all look like amazing cliff edge towns but interestingly they are all very different in character so there will be a right choice for everyone.

Our journey took in so many amazing places that I need to separate the blogs but to give you an idea we visited Sorrento, Pompeii, Capri, Positano, Ravello and Amalfi. We then explored Maratea and took the ferry to Sicily to continue our road trip.

Sorrento is the largest of the towns on the Amalfi coast and the closest to Naples. It offers the best base to explore the area and has a large number of excellent restaurants in the town. The sea sparkles constantly and the streets buzz with tourist activity. Just off the main street there are lovely lanes with restaurants that still offer a sense of exploring (despite the English translated menus!) There were a couple we really enjoyed which I’ll happily recommend to anyone going there.

Away from the main area down by the sea is a little fishing port with a few local restaurants. The one right at the end called Trattoria da Emilia is wonderful. It feels like a different Italy and if you try two dishes there, the mixed anti-pasti and spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil were the standout dishes.  They do not take credit cards there so take plenty of cash. We didn’t have enough Euros so asked if we could use a £20. Not only did the owner oblige he left it to us to work out what we owed him. In a world of automatically added service charge to printed bills it made a lovely change.

From Sorrento you can take a simple and really cheap train to Pompeii, the town that was destroyed by the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It is only 1.80 Euros each way and takes about 30 minutes. Ignore the bus outside and the man telling you his “shop” is the ticket office. It isn’t! Just walk about 100m to the right and you’ll join the queue. They have audio guides but also group tours offered. They are run by “official” guides but I would suggest a prebooked one by me if possible as you know the quality of the guiding will be great and to me this makes all the difference and turns rubble into an amazing story of the past. You could take a private car and driver from Sorrento fairly quickly to avoid the train. It is an amazing place to visit and you really do get a sense of how the ancient Romans lived with their baths and laundry areas still intact. The brothel is still there too which brings all the guides to life!

Down at the port in Sorrento the ferries leave for many different stops down the coast and islands including Capri. It takes about 30 minutes on the fast hydrofoil. When you first arrive what strikes you are the white buildings, the sparkling harbour and loads of tourists clamouring to make the most of their day. Take a deep breath, let everyone bustle around you and take the funicular up to the top of town. People tend then to immediately grab a table in a cafe but don’t be tempted initially. If you wander down a few streets away from the main square you lose the throngs and can find a peaceful spot for yourself. There is a viewpoint well worth wandering to and the houses and bougainvillea along the way are gorgeous. Everything about Capri is exclusive including the prices but it is worth it. Sitting on the shaded terrace of a restaurant watching the world go by with a glass of crisp white wine and a Caprese salad is pretty unbeatable. Watch the times for the last ferry back as they get busier towards the end of the day and they stop around six pm. I’d suggest going as early as you can and come back mid afternoon.

That is Sorrento and our daytrips in a nutshell. It is varied and what people say is true; It is a brilliant base to explore from, but wonderful as a town in itself so a winning choice for a first visit to the Amalfi coast.