Welcome to Sorrento, a picturesque coastal town nestled in the enchanting Gulf of Naples. With its stunning views, delectable cuisine, and rich history, Sorrento serves as the perfect base for exploring the wonders of southern Italy.
Here’s my guide to uncovering the treasures of this captivating region, from driving along the breathtaking Amalfi Coast to visiting the historic ruins of Pompeii and the iconic island of Capri - in one week (or less, if you’re on a tight schedule).
This post contains selected affiliate links, which help to keep this blog up and running. Should you make a purchase or booking after clicking one of these links, I may receive a small commission – at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Why Base Yourself in Sorrento?
Nestled in the heart of the Gulf of Naples, Sorrento shines as an exceptional destination to base yourself during a trip to the Campania region in Italy. This picturesque town offers a perfect blend of natural beauty, convenient location, and a charming atmosphere.
From Sorrento, you can easily explore the breathtaking Amalfi Coast, with its winding coastal roads, colorful cliffside towns, and crystal-clear waters. Additionally, Sorrento provides convenient access to must-see attractions such as Naples, Pompeii, Capri, and Mount Vesuvius. Naples Airport is just a 1.5 hour drive away.
One of the standout advantages of choosing Sorrento as your base for exploring the Gulf of Naples and the Amalfi Coast is the relative tranquility it offers compared to other popular destinations in the area. While nearby cities like Naples and tourist hotspots along the Amalfi Coast (looking at you, Positano) can get crowded, Sorrento retains a more laid-back atmosphere. This makes it a welcome retreat after a day of sightseeing or navigating bustling streets elsewhere.
Taking a closer look at Sorrento itself, I’d warmly recommend basing yourself in the small fishing village of Marina della Lobra, located just a shirt distance from Sorrento’s city center. Nestled between the rugged cliffs and the azure waters of the Mediterranean Sea, this charming harbor offers stunning panoramic views and a sense of peaceful seclusion.
If you’re looking for a no frills accommodation, you might want to try the Piccolo Paradiso Hotel in conjunction with its sister property Le Nereidi. I got a room in the latter and was pleasantly surprised to find a recently renovated and spotless room with stunning sea views. Breakfast is offered on the terrace of the neighboring Piccolo Paradiso Hotel.
From here, you can embark on boat tours to the captivating island of Capri, exploring its crystal-clear coves and dramatic cliffs (more on that later).
In addition, Marina della Lobra offers a delightful selection of waterfront restaurants and cafes, where you can indulge in fresh seafood dishes and savor the flavors of the Mediterranean.
Sorrento and Marina della Lobra serve as the perfect hub to uncover the treasures of the Gulf of Naples and the Amalfi Coast.
Things to See and Do in Sorrento and the Gulf of Naples
Exploring the Amalfi Coast
Buckle up for an exhilarating drive along the world-famous Amalfi Coast. Marvel at the dramatic cliffs, turquoise waters, and picturesque towns that cling to the rugged shoreline. The drive from Sorrento to SS163, which winds along the Amalfi Coast, takes about 15 minutes, depending on traffic.
When I visited in June, the streets were already quite crowded, which is not surprising, as this is simply a very scenic drive. If you don’t feel like driving yourself, I’d recommend booking either a bus tour or enjoy the dramatic scenery on a cruise along the Amalfi Coast.
If you opt to drive yourself, classic stops include Positano (if you manage to find a parking spot), a postcard-perfect village with colorful houses cascading down the hillside and Amalfi, a historic town known for its stunning cathedral and charming piazzas.
Again, please be aware that these coastal towns will likely be very busy, which might take away some of its charm. The views are stunning, nevertheless.
End your day in Ravello, a peaceful hilltop retreat offering panoramic views and beautiful gardens. This was my favorite stop along the Amalfi Coast, as there were less people roaming the streets and the hillside location of Ravello had a special feel to it.
Naples - A City of Contrasts
Embark on a day trip to the vibrant city of Naples, a 1-1.5 hour drive from Sorrento, depending on traffic. Please be aware that traffic in Naples is also a little bit further on the crazy side - but manageable, if you go with the (Italian) flow.
Once in the streets, delve into the lively atmosphere of the historic city center, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit the renowned Naples National Archaeological Museum, home to a vast collection of ancient artifacts, including treasures from Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Roam the alleys around Via die Tribunali, neatly dividing the bustling old town.
Before or after, make your way to Piazza del Plebiscito, serving - as the name suggests - as the city’s central gathering place.
Boasting a prime location steps away from the piazza, Gran Caffé Gambrinus is an excellent (and history-laden) choice to get a coffee alongside typical Neapolitan pastries. Naples' oldest cafe opened in 1860.
As with the pizza, various heads of states have visited and tried the local delicacies at Gambrinus. Former visitors include former German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photos (and the original cups, including coffee stains) are on display close to the entrance.
Classics include babà, a sweet sponge cake soaked in rum-laced syrup, sfogliatella, a shell-shaped pastry filled with a creamy filling (try pistachio!), and torta ricotta e pera, delicious ricotta and pear cake.
If you don’t have time to check out the sitting room, you can also order right from the counter. In any case, don’t leave Naples without having tried at least one of the local delicacies.
Pompeii - A Glimpse into Ancient History
Prepare to step back in time as you explore the ruins of Pompeii, an ancient Roman city frozen in time by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Wander through the remarkably preserved streets, houses, and public buildings, gaining insight into the daily life of the Roman civilization.
Marvel at the hauntingly beautiful frescoes and mosaics that once adorned these structures.
Pompeii is a 45-60 min drive away from Sorrento, again, depending on traffic. There are several private parking lots located close to the main entrance on Via Villa dei Misteri. I found Parking Zeus to be very convenient. The charge is 3 EUR per hour.
Entrance to UNESCO-listed Pompeii will set you back 18 EUR per person. Tickets can be purchased online here or right at the gate. Don’t be fooled by the semi-official looking ticket booth on your short walk from the parking lot to the entrance gate.
Be prepared to spend at least two hours roaming the extensive grounds.
Day Trip to Captivating Capri
Hop on a ferry and set sail to the mesmerizing island of Capri.
When staying in the Gulf of Naples, you’ll have several options for the trip out to Capri. Most tours and also the regular ferry service leave from the main harbors in Sorrento and Naples. In addition, there is also a daily service departing Marina della Lobra, which is what I opted for.
During my stay in June of 2023, Coop. Marina della Lobra charged 60 EUR per person. Considering that the regular ferry service will cost you around 40-50 EUR for the return trip, the price seemed fair. The big advantage for me was being able to walk to the harbor from my hotel Piccolo Paradiso / Le Nereidi.
Be prepared for dazzling views of Capri’s dramatic cliffs and rock formations.
While you won’t be able to enter the popular Blue Grotto, a sea cave known for its dazzling blue waters, on this tour, the boat does stop briefly close to its entrance.
Upon landing at Marina Grande on Capri Island, I wouldn’t recommend signing up for one of the bus tours sold in the harbor. Instead, if you want to beat the crowds, make your way around the island on foot. While at times hilly, Capri is in fact very walkable.
From the harbor, follow the narrow pathway leading up to Capri Town. The walk from the harbor to Capri Town should take you about 15 minutes. From Capri Town, you get to roam the many picturesque alleys extending further across the island.
One impressive sight is Arco Naturale, a natural rock formation that has stood the test of time. This unique arch-shaped structure offers a glimpse into the island's geological history and provides for dramatic views along the coast of Capri Island.
Another stop that I’d recommend is the Giardini di Augusto, or the Gardens of Augustus. Located in Capri Town, these beautifully landscaped gardens offer a peaceful oasis with panoramic views of the sea and the Faraglioni rock formations. Entrance to the Gardens of Augustus costs 1.5 EUR.
Cap off the day by savoring a granita (crushed ice topped with fresh lemon juice) or a classic limoncello, before boarding the boat for the return trip.
Ascending Mount Vesuvius
Embark on an adventurous journey to Mount Vesuvius, the infamous volcano that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum under layers of ash. If you make your way to Mount Vesuvius from Sorrento, you could easily combine a visit to Vesuvius National Park with exploring neighboring Pompeii.
As of June 2023, there is no possibility to purchase tickets at the entrance to the park. Since it is likely that you won’t have service close to the entrance gate, reserve your tickets online as soon as you have worked out the details of your trip to the Gulf of Naples.
Should you consider driving to the park by car, you’ll also need to purchase a parking ticket online via this website. The system asks you to put in a license plate, so if you’re driving a rental, you’ll first be able to reserve a sport after having picked up your car. Parking spots are limited and cost 5 EUR per car.
Once you’ve entered the park, hike up the rugged trails to reach the summit, where you'll be rewarded with panoramic vistas of the Gulf of Naples and the surrounding landscape. Explore the volcanic crater and learn about the geological forces that have shaped this region throughout history.
In a Nutshell
Sorrento and the Gulf of Naples offer an extraordinary blend of natural beauty, captivating history, and culinary delights. From the breathtaking Amalfi Coast to the ancient ruins of Pompeii, and the allure of Capri and Mount Vesuvius, this week-long adventure will leave you spellbound.
One week is a good amount to explore this region by undertaking the activities outlined above, leaving room in between your day trips to recharge and simply enjoy the Italian sea and sun.
So, pack your bags and set off on an unforgettable journey to this captivating region, where every corner is a testament to the allure and richness of southern Italy.
Do feel free to ask away any questions you might have about taking a trip to the Gulf of Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast in the comments below.