Finishing Our 10 Week Italy Trip in Serene Sorrento
The trip from Matera to serene Sorrento was quicker and easier than I might have thought it would be. This time we opted to take a mix of local SP roads and the autoroute rather than meander from valley to peak to valley on the country roads – not sure we really wanted to delay our Sorrento arrival that much!
Stopping enroute in Salerno for a coffee break but had not factored in bigger town driving, one way roads or the lack of parking. After driving around for 30 minutes we finally headed out of town and found a small bar for coffee at the outskirts. Back on the autoroute the GPS led us around the mountains of the Amalfi coast, past the valley under Vesuvius and into Sorrento from the Naples side. This was certainly quicker – if not as much fun – as going from Salerno to Sorrento along the Amalfi coast road. We would leave that for a bus trip or two. Like the rest of the tourists, we pulled over at the lookout spot to get our first view down the Amalfi coast before heading into serene Sorrento.
With one minor miss we found the narrow private road that led up the hill above Sant’ Agnello to the MSuites apartment we were renting for 3 weeks.
While David had successfully met every driving challenge to this point, the narrow road and a pushy large Mercedes resulted in the first minor scrape on the car bumper. This would result in an unsuccessful fight with the car rental company who charged us full rates to repair the bumper even though they had rented us the car with damage already in the same bumper. We were sure that no repairs would be made and that the next sucker would also pay.
Having found the apartment entrance, we called Pietro to meet us. He and his brother Francesco rented out 3 apartments at MSuites and also had an ownership in the nearby Mediterraneo hotel (where we stayed the previous year). Pietro took us through the basic information we would need during our stay and directed us to the local grocery store. We would want to stock in the basics before we returned the car. Despite the long and steep road into town, we were now sure we did not want a car on that crazy road.
With the rental car returned, we set off on our first trek back from Sorrento and up the road to our home away from home. It was certainly a challenge but helped to work out the kinks from the long car ride. But we were only planning one trip up and down in any one day!
We would look longingly at the hotel shuttles for the hotel below and above us as they went past on a regular basis. We might even try to hitch a ride! Pietro had negotiated a flat rate taxi service and we opted for this easier trip home a few times during our visit (even though most of the time the driver feigned lack of English to understand that the ride should be off the meter).
There were two routes on and off the hill – either along the switchback road that came out in Sant’ Agnello or down a much steeper but shorter path that came out closer to Sorrento. We used both. While the walk was certainly doable, it kept us trapped on the hill on days when we needed a rest from a previous crazy day and it became something we did not look forward to at the end of long days. The view was awesome but by week 2 we would have gladly traded it for a hotel in town.
Staying Local in Sant’ Agnello
Walking down the road we could easily get into the main town of Sant’ Agnello. This would let us stock up on basic groceries. The main square by the train station had a number of bars where we would sit and have coffee or a drink.
Every day or two we would wander down for a shopping trip, shopping more like locals at the bakery (you could watch items being freshly made), fruit and vegetables from the small stores.
The local mercato was in Sant’ Agnello on Mondays (and Tuesdays in Sorrento). The first week, David made the trek down while I worked on my blog. While we had thought this was a local food market, it was that and more. They closed part of a street and trucks with awnings lined up tip to tail.
Every kind of imaginable product was available for sale although David was not sure how much might be authentic Italian product. The second week I made the trek down. We were still looking for an Italian sweater for David and we experienced the tourist trap. The price we were quoted was always 3 times the local price. Finally finding a stall with clearly marked prices, David was able to start on his Italian look.
The apartment on the hill was located between two actual hotels (Cristina and Grand Art Paradiso). We checked out both hotels to find they offered bar service (with coffee) and dinner. This gave us an easy option for a trip out if we didn’t want to go all the way down the hill.
We preferred the Grand Art Paradiso above us and went up a few times. It provided a break for us on the one rain day when we didn’t want to negotiate the hill. We were also pleased on one occasion when their shuttle driver took pity on us walking up and offered us a ride. This would be a hotel we might consider if we wanted a view the next time. With hourly shuttles, a full restaurant, a pool and lots of lounging space, this may give us both a view and convenience. We might trade off on space and quiet.
Relaxing At The Mediterraneo Hotel
The brothers who rented our apartment also had an interest in the nearby Mediterraneo Hotel in Sant’ Agnello close to the water (a 30 minute walk) and we had open access to the hotel facilities. Welcomed as return visitors and guests at MSuites, the gregarious front desk concierge Aniello even remembered us (not sure if that is good or bad!). Hotel wifi was much faster than at the apartment so this would be where I would head to post my blogs. We got VIP treatment when we chose to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant. Seated on the patio we could see out over the water as the sun set behind serene Sorrento.
The unheated pool offered a cooling break after lying in the sun. David made sure to take get his picture taken as he shivered in the 15 degree pool on our last day (2 November). We could get drinks and lunch while we lounged by the pool.
The White Bar offered pre-dinner drinks and appetizers. Since our last visit they had built the Sky Bar on the roof but it was only open on Sunday nights. Drinks and jazz with a great view were a sophisticated way to watch the sun set. Unfortunately at this time of year the sun sets behind the cliff rather than out at sea but it was still romantic to sit and watch the sky redden. The sax player was good and made the evening even better. Pietro and Francesco played hosts, flitting from group to group ensuring everyone was having a good time.
As it got darker we could see the lights twinkling in Sorrento and on the two larger sailing ships still in harbour. Unfortunately we only got to enjoy this one time before it too closed for the season. With each passing week the special events at the hotel got less and less.
Walking Into Serene Sorrento
Because of our location high above Sant’ Agnello (@150 metres height) it was at least 30 minutes to walk into Sorrento. We had a choice of paths to walk, some offering shopping along the way but the walking was not great due to both crazy drivers and their resulting exhausts. Some routes offered some respite from the traffic and a better view. The local town bus (goes from Sorrento out to Meta) was also an option with stops right at the bottom of our road.
While the main Sorrento square was often crowded with tourists (worse if a cruise ship was in harbour), it was a lively place to sit and enjoy coffee, a drink or a great mix of chocolate and lemon gelato. We could people watch and shake our heads at how wild the drivers were, marvelling at antics of the kamikaze scooter people. From our perch we could see the two little tourist trains and the horse and buggy rides. While we had planned to try one of the trains, we never did get to this.
One trip into town provided me with the opportunity to get a pedicure. Unlike at home where you could find manicures and pedicures in almost every block, it had been much harder to find in our travels in Italy. This may have been one of the downsides of not staying in super high end hotels or at spa facilities. But when I spotted a place in Sorrento it got bookmarked and I didn’t need to look further. It was a pretty simple pedicure compared to what I normally got but it addressed my long nails and chipped polish just fine.
One trip was made to go down to the Marina Picolo to check on ferry schedules.
We were still thinking about a day trip to Naples and we really didn’t want to take the train both ways. While the schedule was a bit reduced in October, there were still a few ferries each day until the end of October.
We also checked on boat rentals. For 150€ plus gas we could have a small rhi boat for a day – a kinda cool way to make our way to Praiano for lunch one day. Boats with skippers were much more (though discounted this late in the season) but after 25 years in the navy I figured David could be my captain for a day.
A Night Out At The Sorrento Musical Show
Not being big party people we had not really explored the night life in Sorrento but one night we decided to try the iconic Sorrento Musical Show at Teatro Tasso. We opted for dinner and the show, knowing we would get a sub-par Italian dinner but wanting the better balcony seats that only dinner guests got. Dinner included a few musical interludes from a roving pair with guitars and mandolin, including the expected “Happy Birthday” song (sung by all in a mix of English, German and Italian) for the man sitting beside us.
Prepared by reading the reviews for a very traditional local theatre level show, we got exactly what we expected. It was a short story (75 minutes) set to music in 4 acts. The audience was lively and participated for the few very common Italian songs that everyone seemed to know (e.g. “O Sole Mio”, “Santa Lucia”, “Funiculi Funicula”). While the dancing was ok, two of the male singers had awesome operatic voices that brought “bravos” and huge applause from the crowd.
The mixture of British and German tourists seemed very entertained throughout. There did not appear to be any locals or Italian tourists in the house and when we mentioned we were going, most locals held back on totally sneering at the mention of the show. It was aimed at light entertainment for tourists and that is what we got. A nice change for one night out.
The 3 weeks in serene Sorrento went fast. We enjoyed a great mix of lazy days with a wide variety of day trips: to the nearby beaches, for great seafood lunches, bus trips along the Amalfi coast and a great boat ride. We did one major tour to see Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii.
Many people questioned why we would stay in serene Sorrento that long but we had no problem staying put in Sorrento and would even come back for a longer stay with different accommodations. We had a good mix of busy days out with lazy days at home or lying in the sun. The food was great and we got lots of exercise to wear off any extra calories. The weather remained warm for our visit and the forecast for the next week looked even better. Locals kept telling us the weather was unusual for this time of year but so far we had been lucky for 3 years in a row. Sorrento and the surrounding areas are resort towns so we did find that each week new places were closing down for the season but the main part of Sorrento is still big enough to provide us with lots of options even if we stayed later in the year.
We looked out at the Bay of Naples and Vesuvius for the last time and said goodbye, knowing we would be back! Our next stop would be a few short days in Rome before we bade Italy goodbye for this trip!
Tell me your favourite part about visiting serene Sorrento!