Visiting the Amalfi coast has been on my travel wishlist for many years so when my friends and I agreed to go for our 40th birthdays, I dived straight into my research. After hours and hours of endless scrolling through Airbnbs, I decided to try a travel agent after a friend told me she’d booked a 10-day trip to Sorrento with Barrhead Travel. One quick call later, followed by a few emails, and Alisdair at Barrhead Travel had found the perfect trip for us.
I think the easiest way to break this down is to separate my thoughts into categories. Hopefully I’ll cover everything (remember, this is based on a personal, paid-for-by-us, experience over just a few days) but if you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment, drop me a message on Instagram, or email me via my contact page here.
I hope this post inspires you to consider Sorrento for your next break. It’s the kind of place that you could spend a few days or a few weeks because there’s so much to see and do both directly in Sorrento and in other places just a bus ride or boat trip away. Whether you’re travelling solo or as a group you’ll find enough to entertain you, from visiting the sights and trying the local cuisine to being by the sea or chilling at your hotel pool, there’s something for everyone, regardless of age or length of time available. You might simply want to soak up the atmosphere; it’s certainly a sensory experience!
The only thing that might not be great is the accessibility – it could be an issue for those with visual impairments or mobility requirements because of the chaotic traffic and uneven, cobbled streets, and the hilly nature of the area.
TRAVELLING FROM SCOTLAND TO SORRENTO
We flew EasyJet and I have no complaints whatsoever. We took the 6am flight out from Edinburgh to Naples and although there was a huge queue for the bag-drop, it took about 45 minutes to clear. Thankfully, we’d paid for fast-track through security as all those people were then lining up at the security gates. At Naples, passport control was quick but our bags must have taken around 50 minutes to arrive on the belt. After that, we found our private transfer (part of our package) who took us on a hair-raising drive to Sorrento – part motorway, part winding roads. We had landed at around 10am and we got to our hotel at 12.30pm. Check-in was easy – our room wasn’t quite ready but our luggage was taken and we were show to the roof terrace bar where we were plied with Italian prosecco. No complaints there either.
The journey home was as seamless. We paid for a late check-out (55 EUR) and were given a smaller ‘holding’ room – the shower and charging points were all we needed really, after a last few hours by the pool. Again, our private transfer took us back to Naples airport four hours before our flight, so we arrived around 6.15pm, checked-in quickly and easily, passed through security quickly, and found something to eat at the airport which had plenty of eating places and shops. Passport control was simple but beware – if you need to charge anything do it at the charging docks right before passport control because there were hardly any available plugs that worked in the gate area. Thankfully, a kind man at passport control charged my phone for 20 minutes for me while I ready my book.
The Grand President Hotel is a 4* hotel who delivered above and beyond the call of duty. They could easily have relied on the views alone but the staff there were warm, friendly, welcoming and incredibly helpful at all times. Our favourite was Carmine, who took such good care of us throughout our stay, making sure we had everything we needed and regaled us with historical facts and stories as well as his love of the soil and sun and his abundant veggie and fruit garden at his home.
We had a superior twin/double room with sea view on a B&B rate. The room had two single beds which could have been made into a double, and a day/single bed for a third person or maybe two small children. There was plenty of space, a good size bathroom, a fridge, safe, tv and dressing table. The balcony was a wonderful addition – the sea view was beyond stunning and a real pinch-me moment to wake up to every morning. The balcony would be particularly useful for parents with young children I think. The room fit the three of us more than comfortably. and the pretty tiles were a joy to see every day.
The hotel was up the hill from town, a decent walk away which we discovered you could do via a stairway that goes from the town up to the hotel directly, missing out the hectic road that never slowed down with its buses, cars, taxis and many, many mopeds. Thankfully, they had a free shuttle bus which ran frequently, breaking over lunchtime, with a final bus home at 22:50. It was ideal, particularly since a taxi one-way was 30 euros.
Breakfast was an incredible feast every single morning. Any type of tea or coffee, and juice, was on offer, with a selection of meats, cheese, salads, fruit and yoghurt available, alongside a hot cooked buffet featuring mushrooms, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, bacon, hash browns, beans, fried potatoes, sausages… and just next to it you could order a fresh fried egg or a bespoke omelette. There were pancakes, crepes, croissants and Danishes, miniature puddings like apple strudel and fruit-filled sponge… the list goes on, I kid you not. It was utterly divine.
THE FOOD AND DRINK
Oh my goodness, where do I begin? I guess dinner at the hotel, since this was our first proper meal in Sorrento. We started with lobster linguine, followed by red snapper and veg, and both were heavenly, so delicious and so fresh. We had seafood pasta throughout the rest of our time in Sorrento, and all but once it was gorgeous… the only time it didn’t get full marks was at Instagram hotspot, Parrucchiano la Favorita, despite the bewildering atmosphere and excellent wine, where we had broken shells and raw seafood making a small appearance. Top Tip: don’t assume the bigger, more popular restaurants are the best – one of our favourite meals was at a restaurant on a tiny side street. A word of warning: check your seafood is fully cooked before diving straight in.
Most meals for three people including a half bottle of wine each cost around 100 euros.
Where we ate:
Grand Hotel President (lobster linguine followed by red snapper and veg, we also had the pool bar burger which was amazing)
O’Murzill (monkfish with fettucine and tomato)
Sant’Antonino (pizza and tiramisu) – the family also has Frankie’s pizza bar
Le Grazie (meatballs with tagliatelle and grilled courgette, aubergine and artichoke)
Parrucciano la Favorita (lasagne, seafood pasta)
Ristorante Ruccio (ravioli, carbonara, pizza)
I was recommended by a local who now lives in Edinburgh to try Ristorante Delfino down at Marina Grande. Sadly we didn’t have time – if you can, give it a try and let me know!
Bar Veneruso for coffee, croissants, cannoli and tiramisu
Il Duomo gelataria for ice cream (the chocolate fondant is to die for)
As for the wine, well the prosecco there is a thousand times better… or is it the fact life is less frantic, the sun is shining? Who knows, but I certainly enjoyed plenty! In fact, all but one of the wines we ordered was good – I’d recommend pinot grigio or faranghina for white wines, and according to my friend who prefers ‘vino russo’, all of the house reds were beautifully light. Of course, we had one or two limoncellos, but never a limoncello spritz despite me having vowed to try one while I was there.
Sorrento is a city, but feels more like a town. Perhaps because of the many narrow streets, the cobbles, the sea front, the hills. We had only three full days on our trip so we spent a lot of it wandering around, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the amazing food and wine.
La degli Aranci is a main road lined with orange trees, and it was along here at Piazza Antiche Mura that the shuttle bus dropped us. Ideally, we passed a supermarket at the bus stop so we would stock up on bottled water each time we went back to the hotel – we made the mistake of drinking too much prosecco and not enough water on our first day.
The Sorrento Tourist Office is located somewhere off the main pedestrianised street, Corso Italia, and it’s here you’ll find the leather handbag shops and bespoke leather sandals, as well as plenty of limoncello and fresh lemon soda stands, and pottery shops too. There’s even the Christmas Shop, selling all festive decorations and playing Christmas music in the 35 degree July heat. I bought pottery, tea towels, and a pair of sunglasses, though I was very tempted by the bags. If you love all the current designer styles (Bottega, Prada, Celine, Hermes) then you can pick up an ‘inspired-by’ bag in Sorrento made of calf leather at a fraction of the cost (you can spend between 30 and 200 euros on a decent leather handbag). The shoes were also tempting – mules with tassels in all sorts of colours – but I try not to shop under pressure these days and, of course, there was a certain amount of pressure once you picked something up.
Marina Grande seemed to be the main marina, with boat trip and boats to hire, plus some restaurants and places to lay on the small beaches. We didn’t spend much time here but it would be worthwhile exploring the marinas and coast in Sorrento, especially if your accommodation doesn’t have a pool. It is wise to avoid the midday sun though, as it gets incredibly hot and there isn’t much shade or breeze – a good excuse to get lunch out of the sun.
Closer to the Piazza Tasso (the main square in Sorrento), there’s plenty more shopping and bars and restaurants, where there is less of an old town and more of a new town vibe. Again, we didn’t spend a great deal of time here but if you do have the time, it’s worth a few hours.
From what I picked up, Campania is the region of South West Italy with Naples as the capital, and it encompasses the volcanic Mount Vesuvius, one of the ten UNESCO world heritage sites. It’s a fascinating area of Italy, which includes much great architecture and archeology, places like Pompeii, as well as the picturesque, pastel coloured towns of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. Positano is around 30 minutes away by taxi (will cost you 100 euros each way) or 45 minutes by bus (around six to ten euros). We didn’t have time to visit, sadly, and my friend had said Pompeii would be incredibly hot with little shelter, so we chose to a boat tour of Capri instead.
The hotel arranged everything for us. We took a VIP boat which cost 119 euros per person, with a maximum of ten passengers and included private transfers from our hotel to the marina, lunch, a tour around the island by boat, a swim in the ocean and a few hours on the island. Capri was fabulous, I wish we’d had more time there – I’d certainly go again, perhaps out of high season because it was mobbed, and swelteringly hot. I’ll do a separate post on Capri.
WHAT TO WEAR
I took a capsule wardrobe of yellow, white and black with the wildcard of a red and white dress. I chose dresses that would work for day and night so I would get two wears out of each, and I travelled in comfy, wide leg trousers that would have worked while I was away with a ribbed vest, though I didn’t wear the again until travelling home.
I’d say anything goes in Sorrento. During the day, you’ll see summer dresses, kaftans, denim shorts, linen shirts, the usual chic holiday wear. There wasn’t really anyone wearing bikinis unless they were on the beach or a boat, but seeing beachwear in town was the norm because the sea is so close by. Most people wore flats – sandals, trainers, flip flops, sliders – and there were plenty of hats visible too. I’d highly recommend a hand held or electric fan as your top accessory – it was so hot, even in the evenings, and especially when you’re in the tiny streets where there’s no breeze, no air movement at all.
During the evening, it was pretty casual though there were more ‘dressy’ dresses, a bit of sparkle, even some heeled sandals. I wore my wedge espadrilles for dinner at the hotel but, the rest of the time, I was in my Dune Loupe sandals – though I did wear an couple of more ‘evening’ dresses and even my new statement earrings for one evening.
Overall, anything goes – wear what you like!
THE FINAL THOUGHT
Sorrento is a wonderful place for those with a curious mind who like the sun but don’t want to spend all day lying on a beach. It offers plenty of culture (there are many museums, galleries, churches), great cuisine (the pasta, the fish, the veggies and salads, the pastries, the ice cream… I could go on forever), and a vibrant and chaotic atmosphere without the stress or pressure we seem to have here in the UK.
Couples, families and solo travellers alike would all find something amazing about Sorrento and the surrounding area, and I wouldn’t shy away from booking a package holiday for three or ten nights.
We paid £3,000 for four nights at the Grand President Hotel in a superior twin/double room at a bed and breakfast rate using Barrhead Travel.