One Of Italy's Best Beach Hideaways Is A Gateway To The Beautiful Amalfi Coast, Per Rick Steves

When someone mentions the Amalfi Coast of Italy, you can just feel your mind drifting off into a paradise full of orange and lemon trees, beautiful beaches with turquoise water, and an atmosphere so relaxing that you'll want to stay forever. But how do you choose where to stay? Expert Rick Steves — well known for his exceptional travel tips — has a suggestion. On his website, Steves lists his favorite beach hideaways, including the town of Sorrento, which he recommends as an Amalfi Coast gateway. He says that Sorrento "has an unspoiled old quarter and a lively shopping street. Without a hint of rough-and-tumble Naples (an hour to the north), it's a handy springboard for regional sightseeing and an ideal home base for the region."


Though Sorrento sits on the Sorrentine Peninsula, it's close to Positano, the island of Capri, Ravello, Amalfi, and the historic ruins of Pompeii, which is only around 17 miles away. It's the perfect area to begin your Amalfi adventure. In fact, you can see Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that erupted in 79 CE and destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum right from the town. That's barely scratching the surface of one of Steves' favorite beach holiday spots. Here's what you need to know before you visit the lovely Sorrento. 

Visiting Sorrento for some shopping

To visit Sorrento, fly into the Naples International Airport and take the 1.5-hour Circumvesuviana train line for under $4 each way (you have to purchase a ticket at the window) or the ferry from Naples' Solo Beverello port for around $17 each way. The ferry is about 40 minutes. That said, Steves calls the travel from Sorrento onto the Amalfi Coast a "bungee jump of a bus ride," saying it "will leave your mouth open and your film exposed." He also says it's incredibly beautiful with the Mediterranean 500 feet below. 


In Sorrento itself, you'll notice that this place is set up for tourists. Steves says, "The Sorrentines have gone out of their way to create a completely safe and relaxed place for tourists to come and spend money. As 90 percent of the town's economy is tourism, everyone seems to speak fluent English and work for the Chamber of Commerce." 

This tourist-friendly place is great for shopping. You can wander down the Corso Italia, a street full of high end shops and fashion, or the side streets that become mazes and alleyways with local crafts. You can also visit the Sedil Dominova, a spot near the town center of Piazza Tasso under a cupola that was once a 15th century spot for nobility to meet up. These days you can see the preserved frescos and purchase pretty ceramics with the region's signature oranges and lemons, or grab a bottle of limoncello to try. 


The beauty and beaches of Sorrento

Sorrento is built into cliffs, so you'll have to take a lift from the harbor to the city for about $2. Once there, visit the center of town, the Piazza Tasso, full of cafes and shops, with places still hopping after night falls. (If someone approaches you while dining with a seemingly free gift or flower, make sure you refuse.) Stop by the Piazza Sant'Antonino where you can find the Chiostro di San Francesco, a 14th century Baroque church. Make sure you explore the charming cloister with its complex arches. You can find art exhibitions there in the summer. Nearby is St. Anthony's Basilica with incredible frescos on the ceiling. Make sure you wander by the Antiche Mura or ruins of the ancient Roman walls around the city. 


There are small volcanic sand beaches near the Marina Piccola where the ferry docks, so you can hit the shore right away. If you go west toward the Marina Grande, you'll find private beach clubs with swimming spots, bars, and places to eat on jetties over the water. It's also worth a visit to Regina Giovanna, which is under two miles from the center of town, near some Roman ruins. You'll pass a shady lagoon, and to the left, you'll find Solara, a swimming spot with flat rocks to lounge on and a private beach club to rent chairs from. Just leave the common myths you've heard about Italy behind and enjoy.