On to Sorrento

This morning I took a ferry from Naples to Sorrento. Ah, life at sea. Well, considerably shorter than life, thankfully. The thought of a sea cruise longer than a few hours appalls me.

The ferry ride was uneventful, taking only 45 minutes. The train would have taken longer, about an hour and ten minutes according to its schedule, as it has to travel around the bay, not across it.

And the train makes a lot of stops. (It’s the same train I took to Herculaneum and Pompeii the other day. And those aren’t its only stops.) On the other hand, Sorrento was the ferry’s first stop after Naples.

The sea was not angry today. Maybe a little vexed, but whom among us isn’t these days with all that’s going on in the world? The journey was a bit rocky, but not bad.

A hazy Mount Vesuvius remained visible out the window throughout most of the passage. I said a little prayer to the volcano god, asking that Vesuvius remain at rest. Obviously, I’m not serious about that. I said a large, nay, gigantic prayer to the volcano god. And it’s important that you repeat your prayers because the gods can be inattentive and forgetful.

Unlike Rome and Naples, I’d never been to Sorrento before today. So this is something new for me. It’s a good thing that unfamiliar experiences don’t make me nervous. (Gulp.)

According to the couple of guidebooks I have with sections on Sorrento, there’s not a lot to “do” here. It’s just supposed to be a pretty, relaxing city by the sea that’s pleasant to stroll through. I have three full days here, plus the more-than-half-day today. I plan a day and a half of strolling, relaxing, eating, and taking in the few sights. Don’t expect long journal entries on those days. We’ll see how it goes.

Then again, I’ve already padded this one—the half day—a bit, so it may turn out long by the time I’ve finished writing it. And because I didn’t have a full day in Sorrento today, I’ll post only one journal entry for today as opposed to my usual two-a-day, which will likely add to the length of this one.

So you’ll probably have only one day’s worth of short journal entries out of Sorrento. Sorry about that. You’ll just have to plow through them. Or, like 99-point-an-almost-infinite-number-of-nines percent of the world’s population, you can not read them at all. It’s up to you. I have no power over you or anyone else other than me. And often not even me. My anxieties control me.

What about the other two days? I’ve already booked a day trip out of Sorrento for tomorrow. Stay tuned for that. And I have tentative plans in my head for another day trip, one that doesn’t require pre-booking. (I mentioned it in yesterday afternoon’s post, so go back to that if you want a spoiler.)

But, here I am. Obviously, I arrived at the port because it’s a trifle difficult for ferries to plow up streets. Particularly here.

Sorrento’s port pretty much abuts a cliff. There’s only a small band of land at sea level. That bit of near-sea-level terra firma has a few buildings, including ferry ticket offices, on it. The town is on top of the cliff, with a winding road and a set of stairs leading up to it.

There’s also an elevator that goes between the two levels for a small fee.

My hotel is a bit on the other side of central Sorrento from the sea. I took a taxi. Needless to say, it used the road.

Mountains form a backdrop behind Sorrento. It’s all quite beautiful.

Strolling Sorrento

I arrived at my hotel at around 11:00. My room wasn’t ready yet, so I checked my luggage and followed the advice of one of my guidebooks. I went for a stroll through Sorrento.

Sorrento is a fetching town, a lot cleaner than Naples, but no less packed with people. I’m sure there are far fewer people here, but they are compressed into a much smaller area.

The buildings in central Sorrento are low-rise. I don’t think I saw any higher than four storeys. Many of them wear a pastel colour, different colours on different buildings.

A large section of the main shopping street is pedestrianized. And pedestrians made very abundant use of it today. Much of the street is lined with orange trees with what appeared to be fully ripe fruit when I walked by.

The street leads into a large square, in which there was a puppet show happening when I passed by. Two puppets were yammering in Italian. Or possibly it was the hidden puppeteers, not the puppets, who were doing the yammering. Whatever, I don’t speak Italian so I didn’t pause long.

My stroll took me by the Lemon Grove Garden. It’s a tiny park that seems to be mostly a commercial venture. Entry is free, but to get into the garden you have to pass a small shop selling lemon-based products.

The park includes a small area replete with trees bearing mostly lemons, as well as some oranges. But the few steps up to that section were blocked off. What was open was a very short walkway beside that section. Lemon trees abut the short path. The lemons are ripe at this time of year. Either that or they’re fake and glued onto the trees. I didn’t look close enough to be sure. But I think they’re real.

My guidebook tells me there’s an orange tree in the garden with lemon branches grafted onto it so both fruit grow on the same tree. I imagine it’s in the section I couldn’t get into. The open walkway is right beside that section, with nothing blocking my view. But there are a number of trees. From where I stood I couldn’t see if any of the lemons and oranges grew on the same tree.

Update: In the midst of writing this, I did a web search and found a website that might be for the same place. If so, they have a whole lemon grove behind the park that the public can tour for a fee. A 45 minute tour is 30 euros.

The tours don’t run Mondays (today is Monday), which might explain why that area was closed today. But at 30 euros for a 45 minute tour, I don’t think I’ll go even when it’s open during my visit. And to make sure I don’t go, the website wouldn’t let me book for just one person—only for two through 20 people. I’m only one person. I’m not paying 60 euros for just me.

Just as an aside, lemons are a big deal in Sorrento. This is the birthplace of limoncello. I haven’t had any limoncello on this trip yet, but it’s possible my dinner might require and after-dinner digestivo. I’d have a pre-dinner limoncello, but I wouldn’t yet have anything to digest, so I don’t know if it would be legal.

I don’t normally write about dinners in this journal because I’m usually too tired by then. But I might insert a quick note before hitting the “publish” button to let you know if I did indeed have a limoncello. I know you’re dying to find out. Or maybe you’re not. How would I know? You be you.

Continuing with my amble, I passed the Basilica di Sant’Antonio Abate. I couldn’t find any information on it in my guidebooks, but I ducked inside. It’s quite charming and tastefully decorated, A painting fills most of the ceiling and oval-shaped paintings are over the columns between the arches.

After walking some more, I found a terrace with panoramic views that look out along the coast, out to sea, and down to the port. What a prepossessing place Sorrento is.


By then, it was time for a leisurely lunch. I found a nice restaurant with outdoor tables facing a not-excessively-crowded lane. There, I had a spaghetti dish with a flavourful sauce, tasty monkfish, and even tastier mushrooms. Yum, yum, yum.

I washed it down with some sparkling water and, of course, a glass of wine. An espresso put a nice cap on the meal.

After enjoying more than an hour over lunch, it was time to continue my saunter through Sorrento.

More Sorrento Sauntering

Before lunch, the charm of Sorrento relaxed me. After lunch, and particularly after the glass of wine, I was even more mellow despite the continuing crowds.

I came across and walked along a pedestrianized shopping laneway. Holding up my phone as high as I could, pointing its camera down the passage, and snapping a picture I could tell it is a very picturesque lane. From my eye-level it was a slow moving, thick river of backs of heads in front of me and another slow moving, thick river of faces to the immediate left of me.

Tall people have advantages of which I can only dream.

The small shops on either side of the lane sold leather goods, clothes, luggage, handbags, fruits and vegetables, other foodstuffs, and knickknacks.

By the way, after experiencing the lane crowd, I did a web search. Easter Monday (today) is a national holiday in Italy. That might explain the hordes. Hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy a less crowded Sorrento for the rest of my stay here. We’ll see.

Whoa! After typing the preceding words I flashed back to a trip two years ago. I met up with an avid reader of this journal in Rapallo, Italy on the Ligurian coast. We went to the beautiful nearby town of Camogli. The previous paragraph brought back a memory of that because I recalled that that too was on Easter Monday, and Comogli was also swarming with people then.

After successfully making my way through the thronged lane, I walked with purpose to the Chiesa e Chiostro di (Church and Cloister of) San Francesco, which was recommended in one of my guidebooks. It is an attractive church, again simply decorated.

A lemony-orange colour dominates the ceiling and walls. Lemony-orange seems appropriate for Sorrento.

The said cloister is beside the church. When I visited it, there was a small exhibition of photographs and crafts against the walls of the cloister. Incense smoke poured out of a pot at the centre of the cloister’s courtyard. Chanting (I think recorded) spilled loudly out of an open window of a room beside the cloister.

Another room off the cloister had a collection of books and a display of religious crafts. Yet another room had an exhibit of a very large number of mostly black-and-white photographs from around Italy taken by a photographer from Sorrento. (Many were in trays to be flipped through.)

The photographer’s intent was to capture aspects of traditional Italian life in all of the pictures. Each provided the date and location of the shot.

Unexpected, it was.

I decided to just ramble randomly for the rest of the afternoon.

Don’t say it. I know what you’re thinking. “But, Joel, randomly rambling is what you do regularly in this journal.”

Don’t be so snarky. I meant rambling through the streets, not the rambling rhetoric in my writing.

There are a few other sights in Sorrento that one of my guidebooks recommends, but I still have one unplanned day here. I decided to save them for then.

In my sauntering after the church and cloister, I did my best to stay as far off the beaten track as I could. I managed to stumble on some little-used, but very charming streets and lanes. They didn’t have many stores or other attractions to draw people, which, I imagine, is why they were almost empty.

That was fine with me. I thoroughly hate shopping and don’t much enjoy window shopping. I live in a condo and I’m not allowed to install my own windows. So residential streets suited me well at that point. I appreciated strolling along them and absorbing the ambience and architecture.

I’m sure absorbing ambience and architecture is why I’m probably gaining weight on this trip. There’s no way to wring out what you absorb.

Or it may be the food and alcohol. I don’t know.

And with that, it was time to head back to the hotel and claim my ready room, in which my luggage had already been deposited.

Quick Note: Yes, I did indeed have limoncello after dinner. It’s been a few years since I’d last had limoncello. I’d forgotten how delicious it is. And how potent it is. It’s now less than an hour since I finished dinner, but I’m sure it’s fully digested by now thanks to my digestivo. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.


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