Over three years had passed between my last international flight and it’s surreal to think how much happened during that time period. Three job changes, two moves, the ending of a relationship, the beginning of another relationship, and one devastating loss of a loved one.
So you can imagine how refreshing it was to have a real change of scenery for a few weeks in Italy.
The post-COVID world made it challenging for me to revisit international travel at first.
However, as COVID-19 travel restrictions eased in early 2021, it seemed like every American was visiting Italy. I may have been unreasonably influenced by the Kodak moments posted all over social media—it was impossible to escape the feed of bright, warmly filtered photos of Aperol spritz sunsets over the clear Tyrrhenian Sea.
When my boyfriend told me that we were invited to attend the wedding of one of his Italian cousins in Sorrento, it was a welcome invitation to meet family and experience Italy for the first time. With help from my boyfriend’s cousins, we made our two-week travel itinerary to spend time with relatives in Naples and Sorrento as well as visit Capri and Ischia.
Positano and Amalfi may get the most hype on social media, but Sorrento is a worthy gem on the Amalfi coast. If you’re lucky enough to visit Sorrento, I’ve listed a few recommendations on where to go and what to try.
- What to Eat & Drink in Sorrento and the Campania Region
- Bar & Restaurant Recommendations in Sorrento, Italy
- What to Do in Sorrento
- Where to Stay in Sorrento
- Don’t Forget to Pack…
What to Eat & Drink in Sorrento and the Campania Region
There’s plenty of pizza, pasta, and wine to go around Italy, but there are a few things that you need to try that are specific to Sorrento and the Campania region (including Capri and Ischia):
Seafood, specifically the lobster (astice or aragosta). My boyfriend and I had a lively discussion with the Italian family members when it came to comparing the difference between astice and aragosta, both of which mean lobster in English, but refer to two different shellfish that are in the lobster family (this blog post is helpful to read). If you’re familiar with New England lobster, you’ll notice the differences in size and taste.
Paccheri. This pasta shape is used in many Neopolitan dishes—think rigatoni, but without the ridges and a wider, more tubular form. It’s most likely to be served with seafood (probably astice, as pictured below).
Pictured above and below: Mediterranean lobster with pasta (paccheri con astice) and fruit and lemon gelato dessert from the wedding* at the Grand Hotel Royal in Sorrento
Anything with fresh lemon (limone). The Amalfi coast is known for growing the freshest and most fragrant lemons. Naturally, any food or drink featuring lemons—*coughcough* limoncello, lemon gelato—is bound to be delicious.
Aperol spritz. According to this article, the Aperol spritz originated in Padua, a northern city outside of Venice, but we all know that the cocktail has become widely popular across Italy and throughout the world.
Any white wine from the Campania region. When you ask what wine you should order with dinner, everyone will open the wine list and choose from the Campania selection. If you enjoy dry white wines, you’ll be far from disappointed.
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina. The pasta is baked with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and is typically served in a signature, traditional ceramic dish. Simply delicious.
Bar & Restaurant Recommendations in Sorrento, Italy
Named after Sofia Loren, the legendary Italian screen siren, Donna Sofia has an elevated yet convivial atmosphere that’s perfect for travelers who may be ambivalent at first to trying regional dishes. For a casual cocktail hour or dressed-down nightcap, people watch at Fauno or Bar Syrenuse, both of which are located off of Piazzo Tasso.
If you’re looking to enjoy your Aperol spritz with a sunset view, head to the Bellavista Cocktail Bar on the rooftop of the Grand Hotel la Favorita or walk around the corner to the Imperial Hotel Tramontano‘s lobby bar or the Ristorante Belvedere, which has one of the highly coveted, unblocked seafront views in Sorrento.
The most unique dining experience was O’Parrucchiano La Favorita—you would have no idea from the outside that guests find themselves dining underneath an entire lemon grove inside the restaurant.
What to Do in Sorrento
During the time we had visited, we were slightly limited in what we could do because of unpredictable and intermittent rainstorms. We were able to walk around downtown and shop along Via S. Cesareo and Corso Italia—L’Artigiano Sorrentino for premium leather bags and accessories, Pull Love for basic cashmere styles, and Falconeri for luxury cashmere ready-to-wear. For souvenirs, there are plenty of small businesses that sell limoncello, ceramics, and various homewares and accessories that will travel nicely in checked luggage (as long as it’s properly packed and padded, of course).
Note: If you’re a non-EU resident and spend a certain amount at a retail store (approximately 160 euros), your purchase may qualify for a tax refund. Many stores in Sorrento are familiar with the process and will let you know whether or not your purchase is eligible for the VAT refund. You can learn more about how the VAT refund works on the Global Blue website.
If you have better weather during the season, plan for a beach day at Bagni Regina Giovanna or a day trip to Positano!
Where to Stay in Sorrento
Not only does the Imperial Hotel Tramontano have private beach access and amazing sea views, but it’s conveniently located close to the best shops and restaurants. The IHT also has historical significance in Italian history as the birthplace of the 16th-century poet Torquato Tasso.
For the ultimate Italian experience, book a room with a sea-view balcony and order breakfast to the room at least once. Sip your espresso and take in the sunrise—you won’t regret it.
Don’t Forget to Pack…
A decent beach coverup
A cashmere cardigan or wrap for the evenings
Long-sleeve linen shirts
Comfortable shoes that can survive the steep, cobblestone streets (read: not stilettos)
Electronic converter plugs (for non-EU travelers)
It would be rude to mention my boyfriend’s cousin’s wedding several times throughout this post and not share anything about it.
A and her husband, G, were married at the Chiostro di San Francesco and hosted the reception at the Grand Hotel Royal in Sorrento. Pictures and videos hardly capture how perfect the day was—the dress, the venue, the dishes, the music, the everything. With that being said, it was an iconic moment to witness the newly married couple drive away from the chapel in a fiercely red Alfa Romeo.