Sorrento, in the Bay of Naples in southern Italy, makes a fantastic base for a holiday. Sorrento itself is beautiful, with lots to see and a wonderful range of restaurants, and there are some truly world-class day trips available from Sorrento.
Here are the eight best, most interesting and most beautiful day trips from Sorrento – which would you choose to take on your trip to Italy?
Sorrento is a brilliant base for visiting the ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii. Visiting Pompeii is an easy day trip from Sorrento, and you can either take an organised tour to get there or catch the Circumvesuviana train from Sorrento’s train station direct to Pompeii.
Pompeii was a bustling Roman town, but it sat in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano. When Vesuvius erupted in AD79, it buried Pompeii under tonnes of volcanic rocks and ash. The town was destroyed and lay under the debris for nearly 2000 years, until excavations began in earnest in the 18th century. Those excavations are still going on today. Pompeii was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and is one of Italy’s most-visited attractions.
Visiting Pompeii is a little like going on a city break back to Roman times. The site is huge, and every level of Roman life is on display – the grand Forum, the bath house, shops, takeaways, nobles’ houses and the brothel. Don’t miss seeing Pompeii when you visit Sorrento.
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2. Amalfi Coast
Ah, Amalfi! The most iconic of all Italian seaside destinations is just the other side of the peninsula where Sorrento sits. Lovely Positano, Praiano, Ravello and the town of Amalfi itself are all easily within reach as day trips from Sorrento.
To visit the Amalfi Coast from Sorrento, you can drive, take a public bus, book a guided tour or take the hop on hop off bus. If you’re on a budget, the hop on hop off bus is a good choice; cheaper than a guided tour or taxi, but you’re more likely to get a good view on your trip along the narrow cliffside roads than on the often-crowded public bus. I’d also really recommend doing at least part of the journey by ferry; we went back to Sorrento from Positano by boat and it was so lovely to see the views from the water.
Like the Amalfi Coast, Capri’s reputation precedes it. A glitzy playground for movie stars and millionaires, the island of Capri’s sun-soaked shores are a short ferry trip from Sorrento.
At the Marina Grande ferry port on Capri, you can take one of Capri’s open-top taxis for a tour of the island, catch a bus to Capri Town or Anacapri, or go on a boat tour around the island and to see the famous Blue Grotto. Capri Town is where you’ll find most of the island’s shops and restaurants, but my favourite thing to do in Capri was to take the chair lift up to the top of Monte Solaro, the highest point on the island. From here there are spectacular views across Capri, the cliffs on this side of the island and the glittering sea.
While Capri is an easy day trip from Sorrento, the most popular ferry times do get booked up quickly, even outside of peak season. When I visited Capri from Sorrento I fell foul of booked-up ferries and we only got an afternoon on Capri rather than the full day we’d planned. To be sure of catching the ferry you want, either get to the port early or consider booking your ticket the day before.
If you enjoyed your day trip to Pompeii from Sorrento, visiting Herculaneum can give you a different perspective on Roman life in this part of Italy. Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was a Roman town that was destroyed when Vesuvius erupted, but as Herculaneum was buried under ash rather than rocks, it’s much better preserved than Pompeii.
Getting to Herculaneum from Sorrento is another easy train trip. The archaeological site is around a 10 minute walk through the centre of modern Ercolano. Herculaneum is much smaller than Pompeii, with far fewer visitors, but the combination of the buildings being better-preserved and the quieter surroundings means it’s very atmospheric.
5. Mount Vesuvius
Wherever you are in the Bay of Naples, it’s impossible to miss Mount Vesuvius. We could clearly see its distinctive cone shape from our hotel balcony in Sorrento, and when you visit Pompeii or Herculaneum, it still looms on the horizon, its broken peak reminding you that it’s still very much an active volcano.
The volcano and the area around it are now a national park, with some great hiking. The most popular hike on Mount Vesuvius is the one that takes you up to the crater, which is still smoking, with a distinctive, sulphurous smell.
The easiest way to get to the crater from Sorrento is to take the Circumvesuviana train to the station in Ercolano (modern day Herculaneum). From there, take the bus up to the upper car park on the side of the volcano. The walk from the car park to the crater will take around 20-30 minutes.
Naples might have a slightly gritty reputation, but get under its skin and there’s a lot to love about this soulful city. There’s also a lot to do, and since Sorrento has a direct train line into the city centre, Naples is one of the best day trips from Sorrento.
If visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum made you want to learn more about the Romans, don’t miss Naples’ National Archaeological Museum, where you can see treasures from both sites.
One of the most famous and popular sights in Naples is underneath the city’s streets. Naples is built on a layer of soft volanic rock which the ancient Greeks began tunnelling in the 4th century BC. The tunnels eventually formed a 280-mile underground network, much of which you can visit today. On a trip underneath Naples you can expect to see Greek tunnels, Roman aqueducts, rainwater reservoirs and catacombs, along with traces of more modern uses of the tunnels, such as when they were used as air raid shelters during World War II.
If you’re visiting Naples, don’t miss tasting an authentic Neapolitan margarita pizza. The most popular place with visitors is no-frills Da Michele, famous from the film Eat Pray Love as being the home of the best pizza in the world. Wherever you eat, look out for the sign saying “Vera Pizza Napolitana” – a mark of pizza excellence.
Capri is just one of the islands in the Bay of Naples, and it isn’t even the largest. That honour belongs to Ischia, a volcanic island 19 miles off the coast of Naples. Ischia is packed with fantastic things to do and deserves much more than a day of your time, but there are some standout attractions.
Castello Aragonese is a medieval fortress, dramatically located on a rocky islet off the north coast of the island. The island was a palace, a prison and a convent; visitors today can see evidence of all its roles. The views from the top across the island are superb.
Ischia’s volcano is dormant now but volcanic activity still continues. Ischia has around 100 hot springs and visitors can enjoy a therapeutic bath at spas and resorts all over the island. My favourite is the Negombo thermal spa, which has 14 pools, a beautiful sandy beach and stunning gardens dotted with modern sculpture.
Visiting Ischia means you can visit one of Italy’s most beautiful gardens. Giardini la Mortella was created out of an old quarry in the 1950s by composer Sir William Walton’s Argentinian wife Susana Walton. The garden is on multiple levels, rising gradually from lush, tropical planting in the valley floor to Mediterranean flowers and fountains at the top of the hill. Both Susana and William have their final resting places in the garden, and their love of music is continued by a foundation which puts on concerts in the garden’s amphitheatre.
In the summer, there are two ferry crossings each way to Ischia from Sorrento, and happily, these are well-timed for day trips from Sorrento. Most ferries to Ischia arrive at Ischia Porto, on the north coast of the island. The main bus station with buses all over the island is just behind the ferry port; if time is tight you can catch a taxi from here too.
Procida is the smallest of the main islands in the Bay of Naples and sits just to the east of Ischia. There are only around 3 ferry crossings to Procida from Sorrento each week, but many ferries between Ischia and Naples stop at Procida, so it’s possible to take the Ischia ferry from Sorrento and change at Ischia for the 15-minute crossing to Procida.
Procida may be small, but it boasts one of the most beautiful views in all of Italy. The 10 minute walk from the ferry port to Marina di Corricella takes you through gorgeous narrow streets, before opening up to the sweep of Marina di Corricella’s lovely bay and the brightly-coloured village houses.