We chose Sorrento, Italy as our base for our last week in continental Europe. The Schengen Agreement, which eliminated border checks in most European Union countries, also limits stays to 90 consecutive days (unless special visas are obtained). We arrived in Sorrento on day 83 of our allotted 90 days, so we had only one more week before we’d have to leave the continent for at least three months. We’d be heading next to London and then Ireland, neither of which are parties to the Schengen Agreement.
We could not have chosen a better place to spend that last week. What an interesting and beautiful part of the world this is! Dramatic landscapes tower over the vivid blue of the Mediterranean Sea. Nearby are the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum, preserved for centuries by the ash and pumice of Mount Vesuvius. The most precious of the art and artifacts recovered from those towns lie in a museum in nearby Naples. Less well known but just as remarkable in its own way is Paestum, an ancient outpost of the Greek Empire, with well-preserved temples and ruins that equal anything found in Greece itself. We’ll visit those ancient treasures in our next post.
In Sorrento and on the Amalfi Coast, I found some of the most stunning views yet captured on this trip. Click on a photo to view it larger, and then use your back button to return to the blog.
Our AirBnB host met us at the train station and drove us to our Sorrento apartment. After the train trip from Rome to Naples, we had taken the standing-room-only Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento.
Il limoneto di Laura, as the apartment is called, is a lovely place nestled amid one of the many small citrus groves of the city.
The scents of the blossoms were lovely and the fruit was ripe and delicious. Our host makes and sells bottles of limoncello, a delicious liqueur and local specialty. We enjoyed more than one bottle!
We set out to explore the town on foot. The first thing we learned was that pedestrians had to be careful on the narrow roads!
I wasn’t sure if these symbols painted on the side of the road were to mark the narrow pedestrian lanes, or to mark the spots where pedestrians had fallen victim to the traffic!
Roadside shrines also invite pedestrians to contemplate the hereafter….
Sorrento is built on sheer cliffs and crevasses, making it a multi-level town.
This view looks straight down from a walkway hundreds of feet above the shoreline.
Old abandoned caves built into cliffsides can be seen in several locations.
The ruins of an old flour mill lie hundreds of feet below the road in a prehistoric crevasse that was created by a volcano. It is known as the Valley of the Mills.
At night the ruins are lit from within, giving tourists an eerie view of the past.
Sorrento lies on the Bay of Naples, with the unmistakable cone of Mount Vesuvius in the distance.
Ancient archways and steps lead from the high part of town down to the shore.
The sea is a big part of life in Sorrento.
The views across the Bay of Naples are stunning.
The Amalfi Coast
No trip to this area is complete without taking a bus or taxi ride along the Amalfi Coast. One could rent a car and drive it, but only if one were crazy or suicidal.
Click this photo for a short video captured aboard the bus during the ride along the narrow, cliffside road above the Amalfi Coast.
Bus drivers on the Amalfi Coast are a special breed, able to pilot their massive vehicles around improbably tight curves.
Sometimes they had to exit the bus and direct traffic to unblock the frequent jams.
The views from the bus are spectacular. Travel tip: Grab a seat on the right side for the trip from Sorrento to Amalfi, then on the left side for the return trip. It’s SOPH (starboard out, port home), the opposite of POSH (port out, starboard home.)
The bus makes a stop in Positano. You can get off, explore the town, then get back on a later bus to continue the trip down the coast.
Positano is a pedestrian-only town. Narrow streets, lined with shops and restaurants, snake down to the beach far below.
Positano offers breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. (No, I couldn’t limit myself to just one shot of this incredible beauty.)
Along the coast are defensive towers built to watch for Saracen pirates who raided this area centuries ago. Fires were built on the flat tops of the towers to warn the next community along the way.
Amalfi town itself is delightful. Saint Andrew’s Cathedral (Duomo) overlooks the Piazza Duomo in the heart of Amalfi. The cathedral dates to the 11th century.
Old alleyways and staircases beckoned us to explore. We bought some gelato and relaxed a bit before catching the bus back to Sorrento.
Sarah’s birthday happened to fall on our last full day in Sorrento. I had fun shopping for flowers and Italian-language birthday cards. We had dinner in one of Sorrento’s sidewalk cafes.
Sarah was not happy when I tried to sneak a photo of her eating pasta….
She got her revenge. She took one of me after I’d had more than my share of wine!
It was a lovely evening in Sorrento.
While in Sorrento we took side trips to Naples, Pompeii, and Paestum. We’ll share those adventures next time. Ciao, for now!