Every year, tourists flock to Sorrento on the fabled Amalfi coast like the seagulls swooping overhead and as the sun rises to polish a lazy morning sky, those same tourists rise languidly too, breakfasting in cafes and at hotels, often under Sorrento’s fragrant lemon or orange trees.
We’re staying at Hotel Leone, an unassuming establishment that’s fresh, clean, a short walk to everything and most importantly, comes with parking. A healthy breakfast, offered with the tariff and taken in the shady courtyard, doesn’t come with a water view but those vistas are just a short stroll down cobblestone lane ways lined with cafes, restaurants and boutiques. It’s a shopping and eating mecca although most places offer little apart from pasta and pizza on the piazza. Still, this is Italy!
Sunset Over Sorrento
The drive from Naples to Sorrento gives a tantalising taste of sweeping vistas and tiny coves. We’ve arrived in time for our first Sorrento sunset and join the happy throng hanging over the cliff-face balcony as the sun sizzles into the Gulf of Salerno.
The streets quickly fill with tourists of all ages, many from UK and USA, and the hunt for dinner begins. We’re still in discovery mode and wander the labyrinthine lanes until we find ReFood restaurant where host Giuseppe Savarese promises home-grown produce straight from his farm. He doesn’t disappoint. From the complimentary splash of Proseco and seafood amouse bouche to clam pasta and veal escalopes cooked with local walnuts and provolone cheese, it’s absolutely delicious.
Pay to Play
Next morning, we take the winding path cut into the cliff-face that zig-zags down to the beachfront and port. Now, it’s difficult to sell beaches to Australians – we have some of the best – and what’s more, they’re free! Here the beach is black volcanic sand and you pay to play. Leonellis, who’s had beach access since 1915, charge E12 for entrance and sunbed; E9 for entrance and deckchair or E5 for beach umbrella while a cabin for 4 people will set you back E20. Leonellisbeach.com Still the customers keep coming, shading themselves under a sea of blue and white umbrellas and swimming in decidedly fresh water.
Evenings and early mornings are always the best times to explore somewhere new and by 7pm, Sorrento is all but deserted. Furled umbrellas, raked sand, sea cast in a bronze light from the setting sun, seagulls circle and swoop and motor craft send a wake of aquatic plumes. There’s the ever-present throb of accelerating motorbikes and scooters driven by young men – testerone on wheels – peeling church bells and sweet birdsong.
A Class Act
Our table on the terrace at Terrazza Marziale, widely spaced for privacy, is set under blossoming orange trees. Red rose petals are scattered on white linen, a candle encased in glass and a small silver vase holds freshly cut white and green carnations. Cream linen napkins are embroidered with an ancient family crest in emerald green with matching glass plates and handsomely engraved menus and wine carte. It’s class personified yet prices are most reasonable, service is polished and attentive all under direction of Angela, the family matriarch.
Angela’s family originally built Il Palazzo Marziale Di Sorrento in 1492 but much was lost in the earthquake of 1980 when ten people perished. Lovingly and faithfully rebuilt by the family, the palazzo is now a stunning small hotel of 11 rooms and a fine dining restaurant. As the light fades, dinner on the terrace promises to be a magical experience.
First an appetiser of carpaccio of tuna is delivered on a crunchy wafer of bread infused with ink from cuttlefish, delicately accessorised with micro herbs. This is followed by a lightly crumbed striped sea bass that sits pertly on fingerling potatoes doused in a delicate sauce. Robert’s crumbed calamari and artichokes is served with an orb of burnt orange containing a soy and orange dipping sauce. A tiny palate cleanser of lime gelatine sorbet is followed by trio of sorbets embellished with a fresh nectarine fan – the perfect ending.
Hotel Leone Sorrento offers spacious rooms and an excellent breakfast with an abundance of fresh fruits, cereals, juices, local cakes and breads all enjoyed in shady courtyard.www.hotelleone.com
To stay at Palazzo Marziale or book a table for dinner go to www.terrazzamarziale.com
Refood restaurant is on Via P R Guiliani n.30 and Via dell’Accademia n.10 in Sorrento www.refoods.it
For tourism information go to www.sorrentotourism.com
July is a great month to visit with most of Sorrento’s churches hosting the chamber music festival and squeeze in a visit to see exhibitions at the beautiful Cloisters when it’s not hosting weddings for foreign visitors…
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