By Antonio Malara
Sorrento was the second stage after Pompeii, of a trip made together with my family in September 2020. Right in the post about Pompeii, I explained how the idea of this articulated trip was born, which made us use Sorrento as a base for visiting both Capri than Positano. In fact, Sorrento was a "makeshift", strategic destination and I personally had underestimated this town which instead turned out to be very interesting in many respects. We arrived in Sorrento before dinner after spending the afternoon in Pompeii. After leaving the car in a parking lot, we walked to our hotel which was right in the center. The first thing I noticed and which made me enormously happy was the fact that a few steps away from the car park, a roundabout served as a watershed between the historic center area which was pedestrianized and the residential part of the city. After a while I realized that basically the main part of Sorrento was totally closed to cars, something that for me is the added value of any city. After putting down our luggage at the hotel, my sister and I went to find a place to have dinner, there was plenty of choice and that evening I immediately noticed a nuance of the city that reminded me a lot of the late nineties. The restaurants were full of young people, boys and girls in their twenties, with impeccable care in dressing and with the joy of those who want to look a little older than their age. That was a very popular style of the nineties, where there was still a little more personality and among young people, dressing up to go out to dinner was a way to show one's independence and maturity.
What I didn't know about Sorrento was that the city developed on two levels, one low over the sea and the other at the top, essentially a plateau close to the sea. I had always had the belief that the city developed only on the sea and instead it was not like that. However, I discovered that the peculiarity of Sorrento was just this, a bit like Tropea in my region, the city had a historic center with spectacular views over the sea and the lower part which developed mainly around the tourist port, where in addition to the fast ferries and private boats, there were also luxurious hotels, restaurants and bathing facilities. The upper part of the city was connected to the port by a series of stairways, very characteristic and not so steep. There was a point before taking one of these stairs down which had a wonderful view over "Golfo di Napoli" with Vesuvius silhouetted in the center of the landscape. Piazza Tasso, dedicated to the famous Italian poet, was full of restaurants and very crowded with people, above all I noticed that the people in Sorrento were very polite, elegant so the multitude of people did not create disorder. From Piazza Tasso began Corso Italia, the main street of the city, a stone-paved shopping street where two structures mainly struck me. One was a two-level building it looked a little bit like colonial style, yellow with red elements, with columns on the ground floor and a balcony where the style recalled the columns and the first floor remained more internal than the ground floor. Right next to this building was the clock tower, this one had a very original somewhat pyramidal style where the base was formed in arches and then the three towers higher up, gradually smaller, were of a different design. Even the colors were different where the brown and white of the base gave way to a predominance of yellow and red. The clock was positioned on the penultimate stage of the structure and was white and blue. Another beautiful building on that street was "Villa Fiorentino", all white and on three levels, reminiscent of a Hollywood villa from the early years. Still on that street but with a side access, there was the cathedral, a work that didn't strike me that much.
All the parallels and the streets that intersected with Corso Italia were very narrow and characteristic, it counts many shops that, by displaying their products on the street, increased the beauty of it because they gave more color. In the lower parallel of Corso Italia I saw another interesting structure, it was a small Pantheon, a niche called "Sedil Dominova" this place was full of frescoes and according to what they told me there, in ancient times it was once a meeting point for nobles. Today it’s a kind private club, a meeting place for elderly people. Honestly, when I saw that building I immediately had the impression of a work out of context, something that has nothing to do with the rest of the surrounding buildings and architecture. It certainly belonged to a very ancient historical era but I have to ask how is it possible that only one structure from a certain era remains intact and the others from the same period disappear? I have seen something similar in Florence but much larger in size, however the historical reconstructions of buildings made by experts always leave me perplexed and I prefer to trust my sensations and my instincts.
The beauty of Sorrento was just walking in those alleys surrounded by very small but functional shops, in the midst of people who by some divine miracle were kind, elegant and distinguished. A courteous city, where there was great satisfaction even during lunch or dinner which, as per tradition, were always exquisite and quality moments. This city, very popular also thanks to the famous song, was not only a strategic tourist point from where you could explore the most famous islands, but it was itself a small jewel with its own personality. I liked Sorrento a lot for this, a city that I discovered and of which I had a vague and erroneous idea, a small pearl to visit and enjoy without haste and giving the city the right attention and enjoying it in the simple things of which the city is full of.
Pictures: Antonio Malara
Camera: Fujifilm XT-3