Situated on a terrace overlooking the splendid Amalfi coastline, Sorrento is imbued with charm and echoes of the ancient past. Its position is perfect, affording a stunning panorama of the bay of Naples, but its list of attributes is replete. Parks, villas, orange, lemon and olive groves, picturesque narrow streets and resplendent weather, have ensured a steady stream of visitors to the town throughout the year and over the centuries. The town does suffer irregular building projects, but even this has not greatly overshadowed its rustic sea side town appeal.
The name of the town has its origins in antiquity and derives from a Greek word meaning "Flowing" due to the form of the town which appears to flow over the limestone tuff on which the town stands, defining the edge of the cliffs.
Curving along the coastline, erosion has carved the rock-face over the centuries into the majestic crags which climb to the skyline, forming the world renowned beauty of the Amalfi coast. Its legendary origins derive from the word Siren or Mermaids, mythical feminine creatures with celestial voices and hideous aspect, whose hands and songs lured unsuspecting sailors to the terror of the rocks, breaking their ships and wreaking romantic and tragic havoc.
Sorrento's history is connected to the ancient Island of Lipari, originally colonized in 8 B.C. by Corinthians who, exploring the lands, later settled in neighboring Sorrento. With the arrival of Imperial Rome, Sorrento was allied to the Romans, and to this day, the city centre bears testimony in the classically Roman layout of the streets to the presence of the Empire.
In the Middle Ages Sorrento fell into the hands of the Goths and the Byzantines, but resisted and repelled the advances of the Lombards of Benevento despite a siege. Due to Sorrento's proximity to the sea however, it was often raided and sacked in the 1500's by Pirates and sailors from the Harbor Town of Pisa, which led to the construction of the numerous watch towers along the coast.
Sorrento's charm lies in part in its sun drenched rustic simplicity. Quaint artisan workshops packed together onto a maze of medieval alleys, with the inevitable mix of locals and tourists bustling through the centre. The long shadows cast across uneven cobbled streets from overhanging balconies and terraces which almost meet overhead. Just enough space remains for washing to be strung out to dry Italian style from above, spanning the street in the Italian afternoon sun.