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    Italy | Sorrento vs the Amalfi Coast Where to stay?

    Sorrento or the Amalfi Coast – where to stay

    You’ve heard it all before. Beautiful Amalfi and Positano with their picturesque hillsides blanketed with pastel-coloured houses facing the Mediterranean Sea. Then there’s UNESCO World Heritage site Ravello sitting high above the coast.

    And don’t discount the smaller towns along the way. So where should you stay when visiting Italy’s famous coastline? If you’re planning to stay for weeks, don’t head to the popular destinations. If you’re only staying for a week or so and you have money to burn, then Positano is the place to be. If you’re on a budget but still want to be close to the action, Sorrento on the Sorrentine Peninsula is perfect.

    Sorrento is a great base from which you can visit the Amalfi Coast to the south. If walking amongst ancient ruins is more your style, Pompeii is only 27 kilometres north and a 20-minute Circumvesuviana (express) train ride away from Sorrento.

    If you’re not desperate to be part of the Instagram crowd, you’ll find Sorrento is preferred for many reasons, mainly because it’s not as touristy as its Amalfi Coast neighbours. The prices are more palatable too – both accommodation and food-wise.

    If it’s a view you’re after, the ocean view from centrally located bayside Villa Comunale Park (via S. Francesco) is unbeatable; the terrace overlooks the Gulf of Naples with Mt Vesuvius as its backdrop. While you’re there and looking for easy access to the marina below, there’s a lift (1.10 euro per person one way) which is so much better than tackling the never-ending stairs to the harbour below.

    Remember though, if you’re based in Sorrento, you will have to use some form of transport to get to the Amalfi Coast. Bus. Ferry. Taxi. Private car. Nearby Capri is an island – ferry or private boat is the only way.

    Travelling from Sorrento to Positano and/or Amalfi in an overloaded bus along the coastline affords magnificent views, even if the trip is a little on the hair-raising side and glimpsing spectacular vistas can be hampered by the bobbing heads of passengers.  

    Private boat tours are readily available from Sorrento but can be expensive; if you really want to see the necklace of gelati-coloured houses strung across the hilly coastline, the only way is from the sea.

    Tour companies such as Viator charge close to $200 AUD for full-day Capri Island cruises from Positano; you would have to hire a taxi or car or catch the local bus or ferry from Sorrento to Positano. Ferries aren’t always running; the seasons and sea conditions affect the regularity of the services and can make it unpredictable.

    Bus Tour operators, such as Viator, offer various options taking in the Amalfi Coast, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello, from Sorrento. Expect to pay about $156 AUD for an eight to nine hour day. After spending a couple of days travelling to Positano and Amalfi via bus and ferry we chose a Viator Tour so that we could also visit Ravello, about 7 kilometres inland by road from Amalfi. The bus tour certainly removed the tourist traveller’s angst of trying to work out which bus or ferry to take, when and how.

    Do remember, whichever tour you do choose to take you need check that you can disembark at the main towns; some boat tours will take you along the coastline, but they don’t pull into the harbours.

    So, what more should you know about Sorrento? Italy’s southwestern coastal town boasts sweeping water views, plenty of insanely good cafes and restaurants tucked away in narrow alleys, and high-end boutiques in Corso Italia that would make any fashionista green with envy. For the eagle-eyed, wander down the serpentine alley which is parallel to Corso Italia called Via S. Cesareo. It seems to run forever but it does change its name halfway down to Via Fuoro. This retail strip in Sorrento is jam-packed with hole-in-the-wall gelato bars, wine shops, bistros, sellers of leather goods, art, and ceramics. You name it, you’ll find it here.

    So, have I sold you on Sorrento? I hope so. It really is the place to base your time on Italy’s glorious coastline.

    Vicki Montague is a freelance writer with a predilection for travel, European fashion, architecture that oozes history and charm, and objects that tell a story. She and her partner John are empty nesters - their three adult children have left the comforts of home to carve out their own paths in life. Vicki’s professional background is in marketing and public relations.

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