So after being woken by the fog cannon that went off every half hour to celebrate St Anne’s name day, we got taken on a free walk around Sorrento by the Thomson rep. Actually it was more of a wander around their preferred retailers, but there were free drinks involved, so off we went. Taking our lives in our hands we crossed the Via del Capo outside the hotel, to the side of the road that actually had some pavement and carried on downhill, until we arrived in Sorrento’s main street, the Corso Italia. The Corso is where you will find all the flash shops are, along with loads of ice cream parlours, restaurants and even a peaceful lemon grove.
It’s also where the locals go arrayed in all their pomp to passeggiata after dinner, when the Corso is pedestrianised.
After a brief snifter at O Parrucchiano – the birthplace of cannelloni (more on that later) we were led towards the city walls.
Originally built by the Greeks who settled in this part of Italy during the seventh century BC, then rebuilt by the Romans, the present walls were engineered by the Spanish, to keep Saracen pirates out, during Spain’s rule of Naples in the 16th Century. Taking the brief walk along the top of the conserved walls is great at night, when it is lit up with flaming torches and best of all – it’s free. Close to the Wall is the Parco Ibsen. Suzy, our rep, proudly showed us the Thomson information desk and a furniture shop, but neglected to mention the Norwegian playwright that it’s named after. Ibsen stayed in the nearby Hotel Tramotano, where he wrote parts of Ghosts (1867) and Peer Gynt (1881).
Sorrento is famous for its lemons
which get made into stuff like soap, confectionery and the region’s local drink Limocello. In the oldest part of town, known as “The Drains“, because it’s where the rich people’s sewage used to flow through on it’s way to the sea, we got to sample some at one of the many shops that specialise in all things lemony.
If I ever wondered what lemon scented toilet duck would taste like I think I now know. There is also a cream version which tastes as I imagine lemon scented Jif would. The Drains are a regular rabbit warren of little alleys, full of shops (mostly full of tat) , restaurants, bars and little churches.
One of the larger churches we were shown is dedicated to Sorrento’s patron saint, St Antonino.
He reputedly rescued a child that was being eaten by a whale, by killing it (the whale not the child). The whale on the statue looks like a dolphin to me, but the church has the alleged whale’s jaw bone nailed to the external wall and I’d say it must have been a much bigger creature, the sort that eats tiny fish and krill, but not children.
We found this charming fresco of the event, above the door of one of the nearby apartment buildings.
Personally I think there is a touch of the mythical hero about this, with the saint taking on the role of a former pagan demi-god like Heracles. Close by is another church, this time dedicated to St Francis. It has really gorgeous cloisters that are popular for weddings and classical recitals.
I could not help but notice the offering room, where believers could buy votive objects to leave in the church – much the same as in pagan times so nothing changes.
Our final stop was the Foreigner’s Club, overlooking the sea. Very useful place this as it has a free public loo and an information centre. The Foreigner’s Club was used by British and American soldiers during World War I, hence the name. at this point Suzy left us to our own devices so we high tailed it back to O Parrucchiano to try some of that cannelloni, but that is another story.