Sorrento (tours to Capri or Pompeii), Italy cruises

Sorrento is a west-coast clifftop town in Italy’s Campania region, offering stunning views towards the Isle of Capri and along the coast to Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano in mainland Europe.

The sun-kissed resort has an impressive cathedral, while the colorful houses, restaurants and churches seem to pile on top of each other towards the blue, cloudless sky.

You can learn much about the Mediterranean from a stop in Sorrento. Raided and ruled by every power throughout history – Greeks, Etruscans, Normans – the height of this city seemed to prove more of a gauntlet than an obstacle. Invading Turks destroyed the original cathedral which was rebuilt in the 16th Century. Today you can visit the crypt of Sorrento’s patron saint, St. Antonio, underneath the Basilica. Long ago, the Romans named this region “Campania Felix,” meaning fertile land. It remains one of Italy’s major producers of walnuts, hazelnuts, cherries, figs, apricots and tomatoes – ingredients used in the delicious local cuisine you can savor on this part of your cruise.

At almost any time of the year, you’ll find a festival going on in Sorrento. The Italians love an excuse for a party and here they celebrate food in the form of the annual grape, sardine and sausage festivals. It’s a thrill to hear the local songs and folklore, performed alongside the Tarantella gypsy dance to violins. There are antiques fairs, sailing regattas, Saints’ feast days and parades with fireworks. There is a jazz festival and a classical music festival too. Just ask what’s on when you arrive on your Mediterranean cruise and you’ll soon be joining the fun.

There’s a great variety of well-reputed family run restaurants and trattorias to choose from with tiled terraces hung with trailing grapevines. Many are members of the slow food movement and will want to showcase the best of their local produce, skillfully prepared and beautifully presented. The small harbor at Marina Grande is the place for seafood lovers with local fishermen running many of the eateries and food stalls.

Sorrento’s famous son, the poet Torquato Tasso, born here in 1544, is one of the many poets and writers associated with Sorrento. Keats, Byron and Dickens all came here for sun and creative inspiration. Piazzo Tasso overlooks the deep gorge that divides the town in half. Join the locals in their favorite pastime, an evening stroll in the Palazzo Correale gardens. Buy a unique handmade souvenir in one of the Sorrentine marquetry shops filled with delicate and innovative designs on wood by local artisans, old and new.