History of Sorrento, Italy

Sorrento is a coastal town that sits above the bay of Naples in south-western Italy. It’s a beautiful location and a popular stop on any Italian vacation.

Situated high up on the cliffs, Sorrento gives wonderful views out towards the bay and to Mount Vesuvius. As well as being a lovely town in its own right, it’s also a great location from which to tour the other highlights of the area; Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast, the Sorrentine peninsula and the Island of Capri – all favoured Italian vacation destinations.

I am Paulo Delfini – president and third generation owner of Carrani Tours. Together with our partner Ciao Italy we make Ciao Italy & Carrani Tours. We have been helping people to experience all that Italy has to offer for 90 years and there are few places as captivating as Sorrento. Many civilisations have called this their home over time, and many artists and writers have spent time here – such is the beauty of the region. Let me tell you a little of the history of Sorrento Italy.

Sorrento and the Sirens

The earliest history of Sorrento Italy shows that the town took its name from the Sirens – which were mythical creatures of the sea that were said to seduce sailors with their lovely voices and then lead them to their demise. There were three sirens – daughters of Achelous and their names were Ligeia, Leucosia and Partenope. They were said to enchant passing sailors until they were submerged. Today you can see remains of the Temple of Minerva, which was built by Ulysses as a token of thanks to the goddess for passing unharmed through the waters. He did take extreme measures to avoid the temptations of the sirens – since he plugged his ears full of wax so he would not hear them and was tied to the mast of his ship.

The founding of Sorrento

A Greek historian named Siculus studying the history of Sorrento determined that Liporos, son of King Ausone and grandson of Ulysses founded Sorrento. They were connected to one of the most ancient ethnic tribes in the area. Prior to the Roman age, Sorrento was home to the Greeks between 474 and 420 BC. Elements of their influence are still visible today. After this period, Sorrento fell under the Roman influence, however the town did rebel in the social war but it was defeated and conquered once more.

Mount Vesuvius

When Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD, it destroyed Pompeii and the surrounding towns of Herculaneum and Stabia. Sorrento was very badly affected by the earthquake caused by the eruption. There is an inscription dating from 80AD, which points to the Roman influence on the town – it shows that Titus restored the clock of the town after the original was destroyed.

The Romans and Sorrento – the early holiday resort

The history of Sorrento Italy shows that tourism of a sort has always played a large part in its life. Sorrento became a popular holiday destination with the Romans in the Imperial age. And it was here they spent the summer months and their leisure time. It was their favoured Italian holiday destination. It was here they built their beautiful and palatial villas by the sea, or established farms for the production of oil and wine.

After the fall of Rome

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the history of Sorrento shows it entered into a period of unrest. It first came under the control of the Byzantium Empire in the east. From this point on it was passed from one group to another, hence it has been influenced by several civilisations. After Rome fell, the Lombards besieged Sorrento, unsuccessfully. As the influence of the Byzantium age faded it became an autonomous Duchy in the 9th Century.

Sorrento passed back and forth from Lombard hands before it was annexed into the Kingdom of Sicily in 1137. Then midway through the 16th Century it was impacted in the fight between the Turks and Spain, which controlled much of southern Italy at the time. Given its position next to the sea, Sorrento was often the focus of sieges and raids – this led to the construction of many city walls to fortify the city. The work was completed in 1567.

Revolt against Spanish domination

In 1648 a riot broke out against the Spanish. Giovanni Grillo led a coup against the government of Sorrento who were loyal to Spain.

The Grand Tour

In the 19th Century saw Sorrento join the Kingdom of Italy and from here its role in the country’s tourism trade began to grow further. Wealthy and influential visitors – just like they had done during the Imperial age regularly frequented it. Sorrento became included in what was known as the ‘Grand Tour’, the ultimate in Italian holidays or tours of Italy. The Grand Tour of Italy was a journey, which took in all the main Italian sights, that noble sons did to complete their cultural education. This perhaps why names like Byron, Keats, Wagner Nitszche, Dickens and Ibsen all came to Sorrento to stay – in the home town of Torquato Tasso, one of Italy’s greatest poets.

Sorrento remains as charming today – with its medieval streets and alleyways, which help to retain its simplicity. It’s a beautiful stop on any Italian vacation. You can sense its history as you explore. Ciao Italy & Carrani Tours creates perfect Italian travel itineraries for the lowest prices. You can build your own tour of Italy and take in the sights of Sorrento with our independent tours option and escorted tours. Or, you can explore the surrounding area of Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast with our help. From sight seeing tours to Italian vacation packages, we will help you make the most of your trip.

If you would like more information like this introduction to the history of Sorrento, or travel tips for Italy and information about tours in Italy or Italian vacations please do visit us at ciaoitalytours.com We always say that with us, your Italian tour or Italian vacations will be one you’ll never forget.



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