Sorrento, a town that's practically a terrace on the sea, and where it's easy to linger

October 4, 2018
Luciano Pavarotti passionately belted out "Torna a Surriento" for many an audience. But even without the extraordinary tenor talent of the late Italian opera super-star it's easy to become passionate about and inspired by Sorrento, a town perched above the Gulf of Naples at the north with spectacular views of Mount Vesuvius and perfumed by the scent of its orange and lemon trees.

Think of this welcoming town as a virtually one big terrace on the sea, a place that invites lingering and relaxation.

The 19th'-century crowd-pleasing song''s title means "Come back to Sorrento,'' referring to the town by its name in Neapolitan dialect. Its opening words speak of the its beautiful sea views and how they inspire so much feeling.

Many of those who have visited do return, and even stay.

A sizable community of expats, notably Britons, live full-time or much of the year in Sorrento, appreciating its sweet climate, relaxing vibes, breathtaking panoramas and convenient transportation by boat or bus for day-trips to Positano, Amalfi, Praiano and other sea towns along the Amalfi Coast.

Sorrento also is an easy departure place for day trips to Capri. It's a wonderful base for a getaway to Naples, but after a day's sightseeing in that chaotic metropolis, or a side-trip in fascinating but dusty Pompeii, one can come home to Sorrento for the evening, kick back and drink in the sunset.

Speaking of drinks, Sorrento's the place to sip a limoncello. The lemons of Sorrento have medium-thick peel and rind and of considerable weight -- one lemon cannot rarely weight a good four ounces. They are prized so much that Italy's agriculture authorities have granted them a special denomination only available to the lemons grown in Sorrento, as well as a few nearby towns on the Sorrento Peninsula and on the island of Capri.

Among the local sweets made with is a ''baba' al limone,'' a twist on the more known ''baba' a rhum." Lemons also find their way into delicate fish sauces for pasta.

Stroll down Sorrento's streets and wander into shops selling limoncello in bottles of various shapes and sizes, some looking more like works of arts. Sample a thimble-sized serving before deciding which to buy or to order that night after dinner.

Italians are fiercely proud of their limoncello. Many in the south brew their own, from lemons grown in their own gardens, and families cherish their recipes.

The lure of Sorrento seems timeless. The favorable climate and beautiful setting made it popular with ancient Romans.

Sorrento's beauty is also the stuff of myths, literally. The town is linked to the mythical Sirens, mermaids who, with their sweet song, charmed ancient mariners on ships passing along the coast. Odysseus had himself tied tightly to his ship's mast, so he wouldn't succumb to the Sirens' fatal call.

Today, one can succumb to the seduction of Sorrento's beauty without a care, on lounge chair on an apartment balcony balcony overlooking the sea or at a seaside cafe table. Sorrento’s atmosphere is picturesque and inspirational to the point of poetic. Among the notables who holidayed in the town are Keats and Byron.