Set on a cliff overlooking the Gulf of Naples, Sorrento has long attracted travelers to come admire the beauty of its coastline – and wonders of its cuisine. From the ancient Romans living in Pompeii to modern-day travelers, it’s a city that honed its sense of hospitality and “accoglienza” over thousands of years and today makes the perfect base for exploring the region.
Caseificio De Gennaro, an artisanal cheese manufacturer in the hills above Vico Equense, is a great place to kick off your journey on the Sorrentine Peninsula with a taste of the region’s renowned Provolone del Monaco (a PDO, protected designation of origin product). This aged, cow-milk cheese is sweet and slightly piquant, often served atop Sorrento’s famous Pasta e Patate and Spaghetti alla Nerano. Established in 1860, the Caseificio is a time-capsule where you can learn about the evolution of cheesemaking on the coast: its museum features historic artifacts, family mementos and a cellar where the Provolone is still aged for 6-12 months. Only 1,500 of these cheeses are produced each year but the fior di latte mozzarella and caciotta with fennel seeds and peperoncino are excellent as well.
A short drive north of Vico Equense lies the Nonna Rosa Cooking School set within a country villa that overlooks Mount Vesuvius and the coastline. Established by Michelin-starred chef Peppe Guida (a personality who makes frequent appearances on Italian television), the school is a tribute to his mother Rosa and designed as an “epicurean retreat” with lush flowers, vegetable garden, industrial kitchen and bed & breakfast for overnight stays. Learn how to make classic Neapolitan dishes like eggplant parmigiana, potato gnocchi and meatballs – or drop by for a bountiful breakfast made with seasonal produce from the garden. Peppe Guida hosts private classes upon request and external guests can also have dinner on the property. The road to Villa Rosa is unpaved and narrow so it is best to arrange a local transfer.
The Sorrento Coastline might be one of the most beautiful in the world, with winding roads and dazzling hilltop towns, but it’s not the easiest region to visit on your own without an expert driver. To ensure you make the most of your time (and don’t miss out on local wine at lunch) it’s best to hire a local chauffeur and Vittorio Starace’s Sorrento Star Cars offers an exemplary service, from private tours and shore excursions to transfers. Vittorio also happens to be a talented home chef so if you’re interested in learning how to make lemon tagliolini, ravioli and more, join him for a private cooking class in his home.
For a gourmet meal in the historic center of Sorrento, head to Ristorante Il Buco. A Michelin-starred restaurant with heart and soul, it’s a great place to savor Campania’s cuisine presented in a contemporary setting. Here, Chef Peppe Aversa works alongside his son Federico and a skilled, young team to prepare succulent dishes including Linguine with lemon-scented scorpion fish, roe and sundried tomatoes, and steamed lobster with burrata, avocado, tomato mousse and vanilla salt. Originally born as a veritable “buco” (hole-in-the-wall) in 1997, the restaurant has expanded over time and features a newly renovated interior dining room with sleek decor and a modern cantina with over 1,000 labels. In the summer months, don’t miss dining in the archway beneath one of Sorrento’s historic city gates.
While you’re in the area, you can’t miss the quintessential experience of dining at a beach club restaurant – and Lo Scoglio is one of the best in all of Italy. Located by the tip of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the Marina del Cantone bay, it’s a favorite spot with locals and visitors in-the-know who appreciate simple dishes executed to perfection and warm, familial service. The restaurant was established by the De Simone family in 1958 and continues to serve up its signature Spaghetti alla Nerano with a creamy zucchini sauce, a recipe invented in the tiny town of Nerano just up the hill. Lo Scoglio is extended over a pier, meaning you can enjoy freshly caught fish with a view of the sea and pull up by boat. The menu also features ample vegetable dishes sourced from the family’s nearby gardens. Start off with an order of fritti and end your meal with a refreshing lemon sorbetto.
For a memorable stay in Sorrento, choose the Bellevue Syrene – a Relais & Chateau property and luxurious hideaway with sea-facing bedrooms and a private beach club. Dating back to 1820, the hotel celebrates its 200th birthday this year and has perfected the art of hospitality: stepping through the front gate feels like setting foot in a lavish family home thanks to the exquisite taste of the Russo family, who own and manage the estate. The Bellevue Syrene is visually arresting, with a blend of classic architecture and contemporary works of art, including ceramics from Vietri sul Mare and prints by Neapolitan photographer Mimmo Jodice. Wake up to breakfast served in the atmospheric Villa Pompeiana, with frescoes reproduced from the archeological site, and enjoy a Limoncello Spritz under a dreamy pergola as you watch the sun set above the sea. A number of suites have private pools, including the romantic Roccia and Venere suites, while the Lord Astor Suite, with double terrace and outdoor pool, is a standout.