Prior to making our way to Tuscany, Ryan and I planned to spend some time in Campania, Italy’s southwest shoreline and home to the well-known Almafi Coast and Capri. Sorrento was our first stop along the Campania shoreline. We rented our car in Rome upon landing, and set off on the three hour journey to the coast, which ended up being one of the most stressful drives we had ever experienced. This was due to Ryan being a novice stick shift driver, coupled with the fact that the roads are winding, narrowed, and backed up with traffic. You can imagine how terrifying it was to be stopped behind another car on a hill with limited visibility, and doing everything in your ability to prevent your manual car from rolling backwards.
The outdoor area is enormous, with restaurant tables lining the cliff side.
Behind it is a private pool area, and a very old but antique path that led down the cliff to the seaside terrace.
Although the rooms were a bit dated and the breakfast a bit disappointing, the price was reasonable for the location and service.
Sorrento is a charming city and a convenient jumping off point for exploring the Amalfi Coast. It has a large, lively downtown area ideal for walking, with some older buildings of architectural interest. The crowds were not too overwhelming in the beginning of September, which are known to become unbearable in high season.
On our first night, our hotel recommended a lovely restaurant in the city center, called L’Antica Trattoria. The setting was divine. We were seated in an indoor-outdoor garden with a guitar player serenading each of the diners.
Ryan insisted we opt for the set course menu, which was not to be missed.
Our first course was a crisp calamari, a succulent piece of seafood that was lightly breaded and drizzled with lemon- a far cry from the greasy fried calamari in the states.
Our second course was a home-made farfalle with seafood and tomatoes.Once you start eating fresh pasta, it is hard to turn back to the boxed version. The dish, albeit large, was surprisingly light. The quality of the olive oil drizzled on the dish complimented the freshness of the seafood and all dente noodles.
The main was a fillet of sea bass, de-boned on the spot and cooked simply with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
We ended our meal with a lemon sorbet and some local desserts. Lemon is indigenous to the Campania region, so the sorbet was nothing but bright and refreshing. Overall, we were highly impressed and would recommend L’Antica Trattoria to future travelers.
Ryan and I spent spent our one full day exploring the peninsula via scooter, which was a very smart decision
considering driving and parking can become a headache in this area. We enjoyed the flexibility of the scooter, which enabled us to explore smaller roads along the peninsula and the ease of stopping for photos along the drive. Outside of Sorrento, the towns are much sleepier are filled with more locals and Italian tourists, lending them a more authentic feel.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant called Lo Scoglio in Massa Lubrenese, about half hour south on the peninsula from Sorrento. The restaurant had a relaxing, island-feel vibe, serving fresh seafood as you gazed at the sleepy fisherman boats dotting the water.
We spent an excellent dinner that evening at Il Buco, a Michelin-star in central Sorrento. We each opted for two different tasting menus, both of which were exceptional. Our first server made many errors with our order (which should be unheard of at this quality of a restaurant), but he was soon replaced by a colleague, who was passionate about the food and talked to us quite a bit about Italian cooking and time spent in America. Since we made reservations the day before, we were seated indoors (instead of the beautiful outdoor area), which resembled something closer to a living room than a restaurant.
Despite the lackluster service in the beginning, the food was incredible. One of the standouts was the selection of raw fish. Although we were not in a sushi restaurant, the quality of fish was exceptional and each bite had a different flavor profile, as evidenced by the garnishes and drizzles. Among our different tasting menus, there was a fresh lobster over farro, octopus with pasta, and a ravioli in tomato broth. For the final main dishes, Ryan had a skin-on branzino and I had a cod-like fish. Desserts were also worth noting, and included a complimentary tasting of bite-size chocolates and pastries finished with a limoncello. Overall, the meal was “buonissimo!”
The next day we took off for Positano. For future travelers, we would recommend Sorrento for one day, with maybe an afternoon exploring the peninsula by scooter. Overall, it was also only a glimpse of the beauty we would experience on the Amalfi Coast.