I made a giant mistake with Sorrento. It's a mistake I've made many times before. I completely underestimated this city. When Sarah and I arrived in Sorrento it was after an amazing wedding we attended in the Amalfi Coast town of Ravello. In Ravello we had stunning views, amazing food, and an incredible wedding to attend with lots of family members and new friends. While Sorrento was on the list of 1000 Places to See Before You Die, Sarah and I went in treating it like a base camp from which we would travel to see other places like the island of Capri and coastal town of Positano near by. It turns out we vastly underestimated just how amazing our home base really was.
Sorrento isn't technically on the Amalfi Coast but it is just a bit North of that area and it sits across a large bay from Naples and Mt. Vesuvius. We were a couple days from the end of our trip by this point. Our clothes had been re-worn a few times, we were tired, and the weather was really hot. We were also coming down off of some stressful (but awesome) coastal driving. When we arrived in Sorrento we weren't completely sure how we were supposed to get to our hotel. Luckily some locals at a gas station were going to a restaurant next door to our hotel so they told us to follow them. We arrived safe and sound but tired and in sort of a bad mood. Sorrento by day had turned out to be dusty looking, full of traffic, hard to navigate, and generally unpleasant.
Everything changed when we got to our hotel room and stood on the balcony. The giant volcano, Mt. Vesuvius, towered over the water dominating our field of view. Suddenly we were confronted by the very mountain that altered history in the area forever. This got me pretty excited to see Pompeii the next day and I was looking forward to our other trips out to Capri and Positano.
It turns out Sorrento by night was the exact opposite from its daytime persona. This town was made for walking. The city is lit up by tons of sunlight colored street lamps providing a well-lit, beautiful scene for tourists and locals to stroll through. Every building has its own unique, bright colored paint job. The restaurants buzz with conversations and the smell of fresh food floats out into the street. Sarah and I were entranced by the beauty of this city. All of the annoyance of traffic and heat from the day before melted away in the warm summer night walking through alleys, looking at tiny shops, and eating at sidewalk cafes.
Of all the cities we visited and walked around, none were as well lit by night as Sorrento. The pedestrian friendly atmosphere gave children the right and privilege to play late into the night while adults relaxed at cafes and on benches with gelato or a glass of wine. Sorrento is one of those cities that make you wonder just where we went wrong with the way we live in the United States. Don't get me wrong, I love our home country. But we as a people are plagued by the stresses we create in our lives, the traffic we create, and the anxiety that comes with it. In Sorrento, no one cares if kids are awake past midnight playing on their bikes together and drinking wine and eating gelato isn't done with the looming guilt that comes from caring about calories.
Rome has its monuments, Florence is an artistic destination, and Milan is modern and fashionable. But if you want to truly see what life could be like, you go to Sorrento. I'm sure life isn't always as rosy as we think it must be in Sorrento, but that's the beauty of travel. You stay for a time, and then you leave. You take the best of what the city has to offer, and remember a place and a time that will inspire you for life.