Sorrento Travel Blog› entry 7 of 19 › view all entries
Sorrento is a small city in Campania, Italy, with some 16,500 inhabitants. It is a popular tourist destination. The town can be reached easily from Naples and Pompeii, as it lies at the south-eastern end of the Circumvesuviana rail line. The town overlooks the bay of Naples, as the key place of the Sorrentine Peninsula, and many viewpoints in the city allow sight of Naples itself (visible across the bay), Vesuvius and the island of Capri.
The Amalfi Drive (connecting Sorrento and Amalfi) is the narrow road that threads around the high cliffs above the Mediterranean.
Ferry boats and hydrofoils provide services to Naples, Amalfi, Positano, Capri and Ischia. Sorrento's sea cliffs are impressive and its luxury hotels have attracted famous personalities, including Enrico Caruso and Luciano Pavarotti.
Sorrento is famous for the production of limoncello, an alcoholic digestif made from lemon rinds, alcohol, water and sugar. Other agricultural production includes citrus fruit, wine, nuts and olives. Wood craftsmanship is also developed.
Origins of modern Sorrento
Sorrento became an archbishopric around 420 AD. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, it was ruled by the Ostrogoths and then returned to the Eastern Empire. The Lombards, who conquered much of southern Italy in second half of the 6th century, sieged it in vain.
In the following centuries the authority of the far Byzantium empire faded, Sorrento became an autonomous duchy. It fought against the neighbour/rival Amalfi and the Saracens, and in 1133 it was conquered by the Norman Roger II of Hauteville. From this point, Sorrento's history followed that of the newly created Kingdom of Sicily.
On June 13, 1558 it was sacked by Muslim pirates, an event which led to the construction of a new line of walls. The most striking event of the following century was the revolt against the Spanish domination of 1648, led by Giovanni Grillo. In 1656 a plague struck the city. However, Sorrento remained one of the most important centres of the southern Campania.
Sorrento entered into the Neapolitan Republic of 1799, but in vain.
In 1861 Sorrento was officially annexed to the new Kingdom of Italy. In the following years it confirmed and increased its status of one of the most renowned tourist destinations of Italy, a trend which continued into the 20th Century. Famous people who visited it include Lord Byron, Keats, Goethe, Henrik Ibsen and Walter Scott.
Rites of Holy week
The two principal processions that are developed in Sorrento on Holy Friday are those of the Our Lady of Sorrows or of the "Visit in the sepulchres", organized by the Venerable Arciconfraternita of Saint Monica  and that of the Dead Christ, organized by the Venerable Arciconfraternita of the Death.
The first procession takes place at 3:30 am on Good Friday and involves hundreds of participants dressed in hooded white gowns. The Madonna is carried aloft in the procession, and accompanied by several religious articles as she searches the town looking for her son. The procession commences in the Corso Italia, turns through Piazza Tasso, and then visits each of the town's churches - stopping in each one for a short ceremony. The Madonna is accompanied by aides carrying incense, and a large male choir and band. The procession concludes at 5:30 am.
The second procession occurrs at 8pm on Good Friday and reflects the Madonna's mourning as she finds her son dead. Hundreds of participants, dressed this time in hooded black gowns, march down the Corso Italia and then wind through the smaller laneways of Sorrento. This procession is much larger and better attended generally.