Knowing my destination and not knowing it at the same time, my taxi driver slammed on his brakes in the middle of a cliff-top road. With a whole line of cars waiting behind him, I knew his yelling and pointing in Italian meant he wanted me to get out of the taxi, admire the view and take a photograph. Traffic can wait for the wide eyed to see the pull of Sorrento. Jet lagged and uncertain, I did as I was told. In many respects, I have to thank that driver. He knew this moment and view would be one I wouldn’t forget.
The Greek’s believed Sorrento was the site of the mythical sirens, those creatures that would lure sailors, Odysseus included, with their song as a trap. And while many believe Sorrento to be nothing more than a tourist trap, I found myself trapped in its subtle songs, even those songs, or shouts, of persistent taxi drivers.
I was studying Italian and Tarantella, the area’s main song and dance that tells its history over the last 500 years. I frequented a number of these tarantella shows. While most of those in the audience were 60 years my senior, the youthful emotions of Sorrento’s performance side carried throughout the room. Tasso Theater buzzed with song and dance, proof yet again Sorrento knows how to keep you entertained.
When I wasn’t in class or down by the water in Sorrento, I would try to find those spaces in the city that weren’t so touristy. From a little train running through Sorrento’s main thoroughfares to countless shops selling lemoncello, the town on the cliffs overlooking the Bay of Naples can seem devoid of locals. However down at the weekly market, little old ladies pushed their rolling suitcase like carts to load up on the fruits of the land.
Families worked behind these stalls, with each member assigned to a certain job. From the son’s task of shouting out for shoppers to the father hurrying the bagging process, Sorrento’s market is a family and local affair.
Most know of Sorrento’s Marina Piccola, where the ferries depart for Capri. Marina Grande is actually less frequented in Sorrento and much more localized. Crumbling old buildings stand covered in scaffolding. I suspect it might still be this way. A lone old man keeps his perch on a balcony above. Little toddlers play in boats just beyond. Fishermen cast off for the day in rickety boats. It is activity and inactivity all rolled into one marina.
Sorrento trapped me, much like those sailors in mythology, most importantly with the color of her sunsets. From Villa Comunale Park, I would watch the sunset over the Bay of Naples. While the space seemed more town square than park, the sky was the attraction. Tourists and locals gushed over these magenta and lavender skies each night. And for a moment while watching the sun fade over Mt. Vesuvius, I think I heard the sirens of Sorrento. Sometimes the myth is no myth at all.
Have you been to Sorrento?