City Life: Sailors and sirens
The Ancients believed that mariners were lured to the islands and towering cliffs of the Amalfi Coast by the songs of the Sirens, mythical temptresses who gave their name to the seductive town of Sorrento.
The orange and lemon groves, ancient vineyards and perfect climate prove no less irresistible today. Even the sumptuous villas that clamber up the vertiginous mountainsides in pastel ranks of peach, pink and primrose seem to be jostling to get the perfect view of the Bay of Naples and the brooding volcano of Vesuvius. With an elegant palazzo or piazza at every turn, the town bewitches all comers, and the tiny beaches and family-run restaurants are deservedly bustling in summer.
It's worth renting a car to be able to explore, but traffic can be bumper to bumper on the coastal road in summer.
Naples airport, 40 miles from Sorrento, is the most convenient, with regular international flights year round, including an EasyJet service from London Stansted.
Napoli Centrale on Piazza Garibaldi is linked to Sorrento by the Circumvesuviana train which runs twice hourly; See www.vesuviana.it for details.
Country code for Italy: 39. Sorrento: 081.
The Last Days of Pompeii by Edgar Bulwer-Lytton; The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith.
Do go / Don't Go
Massa Lubrense, at the tip of the Sorrentine peninsula, is an area of hamlets, lemon groves and unrivalled sea views. The groves are criss-crossed by mule paths and marked footpaths - fantastic in spring when the lemon and orange blossom are in bloom.
Fish and crustaceans are the Sorrentine starlets. Specialities include lobster cooked with tomatoes, octopus casserole and sautéed shrimp. Main ingredients include sweet extra-virgin olive oil, tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella (which, in Sorrento, is plaited), and herbs.
Expensive, but most sights in Sorrento are walkable. If you can't do without a driver, call 081 878 2204.
Although restaurant bills include a service charge, an additional ten per cent tip is customary.
Some comfortable shoes for Pompeii and the climb up and down the steep steps to the beach.
In 79AD Sorrento had an awesome view of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the destruction of Pompeii. It's possible to wander the well-preserved ruins of the doomed city; see www.pompeiisites.org for details. (Wear comfortable shoes - Roman roads are surprisingly ill-suited to sandals.)
Pick up some limoncello liqueur, infused with Sorrentine lemon peel, or nocino, made from walnuts and coffee beans. Via San Cesareo is the place to find handicrafts such as ceramics, scented wax, coral or lace. There's also a weekly street market on Tuesdays. It's worth the 20-minute trip over to Capri to join the jet set for some serious boutique spending.
There are fantastic coastal views from the Villa Communale park next to the 16th-century church of San Francesco, which also holds regular classical-music concerts.
Try to sneak into one of the wood-inlay workshops and observe the traditional art of intricate mosaic woodwork (Tarsia). Try Gargiulo Salvatore on Via Fuoro.
27 June Festa di Sant'Andrea; the statue of Amalfi's patron is taken from the cathedral and hiked about town to commemorate the 'miracle' which saved Amalfi from the fearsome pirate Barbarossa. There's a dashing show of pyrotechnics. 26 July The Festival of Sant' Anna sees boat processions and fireworks in the bay overlooked by La Minervetta. July-September Sorrento Summer of Music takes place in the cloisters of San Francesco monastery and pulls in internationally renowned classical musicians. November Sorrento's International Film Festival is Italy's foremost silver-screen shindig. See www.sorrentotourism.com for details.