Life

Magnificent Sorrento is so relaxing but it's a place where you won't stay idle for long

The temptation to do nothing in Sorrento except maybe doze and watch the ever-changing seascape is great – but then so is the temptation to do any one of the innumerable things there are to do in this stunningly beautiful part of Italy, Margaret Carragher (re)discovers

Sorrento, perhaps my favourite place on Earth
Margaret Carragher

THERE’S something almost comically decadent about plucking a lemon the size of a melon from a branch overhanging your sun lounger, in the sure and certain knowledge that it will be sliced, iced and floating in an enormous gin-and-tonic with your name on it by sundown.

Welcome to Lemon Central Sorrento, jewel in the crown of Italy’s Amalfi coast, Romantic Wedding capital of Europe and perhaps my favourite place on Earth.

Having been here before, we know all about Sorrento’s myriad attractions – but sometimes you just want to do nothing. And it seems our hotel has been tailor-made to facilitate just that.

Overlooking the town’s historic centre and fringed by the Bay of Naples, the Hotel Conca Park sprawls languorously amid the verdant splendour of its surrounding citrus and olive groves. An architectural marvel built almost into the cliff face, although just minutes from downtown Sorrento, this hotel feels, in the best possible way, like a place apart – not least because of the amazing marbled tunnel running between it and the outside world, and serviced by a fleet of complimentary golf buggies.

Our bedroom too facilitates blissful indolence with its restful colours, huge, feather-soft bed, and spacious sea-view balcony. As do the sleek, expansive dining room and lounge bar, both of which open on to manicured grounds dotted with sofas, day beds and easy chairs; and the spa and wellness centre with its soft lights, scented candles and snooze-inducing mood music. You could get used to this.

Our early morning flight out of Dublin and speedy transfer from Naples airport means we have much of the first day to acclimatise – which for me means sprawling under the aforementioned lemon tree by the pool with a book aptly titled How To Be Idle. Happy days.

Meanwhile, the good man, who for decades has had no problem carrying his holiday stuff (passport, travel documents and the like) in his pockets, announces his intention to procure – I kid you not – a Man Bag.

Now, with more leather goods shops per square inch than perhaps anywhere in Italy, getting what he thinks he wants in Sorrento shouldn’t be a problem. But I reckon this Man Bag thing is not so much a late mid-life crisis as the need for a Project – he does like to be busy. So I leave him at it.

And sure enough, I have no sooner settled into Chapter One, 'Waking up is hard to do', when my phone pings: a text from downtown Sorrento with photos of various Man Bags and the message “What d’you think?” Hmmm.

 

Next morning after breakfast – a delicious hot and cold buffet running well into mid-morning – we make our way down town to meet with fellow holidaymakers and Topflight reps Lorna and Lindsey for a complimentary walking tour of Sorrento.

Incorporating a potted history of the town and its environs (and a stop-off for free ice-creams), this initiative, devised and implemented by the Topflight team, lasts just over an hour, after which punters can book excursions for the coming week.

Both Lorna and Lindsey have lived in Sorrento for many years and their passion for the place is infectious; and despite my resolve to spend my time here doing bugger all, I find myself tempted by the attractions on offer: tours of Vesuvius & Pompeii; the Ruins of Herculaneum; the Amalfi coast by private mini bus; a Sorrento musical evening of song and dance. Maybe, I think. Maybe before the week is out...

Meanwhile, the good man keeps slipping off to window-shop along the town’s quaint, cobbled streets. Truly a man on a mission...

And so our days fall into a blissfully easy pattern. After breakfast on the terrace, Himself heads for the shops while I go back upstairs to lounge on our balcony and drink in the views.

As a port-of-call for many cruise lines, Sorrento’s harbour is invariably thronged with tourists coming and going as, anchored in the Bay of Naples, their vast floating hotels shimmer in the sunshine. Then there’s the bling-fest of superyachts as their billionaire owners glide from one high-end Mediterranean hotspot to the next; and the local ferries, transporting punters around the various ports and islands of the Amlafi.

This sublime, ever-changing seascape is wonderfully soporific and one could – and indeed, frequently does – nod off. Fast forward through many equally snooze-inducing chapters on how to be idle (Keats’s Ode to Indolence, quoted chapter and verse, would put anyone to sleep) and before you know it, the day is gone. And the next. And the next.

Meanwhile Project Man Bag continues apace. Having extended his search to the entire coastline, the good man forwards images of leather goods from Positano to Amalfi to Ravello.

"Wish you were here," go the texts, and suddenly I wish I was too. However relaxing, there is only so much of nothing one can do – particularly in a place like this. And so, How To Be Idle is consigned to the hotel’s unwanted books shelf, and I’m off to play catch-up. A quick call to Topflight’s Lorna (an absolute gem who delights in going the extra mile) ensures us a place on the following day’s excursion to Capri, with Diego as our guide.

What follows is the stuff of holiday dreams as, under a clear cerulean sky we zip off by jetfoil to an island whose stupendous natural beauty has been attracting visitors since time immemorial. While our skipper swoops through Capri’s famous Natural Arch and in and out of the Blue Grotto, the riotously entertaining Diego regales us with tales of tyrannical Roman Emperors, plundering pirates and Hollywood stars, all of whom, over the centuries, made this place their home.

Nowadays, with a rigorously enforced ban on new builds, not even the most despotic can lay brick or block on this island paradise. And proper order too.

Back then to our hotel, and dinner on the lemon-scented terrace where I’ve spent so much time doing so very little. And then, unbelievably, it’s over. Time for home.

While taking our leave I spot my book languishing untouched where I left it. Evidently, no-one wants to be idle in Sorrento. Why would they? Meanwhile, having scrutinised, photographed and dithered over every bag in the place, the good man declares himself spoilt for choice, and Project Man Bag is duly abandoned. Never mind. It’ll give us an excuse to come back.

FACT FILE

:: Margaret travelled to Sorrento with Topflight, Ireland’s Italian Specialist, and stayed at the four-star Hotel Conca Park.

:: Topflight offer holidays to Sorrento all summer season with flights from Dublin and Cork from May to October.

:: Prices for the Hotel Conca Park, which boasts one of the best locations in Sorrento, start from €1099 per person sharing (based on travelling in September) and include return flights, return transfers, accommodation for seven nights on a half-board basis (breakfast and evening meal included), 20kg baggage allowance, taxes and the services of the travel company's in-resort managers throughout your stay. Guest will also enjoy a welcome introduction to the town with an informative guided tour.

:: For further details and to discuss Sorrento holiday options call 028 9752 1168, visit topflightholidays.co.uk or drop into your local travel agent.

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