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Saturday, August 23, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 6/19/2005

Fall is an excellent time to make a visit to lovely Sorrento

Even though we've been gone from Sorrento for more than a month now, the memories, and the music, linger on.

With "Funiculi Funicula" composed for the opening of the Vesuvius funicular in 1880, and that weepy classic "Turna a Surriento" (Return to Sorrento) written by G.B. de Curtis in our favorite hotel, the Imperial Tramontano, still ringing in our ears, along come the e-mails .

Like the one from Dan R., who says that because of our recent column he's now considering a late September visit to Sorrento and the Tramontano (www.tramontano.com) and wants to know if this would be a good time of the year to go.

Yes. Sorrento will have calmed down considerably from its peak summer invasion. Everything will still be open - including the quaintly named Foreigners' Club with its gorgeous view over the Bay of Naples and reasonably priced edibles. The ferries to Capri and Ischia and Naples will all be operating. And the weather should be beautiful, benign, and off the boil.

Be sure to drop into a charming cellar restaurant, the Buon Convento, with its amiable giant of an owner, Ciro Gargiula, superb family-style food, and terrific atmosphere.

Dan and his wife, now in their 70s, are also thinking of combining Sorrento and the Amalfi coast with a visit to the Cinque Terre that he recalls we wrote about several years ago. (My, y'all have great memories, or amazing filing systems, or both!)

The Cinque Terre (as the name implies) are five very picturesque coastal villages on the Italian Riviera, and veritable havens of sun, sea, and sand. Very popular with walkers because of the cliff-top paths that link them, the villages are also accessible by train and boat - providing the sea isn't too choppy.

However, in our view, combining Sorrento with the Cinque Terre could be too much of the same. After all, how many sensational sea/cliff views can mere mortals possibly absorb? Instead, we suggest twinning Sorrento with a stay in Florence or Sienna, or an even a smaller town like Spoleto to bring a bit of cultural diversity into the vacation.

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Myra M. wants to know the best month for travel to Sorrento, which airline to use, and any other information we might have on the area.

In our opinion, May-June or September-October are the best times for reasons of price, crowd density, and weather.

From our region, Northwest Airlines has a good connection from Detroit to Rome with a change in Amsterdam. And the British Airways itinerary requires a switch at Heathrow. But we always suggest consulting a travel agent anyway for best prices, connections, and a full range of options.

As for general information on Sorrento and the surrounding territory, we're recommending Rick Steves' Italy 2005 and Time Out Naples 2005: Capri, Sorrento & the Amalfi Coast. Also, don't fail to read Robert Harris' Pompeii for the most riveting account of the Vesuvius eruption that devastated Pompeii and Herculaneum on Aug. 24, 79 AD.

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Then Marlyn from Findlay weighed in with what must certainly be one of the funniest e-mails we've ever received.

Though she was just in Sorrento last year - and loved it - her sister-in-law is interested in seeing Sicily as well, so Marlyn is working on an itinerary that will include Naples, Sorrento, and a tour of Sicily.

She asks if she should get our Sorrento-based travel consultant and friend Fabio involved to arrange the trip around Sicily. Or should she just rent a car and wing it?

"We will be four women," she writes, "the blonde-dyed Buckeye version of the blue-rinse Brits - except we go on our own, not in packages.

"We have a great time getting lost, missing trains, walking further than our knees can take, and collapsing over a nice glass of vino at the end of the day!"

Sounds like our kind of people - and we will be passing her letter on to Fabio in Sorrento so he can assist if necessary.

But basically, the train ride from Rome to Naples is easy. And there are boat connections from Naples to Palermo, either day or night, as well as a fast jet ferry that does the trip across in about four hours. Check www.cemar.it for details.

Having driven Sicily in a tiny Daewoo a few years ago, we can only hope that Marlyn has nerves of steel because Sicilian traffic is like nothing we've ever experienced. The capital, Palermo, was especially terrifying, but even in the smaller towns and villages Sicilian drivers and motor bike riders give - and expect - no quarter.

Marlyn's intake of vino will no doubt be growing exponentially at the end of each day's driving!

Having said that, Sicily is still well worth the effort and the aggravation, and we can hardly wait to hear Marlyn's stories on her return.

But then we always love to hear about readers' trips - especially when things don't go quite as expected!



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