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In the lanes of the old city centre, still untouched in spite of the progress and mass tourism, have survived churches and ancient monasteries, keepers of valuable memories. Centuries old palaces and Durazzo portals evidence the splendour of the noble families of Sorrento. Via S. Cesareo, the lively "decumanus", is the beating heart of the town, with its many-coloured shops, where tourists from every part of the world crowd. But the real architectonic jewel of the town is the fourteenth century Cloister of San Francesco, with crossed tuff arches of Arabian derivation, where the traditional concerts of the "Estate Musicale Sorrentina" take place.
The origin of the monastery dates back to the first half of the eighth century. The cloisters architecture shows crossed tuff arches on two sides of the portico, stylistic expression of the late fourteenth century, replaced on the other two sides by round arches on octagonal pilasters. Moreover, it is important to underline the presence of several elements from heathen temples, like the three corner columns functionally reused. Beside the convent is situated the Church of S. Francesco which dates back to the sixteenth century. Inside it is possible to admire, in the first of three chapels on the right, a wooden statue representing the Saint with the Crucified, given as a gift by the family Vulcano in the seventeenth century.
This building is exceptionally rare and valuable because it represents an evidence of the late Byzantine and Arabian taste of that time. The big arched windows have a decorative motif which show an alternation of wide yellow and grey tuff layers. The two windows lines are underlined by two subtler tuff layers. The tuff inlay is formed by a succession of lozenges, except the central window, with a zigzag frieze.
Via Pietà The façade of this building shows valuable dark tuff ogival mullion windows with two lights, with different shapes and patterns, little arches and lobate rose windows. It is characterised by a wonderful big window with an ogiva on short polystyle piers supported by little corbels moulded on a cornice of Gothic capitals adorned with acanthus leaves. In the keystone of the arch is carved the coat of arms. The portal is a typical Neapolitan arch portal with Durazzo - Catalan profiles, of the kind used from the end of the fourteenth century to the whole fifteenth century.
The little palace and the loggia in vico Calantariato are a singular and peculiar local evidence deriving from the influence of the Tuscan masters operating in Naples in the second half of the fifteenth century. The same capitals were found also in a Neapolitan staircase in via S. Arcangelo a Baiano and in the Chapel Pontano, with the only variant of the leaf arranged in the opposite direction.
In Romanesque style, it dates back to the fifteenth century. From the same period dates the side portal (1474), in Renaissance style.
The church, among the other works of art, like paintings by artists of the eighteenth century Neapolitan School, keeps the baptistery where Torquato Tasso was christened, restored in 1933. On the ceiling it is possible to admire the paintings by Oronzo Malinconico and Giacomo del Po. The marble archiepiscopal throne dates back to the year1573. The wooden inlaid choir is a work by craftsmen from Sorrento dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century, to which more recently have been added the 14 inlaid Stations of the Cross by Giovanni Paturzo, the lectern by Giuseppe Centro and Mario dAlesio and, finally, the tambours of the entrance door by Giuseppe Rocco after a drawing by Vincenzo Stinga.
This Bell Tower has a remarkable base dating back to the Romanesque age, probably built around the eleventh century, with shafts of columns of different kinds with classical and Byzantine capitals, statue bases and every sort of marble fragments. In the two strikingly heightened, arcades and in the columns arranged on the edges, it reveals its evident Byzantine character. This building is interesting also for the town-planning history, since the short heightened arches rooms and the next vault on via Pietà, at the entrance of the Bishops Palace, for a long time were used for public meetings before they took place inside the castle. The upper part of the Bell Tower was probably reduced to its present shape around the sixteenth century.
It is the Seat of the Congregation of Marys Servants. In Baroque style, its building was completed in the eighteenth century. It keeps a wooden statue of the dead Christ, by an unknown author, that on the Good Friday is brought in procession by the "brothers" with black hoods. Other two little wooden sculptures representing Madonna and Saint Joseph, are rare examples of fifteenth century figurines.
Of the defensive Greek enclosure walls has survived the walling existent under the road level of Porta Parsano Nuova, still visible in proximity to the door itself. Another evidence of the Greek walling ruins, of very limited dimensions, beyond the Door of Marina Grande, is the little line of the eastern curtain, in via Sopra alle Mura. The Roman town was superimposed to the Greek installation, respecting the urban plan and the same big blocks enclosure walls. In the Middle Ages these walls kept their function of defence of Sorrento. Their remaking started in 1551 and was completed only in 1562, after the tragic invasion by the Turks.
It is the only survived evidence in Campania of the ancient noble "sedili". It dates back to the sixteenth century and is characterised by a quadrilateral shape, with two piperno angle arches from which it is possible to see the inner and the walls of the dome with eighteenth century frescoes. The polystyle pilasters and arcades, with their capitals, show an archaic taste. Yellow and green majolica flat roof tiles form the seventeenth century dome.
This church, called after the Most Holy Felice and Baccolo, is commonly known by the name of the Most Holy Rosario. It probably rose under Costantino Magnos empire (310), on the ruins of an ancient heathen temple called Pantheon, and was the Cathedral of Sorrento from the twelfth until the fifteenth century.
Via S. Nicola Open from 9.30 to 12.00 a.m. and from 5.00 to 7.00 p.m. except Mondays and public holidays. Pre-booked tours. Tel. 081.877.19.42
The Museum-workshop of wooden tarsia, situated in Sorrento in via San Nicola, 28, is a multifunctional structure planned and instituted thanks to the perseverance of the architect Alessandro Fiorentino. It aims at retraining one of the historical sectors of the local social and economical reality. In this new model of Museum the care for the cataloguing and the exhibition of the historical production is the introduction to a wider programme that is not limited to the only memorys care.
In via S.Nicola is situated the house Fasulo, once house Sersale (with remarkable ashlar portal and little balcony) in which lived Cornelia Tasso, the sister of the poet Torquato and the wife of Marzio Sersale, who continued living in this house, together with her sons Antonino and Alessandro, even after the death of her husband. In July 1577 Torquato Tasso, escaped from the castle of Ferrara, embarked in Gaeta and presented himself as the poets messenger revealing his true identity only later. In the entrance hall, there are a vault frescoed with armorial bearings, military trophies and an inscription dating from the year 1651, in memory of the poet.
It is the most ancient of the doors and at present it shows most part of the characteristics of the ancient Greek doors. It was situated under a tower of which only few traces have survived, but whose existence is documented by the abbot Giovan Battista Pacichelli in an ancient map dating back to the eighteenth century. Until the fifteenth century it probably was the only access to the town, from the sea, and, together with the other door, situated in Marina Piccola, in the Pre-Roman age, it constituted the channel of trade with the near towns.
On the right side of the stretch of road that from piazza F.S. Gargiulo leads to piazza della Vittoria, there is the entrance of the Hotel Imperial Tramontano, which includes two rooms that once were part of the house in which, in 1544, the poet Torquato Tasso, author of the work "La Gerusalemme Liberata", was born.
Attracted by its beauty many Italian and foreigner artists have painted and photographed it from many angle shots, so that today we can exactly know how it looked like in the last century.
It is part of the system of deep valleys that crossed Sorrento Peninsula until the beginning of the century and constituted its natural borders.
It extended from Piazza Tasso to Marina Piccola, forming a charming port on the sea of Sorrento. Its name derives from a mill, whose ruins are still visible, that was working until the first years of the twentieth century, covering the corns needs of Sorrento inhabitants.
The spring waters that fed it and the streams coming from the hill fed also a saw mill that supplied the local craftsmen with different kinds of timber: cherry wood, walnut and olive. Moreover,
women were used to go there to wash cloths in a public wash tub.
As testified by representations of the time, the "Vallone dei Mulini" was a lively and populated place thanks to its direct communication with the sea which allowed the winds to take away humidity and make the place visible.
After the building of the present Piazza Tasso and then of the sea outlets barrage, it was progressively abandoned and transformed in the ideal habitat of a luxuriant quality of ferns, whose very rare species have been recently identified through a survey.
The sixteenth century church, with the annexed cloister of Dominican nouns, was built for will of the noble Bernardina Donnorso from Sorrento in 1566. Inside, the nouns choir, the tribunes and the wooden shutters situated along the nave date back to the seventeenth century. The majolica floor, rich in flower motifs on white vitrified enamel, is very interesting.
The church has one only nave and keeps valuable works by southern painters operating between the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, such as S. Buono, N. Malinconico, P.Caracciolo and S. Corenzio.
Its origin dates back to the eleventh century, even if as early as in the ninth century approximately, in that place existed an oratory dedicated to S. Antonino. The church shows different derivation elements like the columns shafts probably coming, for their peculiar uniformity, from the portico of one of the many Roman villas of the area.
In the crypt, remade in the eighteenth century, there are numerous little pictures of "ex voto", above all of mariners. The eighteenth century crib, of the School of San Martino, and the south portal with Byzantine-Romanesque shapes dating back to the tenth century are architectonic evidences of remarkable interest.
In the corner that via S. Cesareo forms with piazza Tasso, in the place where at present there is the seat of Sorrento Club, there is another "sedile", called "Sedile di Porta", because originally it was erected near the main door of the town in the open space then called Largo del Castello. After the abolition of "sedili", it was first reduced to prison, then transformed to sentry - box for the urban militia and, finally, it became the meeting point of Sorrento Club.
The origin of this temple probably dates back to the years 230 - 240 A.D., when in Sorrento was implemented a persecution against Christians. It was rebuilt at the end of the sixteenth century. The church is in Baroque style with one only nave. On the background there is the image of Madonna, a duplicate of the "Vergine Bruna" of Naples. Inside it is possible to admire paintings of good workmanship by seventeenth and eighteenth century artists, and two artistic inlaid wood reliquaries dating back to 1600.
Open every day from 9.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. except Tuesdays and public holidays
Tel. 081.878.18. 46
The Museum Correale, this valuable bulwark of Sorrento art and culture, has often been defined "the most beautiful province museum of Italy". It is situated in an ancient patrician villa, surrounded by a citrus grove that looks onto the tuff ridge just in front of the Gulf of Naples. The villa and the citrus grove, as well as the wonderful terrace of Belvedere, are part of a donation to the town of Sorrento by the brothers Pompeo and Alfredo Correale, the last descendants of the ancient patrician family. The family Correale was native of Scala, an ancient town situated in front of Ravello and, from historical data available in some documents as early as 1268, we know that they were part of the "Sedile" (ancient nobles associations) of Porta in Sorrento, of Portaretese in Salerno, of Porto in Naples. The brothers Correale therefore put at Sorrento communitys disposal the villa belonged to their family, for housing the art collections gathered in their numerous travels all over Europe. The original character of patrician villa has been taken into account in the arrangement of the numerous collections, disposed as if they constituted the original furniture of the house.
The Museum keeps one of the most beautiful collections of Neapolitan painters dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth century, some works of the famous "School of Posillipo" and by some masters of the Flemish and French schools dating from the same period. It contains valuable Capodimonte and Sévres ceramics, Murano glassware, Bohemia crystals and a collection of watches. The archaeological collection is very interesting as well. A special mention deserves the collection of Sorrento inlaid works dating from the nineteenth century, that occupies the whole hall and is rich in tables, furnishings and finely inlaid jewel cases. The poet and cabinet - maker Salvatore Gargiulo (Saltovar), from Sorrento, donated many of these pieces to the Museum. The library, containing various editions of works by Torquato Tasso and manuscripts of different kinds, is very interesting as well. It keeps also Torquato Tassos mortuary mask.
The Museums collections are arranged on three floors for a total of twenty-four halls, to which has been added the garret recovered as an expository room. Ground floor: Founders hall Chapel Correale Section Sorrento tarsia dating from the nineteenth century Archaeological Section Romanesque section. First floor: Paintings and furniture dating back to the eighteenth century by B Caracciolo, A. Vaccaro, Micco Spadaro, B. Corenzio, G. Lanfranco, P. De Matteis, G. Del Po, N.M. Rossi, E. De Mura, G. Bonito, C. Amalfi Oriental chinaware dating back to the seventeenth and eighteenth century Hall of the Flemish painters: P.P. Rubens, J. Vari Kassel, A. Grimmer, M. Sweerts. Second floor: Still life paintings dating from the seventeenth and eighteenth century by G.B. Ruoppolo, T. Realfonso, G. Cusati, A. Ascione, G. Casissa, A. Belvedere eighteenth and nineteenth century landscape - painters: J.R. Volaire, S. Déms, G, Dughet, J. Rabbel, F. Vervloet. Landscape painters of the "School of Posillipo": A.S, Pitloo, T. Duelere, G. Gigante Hall of the Italian and European watches dating from the eighteenth century. Third floor: Italian and foreigner majolica dating from the centuries seventeenth and eighteenth. Milano, Savona, Castelli, Sicily, Calabria, Mausticres, Ruen. Italian and foreign chinaware dating from the eighteenth century. Meissen, Wien, Ludwidsbourg, Nimphenburg, Zurich, Chelsa, Bow, S. Petersbourg - Capodimonte, Doccia, Venice Belvedere.