Sorrento: (Land of the Sirens between Myth and Legend).

The origin of the name (Syrentum) is linked to several legends, but the most probable of them all is the one regarding the mythical Sirens said to inhabit the sea of the Bay of Naples.  Their melodious and irresistible songs lured the sailors onto the rocks of the Sorrentine peninsula where they were shipwrecked.  As Homer relates, Ulysses was also tempted by the sea-creatures, half woman, half fish, but forewarned by Circe, he made his crew tie him to the mast of his ship, thus saving himself.

If the truth behind its origins remains a mystery, one thing is however certain, just like these legendary creatures Sorrento, (equally well known by the sobriquet the Land of the Sirens), has always enchanted its visitors thanks to the marvels of its coast, the perfume of its land, and not least the proverbial hospitality of its people.  

Historical Facts about Sorrento – Founded by the Phoenicians (VII century B.C.), Sorrento was first a Greek and then a Roman colony.  It was subsequently dominated by the Goths, the Longobards and the Byzantines.

Thanks to its mild climate, as far back as the age of the Empire many important emperors and rich patricians chose Sorrento as their summer residence having roads and villas built, one of those Villa Pollio Felice nowadays better known as “I bagni della Regina Giovanna” (“Queen Joan’s baths”), the remains of which can still be seen today.  Following the French invasion in 1799 Sorrento was governed by relatives of Napoleon, first by Giuseppe Bonaparte and then by Gioacchino Murat.  In 1815 with the return of Ferdinando I, King of the Two Sicilies, the city entered into a period of great prosperity becoming a favourite tourist destination.

Sorrento is also famous for being the birthplace of Torquato Tasso (1544 – 1595), the great sixteenth century poet, whose works include “Jerusalem Delivered”, “Rinaldo” and “Aminta”.  In 1558 Sorrento was ransacked and looted by the Turkish Saracens and its inhabitants massacred.  Tasso’s sister was one of its few survivors.  This event was the inspiration behind one of his works which was about the first Crusade.  Sorrento’s central piazza is dedicated to Torquato Tasso and his statue is prominently displayed in the piazza.


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