Sorrento is a picturesque town on the far end of the Bay of Naples known for its lemons, ceramics, and, well, tourists. Located south of Naples and just before the Amalfi Coast, the city has long drawn international visitors who are charmed by its beauty and sea views. The lure is understandable.
While Sorrento is only 165 miles from Rome, getting there can be complicated by cancelations and unexpected costs (you can read my story at the end). So, that’s why I put together this guide of how to get to Sorrento from Rome, depending on your budget, time constraints, and preferences.
Drive by Car
By far the easiest way to get to Sorrento is to get a car and drive.
It takes a total of 3 hours on the E45, the North to South European highway that spans from Norway to Sicily. You drive through the lush Lazio and Campagna countryside down to the Gulf of Naples, where you skirt the coast until you get to Sorrento. It is quick and easy as long as you avoid rush hour. Leaving around midday, when everyone is eating lunch and taking a siesta, is usually a good bet.
Renting a car in Rome can be an expensive and frustrating experience. Having booked a rental and having it canceled on us 24 hours before we were meant to leave for Sorrento, I can only advise you on what not to do.
We had used booking.com and found out later that the website hadn’t been updated to reflect what cars were actually available. Instead, you should book directly with the rental company to make sure there is more accountability and less miscommunication.
To ensure you get the best deal, websites like Auto Europe are good for comparing prices between reliable companies such as Hertz and Sixt.
Train to Naples
There are no direct trains that go from Rome to Sorrento, so if you aren’t driving you will have to first take a train to Naples.
There are trains going from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale about twice an hour, but it can take you anywhere from 60 minutes to 3 hours depending on the train you pick. This is because there are three types of trains that go from Rome to Naples: the frecciarossa, the intercity, and the regionale.
The frecciarossa is a high-speed train. It is very comfortable, with wifi and charging ports, but can cost you anywhere from €38 to €125 depending on the class and time. The intercity is more affordable, ranging between €19.90 and €27.90 and it takes 2 hours to get to Naples. The regionale is the cheapest option and will set you back less than 15 euros, but it makes multiple stops, has no guaranteed seating and may be unairconditioned. You have been warned.
For all of these options, I would highly recommend booking ahead. This way you can consider all of your options, get the best deal, and avoid having to run around Termini station like a headless chicken (a fate that has befallen many). Here is more about how to buy train tickets in Italy.
Once you arrive in Naples, safe and sound, you have two options: the local train or a private cab transfer, which you can learn more about below.
Make sure your train does not go to Napoli Afragola or Campi Flegrei because the Circumvesuviana, the train taking you from Naples to Sorrento, only leaves from Napoli Centrale. (Which is also how you get to Pompeii from Rome).
To get to the Circumvesuviana, leave the platform and walk to the ticket area of the station. You will see signs directing you to the Circumvesuviana down to a lower level. There is a ticket office right before the gate, and it will cost you around three euros. The train comes every 30 minutes, although there are two kinds: D and DD. The DD makes fewer stops and is faster, but whether you catch it or not is a matter of luck since the two kinds alternate (with D’s scheduled more often).
The Circumvesuviana is not glamorous, by far. It might not be what you had in mind for a luxurious, relaxing holiday on the Amalfi Coast. It is unairconditioned, with as few carriages as a street tram resulting in a crowded, unpleasant experience.
Just take a few deep breaths, pray you find a seat, take care to avoid being pickpocketed, and dream of the many Limoncello spritzes that lie at the end of the journey.
Ferry from Naples
If you have already made it from Rome to Naples, you can also take the ferry from Naples to Sorrento. The 40-minute ferry ride costs about €13.20 and runs at 9 am, 11 am and 5:15 pm Monday – Friday. The boat, operated by Alilauro, leaves from Molo Beverello in Naples. Getting from the train station to the ferry station is best done by taxi so this would add one more step to your journey.
Private Transfer / Taxi
Alternatively, if a sweaty train ride doesn’t sound very appealing, you can first travel to Naples and then book a private taxi from Naples to Sorrento. My mother used a company called Sea Horse Car Services to do this two years ago with great success, for only 30 euros.
However, when I tried to call them after our rental was canceled, all their drivers were busy. So as usual, plan ahead and reserve in advance.
Just remember, the taxi drivers in Naples are notorious for inflating prices so don’t try to do this with a random cab outside Napoli Centrale. Use only reputable car companies with fixed prices to avoid any unwanted surprises.
Now that you know how to get Sorrento, let me tell you that I learned how to get to Sorrento from Rome the hard way.
Normally, it is not a destination that I would want to try out in summer. But, I had been scouring Airbnb for summer travel ideas when it struck me that COVID restrictions meant that I was facing a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity: a trip to Sorrento with no tourists.
Couple this with the fact that my partner’s mother was planning to rent a car, which would have saved us (theoretically) from the painful train ride from Rome to Sorrento, and I was all in. All that had to happen was for everything to go as planned.
It seemed that I hadn’t taken into account that nothing works in Italy during August. Locals leave the big cities and head for the coastlines, and everything from taking a bus to finding an open restaurant becomes an ordeal.
As the universe would have it, less than 24 hours before we left for Sorrento the car rental company cancelled our booking with no prior notification. A phone call and several outbursts later, we found out that it was because booking.com had allowed us to reserve a car that wasn’t available in the first place.
I quickly got us tickets on the fast train from Rome to Naples (40 euros since it was the last minute) and asked the Airbnb host if he could pick us up from Sorrento station after the hot, sweaty ride on the Circumvesuviana (the un-air-conditioned local train that goes from Naples to Sorrento). The crisis had been averted.
Except…our train from Roma Termini to Naples was delayed by an hour. We grew hot and cranky and it seemed like every time we checked the noticeboard they increased the delay by another ten minutes. I couldn’t help but feel like our trip was headed for disaster. If Vesuvius wasn’t going to blow, one of us just might.
Unfortunately, the same happened on our way back to Rome. We were scheduled to take a 7:30 PM intercity train from Napoli Centrale to Roma Termini and It was delayed for 50 minutes.
Here’s a heads-up: go to the bathroom BEFORE you get to Naples Central station because when your train is delayed and you’ve been chugging water to combat the insane heat, you might find yourself in a tricky situation. For one, the toilets in the station are formidable and best avoided, so I decided to venture across the station to the “mall” in Piazza Garibaldi for better options. There, I found that the Municipal had closed public access to the toilets in the shops and restaurants in order to redirect people to the paid public toilets. A grimy corridor with a coin slot machine, ominous metal sliding doors and wet floors. Mmm…no. You’d be better off holding it.
All in all, my advice when planning a trip to Sorrento is to be mentally prepared for obstacles. If you can afford it, do everything in your power to eliminate the chances for things to go wrong. Spend a little more on the fast train (frecciarossa) so that even in the case of a delay, you only have an hour-long ride to survive as opposed to 3 hours. If you can, book a private transfer from Napoli centrale to Sorrento for 30 euros with companies such as Sea Horse Private Taxis (don’t try to ask a local cab to do this, they will rip you off).
And however you decide to get to Sorrento from Rome, be sure that you are staying at the gorgeous Villa Parisi once you get there.