The unique beauty of Sorrento's coast has inspired many myths. This is where the Sirens are said to have waylaid travelers with their irresistible song, as befell Ulysses in Homer's Odyssey.

Today, the pull of the sea and imposing rock-bound coast remain as compelling as in Homer's day, attracting legions of visitors, and it is unlikely that you will feel alone here, especially if you come during the summer months. Sorrento's charms are not tarnished by the crowds, however, as the town is only made merrier by the bustle. If you are seeking a bit of solitude, there are plenty of off-the-beaten-path attractions along this peninsula, which is one of the most beautiful in the Mediterranean.

A rocky point of land jutting 20km (12 miles) into the sea and dominated by the high mountains of the Monti Lattari, the Sorrentine peninsula looks a bit like a finger pointing towards Capri (which is just 5km/3 miles away), dividing the Gulf of Naples from the Gulf of Salerno. Visitors come here to hike rugged paths, discover medieval watchtowers and rural villages, explore ancient ruins, and sample a cuisine rich with locally produced ingredients, including cheeses and cured meats that are unique to this little corner of southern Italy.

The gateway to the Sorrento peninsula is Castellammare di Stabia, a modern town and thermal resort built over the ancient Roman settlement of Stabiae. Sorrento is the main town of the peninsula and lies about midway along the northern shore that opens onto the Gulf of Naples. Scattered among the surrounding rugged mountains and along nearby cliff sides are many small villages connected by narrow, winding local roads which, thanks to their inaccessibility, are destined to remain delightfully quiet backwaters, undiscovered by mass tourism.

On the southern side of the peninsula lies an authentic, little-explored stretch of coast. Harsh and rocky, it is the geographical continuation of the famous Amalfi Coast which begins at Positano and is rich in unexplored surprises in spite of lying just kilometers from one of the Mediterranean's most popular destinations.