I am staying in Sorrento for a few days, a busy tourist town with many hotels and a surprising number of English people. The new port is a constant back and to of excursion boats out to Capri and the Amalfi coast. Just below me however, is the old harbour which remains wonderfully Italian. They had a Festival of the Fish the other night, with food stalls, live music and fireworks. Any excuse for a knees-up it seems.
One street back from the seafront is a company which still makes boats in a traditional fashion, some entirely of wood and others in glass fibre with beautiful wooden trim. They are a sight to behold. It was like a moth to a flame for me.
Even if boats hold no interest for you, there is something about the craftsmanship that has a strong attraction. The workmen were totally unconcerned about me wandering around the factory and machinery: a very refreshing attitude.
Another thing that interested me was the average age of the workforce. Some appeared to be well past retirement, but obviously still enjoyed what they did. Better than working in B&Q.
In the harbour just around the corner the company’s product stands out from the crowd of massed produced vessels, their sleek lines gracing the blue waters of the Bay of Naples.
Sorrento has other hidden gems. Just inland, not two hundred metres from the main square is a most unusual sight. A deep valley cut into the soft rock contains the mortal remains of an old mill, long since fallen into disuse. The unique environment of high humidity has created a perfect habitat for lush vegetation, including several ferns, all of which are gradually claiming back man’s endeavours.