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Meet the Dangerous Beauties That Gave Sorrento Its Name

17 April 2024
by Michele Becker
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Tantalizing beauty has been part of Sorrento’s story for thousands of years.  

Sorrento, the first stop for many who come to the Amalfi Coast, has enticed visitors from all over the world for centuries with its dramatic cliffs, pristine blue waters, and abundance of lemons. The gorgeous destination has a reputation for attracting passersby that’s older than you might think: it goes all the way back to ancient Greco-Roman mythology!  

The cliffs of Sorrento

While there are a number of stories about the origin of Sorrento’s name, the most intriguing theory comes from ancient myth. It says that Sorrento took its name from the sirens, alluring creatures that were fabled to live among Sorrento’s cliffs. 

Found in ancient Mediterranean myths like The Odyssey and The Argonautica, sirens were magical women that would lounge on the rocks of sunny Sorrento. When a passing sailor heard the sirens singing, he would not be able to resist their sweet voices. Seeing them only as breathtakingly beautiful women, he would rush toward them. It was only as he got closer that the sirens would reveal their true nature as half-women, half-bird monsters and feast on the unlucky soul.  

Silvana Mangano in UlyssesPhoto Credit: IMDB
 

The story of the sirens is so well-known, it has appeared in TV and film—most notably in the movie Ulysses, which starred Giada’s grandmother, Silvana Mangano! She played the beautiful sorceress Circe, who rescues Ulysses (Kirk Douglas) after he and his crew narrowly escape from the sirens.   

As you gaze at the breathtaking yet treacherously steep, rocky cliffs of Sorrento, it’s not hard to see why the area was associated with dangerous temptation. Today, you’ll see sirens mentioned all around the region, from the Syrrenyum olive oil made by our friends at Gargiulo in Sorrento to Positano’s most spectacular hotel, Le Sirenuse. Just as Odysseus was warned of the sirens’ seduction, we must warn you of Sorrento’s magical appeal. The cliffside town is so enchanting, you may never want to leave! 

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