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Sorrento, Italy


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Bailey and Sienna at Sorrento

The earliest evidence of human settlement in the Sorrento Peninsula indicates Greek and Phoenician activity, however this fertile land was soon taken over as a Roman colony until the final collapse of the Empire. In the Middle Ages (c. 9th century AD), Sorrento managed to release herself from outside control, including Naples, and thus the Duchy of Sorrento was born. The Duchy of Sorrento covered the whole of the peninsula and was soon to become a prosperous economy based on ship chandlery, and the sale and production of citrus fruits and wine. The Duchy later (1100) relinquished its independence to become a protectorate of Normandy, with the advantage of receiving protection against attacks from pirates and the Lombards.

In 1558 Sorrento underwent a violent invasion by the Turks. The city was sacked and the population suffered severe losses. At around the start of the 18th century, after a period of bitter struggles between the peasant population and rich landowners, Sorrento began to emerge as a popular tourist resort, much loved by visitors from all over the world for its mild climate and flourishing countryside. By 1800, Sorrento's economy was based primarily on tourism and the wood inlay industry, which gradually took over from the production of silk textiles. Over the years Sorrento has been the favorite destination of such luminaries of European culture as Lord Byron, Keats, Goethe, Dickens, Wagner, Ibsen and Nietzsche. At the start of the 20th century agriculture was given a second wind thanks to intensive cultivation of citrus fruits, which were exported throughout the Italian peninsula and overseas.

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