The Neapolitan song is famous not only in Italy, but all over the world, and many of the most famous songs are about the town of Sorrento.
The most famous, of course, is Torna a Surriento. The genesis of this song is anything but romantic. Indeed, it was composed in 1894 by the Neapolitan brothers Giambattista and Ernesto De Curtis and was presented in 1902 to the then Italian Prime Minister, Giuseppe Zanardelli, who stepped at Sorrento during a visit to Calabria. Zanardelli had promised the mayor of Sorrento Guglielmo Tramontano a new post office and a new sewerage.
Zanardelli died only a year later, but he fulfilled his promise, and the De Curtis brothers altered the lyrics of the song and proposed it again at the Piedigrotta music festival. The song was revived over the years by the Italian singer Claudio Villa, by Elvis Presley (with the title Surrender), Dean Martin, Placido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli and, more recently, by the American rapper Pitbull for advertising purposes. The song was in fact chosen for the launch of the new Fiat 500 in the US.
Another famous song was Caruso, perhaps the masterpiece of Italian author Lucio Dalla, which, despite having been written in 1986, became an instant classic. The song was composed in the hotel Excelsior in Sorrento, and is dedicated to the tenor Enrico Caruso, who died in the hotel. Even the videoclip of Caruso is set in the same location. Inspired, in the lyrics and melody to the classic song Dicitencello Vuje, a Neapolitan song of 1930, Caruso has sold 9 million copies worldwide and has known multiple versions, sung by Luciano Pavarotti, Julio Iglesias, Celine Dion and Il Divo.
It has no particular references to Sorrento, but it was written by a Sorrento native, Salve D'Esposito, in 1950, the song Anema e Core, translated into multiple languages and appreciated worldwide, especially in England, where it was renamed How Wonderful to Know, and in the US (with the title With All my Heart and Soul).
Among the lesser known songs Napule e Surriento, and the sceneggiata Surriento Gentile, both composed by Sorrento author Enzo Murolo, and Serenata a Surriento, written in 1907 by Aniello Califano, now best remembered for another song, O Surdato ‘nnamurato.
Califano was provoked by mayor Tramontano, who mocked him about the fact that the brothers De Curtis, who were not native of the city, had immortalized Sorrento in their song, unlike him. A very offended Califano composed the lyrics of Serenata a Surriento that same day.
All these songs are still united by a single element. The deep and lasting love for the city of Sorrento, which moves all the people from Sorrento who hear these songs abroad.