The ancient walls of Sorrento, a journey back in time

Like almost all Italian cities that have centuries of history behind them, Sorrento also boasts ancient walls and gates.

Since the time of the Roman Empire the city was surrounded by walls but under the roadway of Porta Parsano there are nevertheless remains of other walls, which, according to the latest surveys, do not date back to Roman times, but even to the Greek domination. The Roman settlement was actually superimposed gradually to the Greek one, along the same lines drawn centuries before.

The Roman walls were gradually eroded and crumbled following the numerous Saracen raids, which followed one another despite the continuous succession of dynasties, and, in the XV century, the disputes between the Anjou and the Aragon dynasties for the conquest of the town made the situation even worse. The walls were then completely rebuilt between 1551 and 1561, with the further construction of a castle that today is gone. The new walls, designed by engineer Pedro Treviño, were called viceregal walls because their construction was authorized by the Spanish viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo, and they made the historic center of the city completely inaccessible. The only access to the town were in fact represented by some gates on the cardinal points of the town, which led respectively to Meta and Sorrento, and to today's Marina Grande and Marina Piccola.

The most visible part of the walls today, however, is Porta Parsano, which is also the most recent gate. It was opened in fact in the XVIII century, during the Bourbon domination, on the south side of Sorrento, in order to give access to the hills, and its construction began a series of urban transformations that culminated with the enlargement of today’s Corso Italia and the construction of Piazza Tasso on the site of the Valley of the Mills. Thanks to Porta Parsano, initially named Porta of Anastasi, Sorrento actually came out from the borders of the historical center to extend towards south.

In addition to the gate of Marina Grande (we talked about it in a previous article) and Porta Parsano there are only the ruins of some bastions which still resist, such as the Torre San Bacolo, located on the western side, the Bastion of St. Anthonino, the Bastion of St. Attanasio and the Bastion of San Renato. All the towers have a relatively simple structure because they were on top of the already unassailable Valley of the Mills. The last bastion led to Porta Maggiore, which, as we said, was destroyed in the XIX century due to the expansion and transformation of the old Piazza Castello into the new Piazza Tasso.

Today the bastion of Parsano, just a few steps from the Hotel Plaza Sorrento, is open to visitors and, together with the short stretch in Via Sopra le Mura and the Gate of Marina Grande, Porta Parsano is the only trait of the ancient walls still existing, and today it represents the only example of city walls dating from the period of Spanish rule in South Italy. In 2008 Park Ibsen was built near the walls and the Valley of the Mills. Today it is one of the largest green spaces of the city, and it was recently reopened to the public after a few months.


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