Long after the summer tourists have left Sorrento and peace returns to my adopted hometown, romantic visions are born anew in the city’s historic past, such as the legend of Bagni della Regina Giovanna. It’s said to be the ancient swimming hole of Queen Joanna of Naples, the 14th century royal who was quite saucy. She married her cousin…she was eight and he was six. Yes, controversy starts young in Napoli. He was eventually hung by his genitals from a hunting lodge and she married twice more before being smothered to death at the age of 56.
Locals say Bagni della Regina Giovanna was where the young Queen went to swim with several young lovers at a time. It was shielded then, as it is today, by a limestone arch, secluding it from the sea beyond, just off the beaten path.
It’s not easy to find by car or foot. It’s better to take the bus from Sorrento toward Massa Lubrense. Ask the driver for the stop to Bagni della Regina Giovanna. It’s not an easy hike. You climb down, and down, and down some more, along ancient, cobbled Roman walkways. Then you climb among the jagged rocks down toward the rock-lined watering hole – no rest for the weary at this beach. There’s a reason it’s also better in September – the summer heat is gone for when you make the long, strenuous climb back up the hill.