Exploring Sorrento’s Hauntingly Beautiful “Valley of the Mills”

valley-of-mills-sorrento (Image: Juan Salmoral, cc-nc-nd-3.0)

Between 35,000 and 37,000 years ago a massive volcanic eruption shook the Mediterranean, carving a deep chasm in the limestone plateau adjacent to current centre of old town Sorrento. Over time, water running through the basin between Punta Scutolo and the Cape of Sorrento forced its way through volcanic debris and carved out new channels to the sea. Settlements sprang-up and the Valley of the Mills was born.

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The mills, featured in our popular article 5 Pillars of the Abandoned World, were constructed where two streams met, creating a widening of the gorge at the foot of Villa La Rupe. The ruins include a flour mill, which remained in use until the early 20th century. An adjacent sawmill supplied high quality wood to Sorrento’s cabinet makers.

valley-of-mills-sorrento-italy-3 (Images: Mark Peters, cc-3.0; The Consortium, cc-sa-3.0)

Eventually, rising damp brought about by the construction of Piazzo Tasso in 1866 led to the Valley of the Mills’ increasing isolation from the sea, and it was gradually abandoned over the years. The humid environment created a micro-climate that reportedly proved favourable to the growth of “Phillitus Vulgaris”, a rare fern, consuming the ruins in a layer of rich green flora. Today, tourists can wander down stone ramps into the valley, or gaze down upon the ruins from Via Fuorimura.

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valley-of-mills-sorrento-italy-5 (Images: Dennis JarvisThe Consortium; cc-sa-3.0)

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