Tucked away between souvenir shops in a narrow cobblestone lane behind Sorrento’s main square is Sedile Dominova, the last surviving ancient noble seat in the Campania region in southern Italy. Its curious name makes sense when translated: “Domus” means house, “nova” means new and “sedile” means seat.
This 14th-century grand building was an institution, where medieval nobles congregated and discussed the politics of the day and administrative affairs. This tradition stems from the Middle Ages and was strictly for men only.
If the site is crowded with visiting tour groups, select a table in the café right outside the building to enjoy the view of the decorated gate from the comfort of your chair. You can’t miss the elaborate painting of Sorrento’s coat of arms supported by angels. When the area quiets, step inside the open-sided square structure. You’ll find yourself in the impressive foyer, a 16th-century loggia. Study the well-preserved frescoes, which date from the 18th century.
Study the pillars and mixed style arches and their medieval capitals. These are not the original decorations, but truthful artistic representations of the ones that have been lost to time. Look up inside the dome for a view of the heraldic signs of the nobles who belonged to the seat.
Fittingly, the atrium still has simple tables and chairs for gatherings. Local men often congregate here and play cards. They are members of a worker’s association that is headquartered at the building. When the atrium is not in use, you may sit down and read your guidebook or write in your travel log for a while.
To really appreciate the dome’s exterior and its decorative covering of yellow-and-green majolica tiles you will need to be a few footsteps away in one of the adjacent lanes. Stand with your back against a side wall of these narrow passages and study the facade.
Sedile Dominova is situated on a corner of via San Cesareo, just a couple of minutes by foot from Piazza Tasso and Sorrento’s cathedral. There is no admission fee.