New year, classic destination. Naples and the Amalfi Coast are at the heart of one of the most glorious areas in Europe to explore and is perhaps why they were a ‘must’, on the Grand Tours of the early 19th century. The vertiginous and winding roads along this stretch of coastline make a journey by luxury yacht a more leisurely and enjoyable way to travel.
Naples and Sorrento
Naples is the region’s capital and the harbour from where many charter vacations in Southern Italy will set out. This energetic city, the birthplace of pizza and home to numerous gelaterias, is chaotic, charming and characterised by the towering presence of Mount Vesuvius. Before boarding your choice of a luxury yacht, experience a taste of Naples’ unique hospitality at one of the many local or international restaurants, visit the opera at the oldest opera house in the world, Real Teatro Di San Carlo or peruse the chic designer stores.
Mount Vesuvius, the infamous volcano, provides the backstory for the region and the fascinating ancient towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum are literally frozen in time from the eruption of 79AD. Few archaeological sites offer such an intimate portrait of the past and are as deeply moving and evocative.
After a day walking the cobblestones, replenish yourself at one of the many local thermal spas which occur naturally due to the area’s volcanic activity. These ancient volcanoes are the bedrock of the Sorrento Peninsula’s landscape delivering the steep cliffs that are so recognisable. Atop one such cliff is the resort town of Sorrento which has a long history with tourists beginning with visits from Lord Byron.
It is easy to see why the romantic poets found inspiration here among the plethora of islands which punctuate the clear blue waters. Perhaps one of the most beautiful and popular islands is Capri, renowned for its Blue Lagoon which reflects light from beneath the water to create a unique spectacle. The island has long been a chic weekend retreat for the residents of Naples so boasts sophisticated restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Most charter yachts anchor outside the main marinas in one of the quieter secluded bays from where you can be escorted to shore aboard your own tender or local water taxi. Many restaurants provide exclusive docks for yacht guests so you can arrive in style and leave discretely having enjoyed beautifully prepared fresh seafood and a glass (or two!) of fine local wine.
The Amalfi Coast
The southern side of the Sorrento Peninsula is more commonly known as The Amalfi Coast and is perhaps one of the most spectacular and glamorous stretches of coastline in Europe. Be sure to include the town of Positano in your itinerary as it is the picture postcard highlight. Don’t miss the chance to sample local wines at the cellar doors and savour freshly caught seafood prepared according to traditional recipes. The town has some of the best restaurants with the best views in the area including La Sponda where they love to create a romantic atmosphere with candles which take three hours to light each evening. “We think it’s worth it”, comments the owner.
Travel along the coast to Amalfi Town and Ravello where you can build up an appetite exploring the winding streets, multi-coloured houses and the Piazzo del Duomo, Amalfi’s cathedral and Villa Rufolo, the ancient Roman villa and the main attraction in Ravello. Back on board your chef will no doubt have spent time exploring the local farmers’ market in search of the freshest ingredients to prepare your evening feast. Anchored in the bay you will have the multi-coloured houses and grand hotels as your backdrop and at night the landscape evolves into a whole new vista when lit up with thousands of lights.
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The Aeolian Islands and Sicily
After the hustle and bustle of these popular coastal towns, a day’s cruise south to the Aeolian Islands allows time to simply take in the pleasures of being on board your luxury motor or sailing yacht, have the crew pamper you or take a soak in the jacuzzi at sundown. These islands and their big sister Sicily, also make a great gateway to the Eastern Mediterranean if you want to extend your charter further.
Sometimes called the Seven Sisters, the volcanic islands are best explored by sea, and each offers its own unique history and natural sights and sounds. One thing they all have in common though is the clear blue waters making SCUBA diving or snorkelling a must and most yachts will be able to supply the best quality equipment. The larger of the islands, like Lipari, have harbours with yacht berths from where you can explore the local towns while others such as Panarea are much simpler and only allow Vespa scooters or small electric carts.
Despite being the largest of Italy’s volcanic islands Sicily is still relatively small and is recognisable on any map as the ‘ball’ at the end of Italy’s ‘boot’ and is dominated by Mount Etna. The island is steeped in history and pays homage to its varied past with well-preserved monuments, churches and palaces from the Roman, Arab, Norman, French and Spanish civilisations who have inhabited the area. The cuisine on the island also reflects its diverse history and culture with influences from many of its occupants over the centuries. Particularly well known is Sicilian mulberry granita – a delicious semi-frozen mixture of water, sugar and locally grown fruit. Every summer visitors can see large mulberry trees dropping their fruit onto the nets specially arranged under the branches.
When back on board, ask the captain if he can find one of the underwater fumaroles which release steam to create a natural whirlpool bath in the sea. An extraordinary way to complete a once-in-a-lifetime adventure aboard a luxury charter yacht.
Although parts of Italy are year-round destinations, Naples, the Amalfi Coast and Sicily are best enjoyed from spring through to autumn with May or September being ideal. During these times the weather is beautiful with temperatures between 20-25°C, plenty to do and fewer crowds than in July and August. However, if you are chartering a yacht, you always have the advantage of being able to take in some of the sights from offshore during busier months to avoid crowds. It is also worth considering that in the Winter months, many of the restaurants are closed for the season with options only being available in Naples and Sorrento or some of the larger towns in Sicily.
There are plenty of luxury yachts to choose from in Italy but the best ones with the best crews get snapped up quickly. So don’t hesitate in seeking expert advice to guide you through the yacht charter process.
Trina Howes is a Director of CharterWorld America. CharterWorld is a luxury private yacht charter company that creates outstanding vacations with excellent yachts at amazing prices – worldwide.
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