Revel in la dolce vita on the Amalfi Coast
Well-known for scenery, history, cuisine and style, the famous stretch of coastline along the Amalfi Coast is blessed with warm sunshine, fascinating culture and beautiful beaches. Tracing the shoreline of this UNESCO heritage site by yacht allows full appreciation of this extraordinary destination. Not only will the views be even more spectacular, but a yacht is perfectly placed to explore many lesser-known delights and intriguing neighbouring islands along the way. As you soak up Italian glamour alongside a feast of delicious food and wine it is easy to see why this destination is so widely recognised. Undeniably, the best way to discover some of its best-kept secrets is from the water.
Bella Napoli, the southern capital and third largest city in Italy, is brimming with fast-paced life. Cobbled streets and bustling piazzas sit amongst the heady buzz of Vespas, while delicious aromas of traditional cuisine hang in the air. The birthplace of pizza, you cannot leave without trying an authentic slice of this famous Neapolitan dish. History buffs will relish the opportunity for a day trip to the remarkably intact Roman ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum nearby, together with the display of amazing artefacts and treasures housed locally in the Naples Archaeological Museum. Wander the winding streets lined with restaurants, ride the funicular to enjoy some breath-taking views and take the opportunity to enjoy opera at the ancient and atmospheric Teatro San Carlo. Those seeking alternative curiosities, look no further than the somewhat spooky Ospedale delle Bambole (Doll Hospital) down the narrow Spaccanapoli streets, or descend 40m below to Napoli Sotterranea (underground), where guided tours explore the labyrinth of Greek aqueducts, pagan burial chambers and the remains of Nero’s lost theatre. Once you’ve explored Naples, take a short cruise across the bay to the pretty island of Procida where pastel houses fringe the harbour as quaint fishing boats bob in the bay. Here is a place to enjoy lazy lunches and evening aperativo, where the colours of Marina Corricella change at different times of the day and beautiful sunset spots are easy to find.
Sail to volcanic Ischia, steeped in ancient mythology, and famed for its hot thermal springs. The island’s interior is covered in lush semi-tropical vegetation, while a fascinating mix of vineyards and quirky towns pepper the landscape. Take a stroll past designer boutiques along Via Roma, wander at leisure through the famous Mortella Gardens and visit the famous medieval castle of Castello Aragonese. The pretty, traffic-free fishing village of Sant’Angelo has some lovely beaches, relaxed restaurants, plus a gentle walk with stunning viewpoints that takes you above the village; make sure to catch a colourful water taxi back. Maronti Beach is the largest on the island and ideally accessed by yacht, offering plentiful anchorages, turquoise waters and spectacular views. Behind the beach are the intriguing Cavascura Natural Springs, a series of caves and grottoes to bathe and shower in the varying temperatures of the hot springs. Alternatively, there are a number of specific thermal parks in Ischia to spend a day enjoying the facilities. Surrounded by four delightful beaches of Chiaia, Citara, San Francesco and Cava dell’Isola, the second largest town of Forio is a big draw and the beautiful Chiesa del Soccorso church is well worth a visit. Ischia Porto is the transport hub of the island, bustling with shops, bars and restaurants.
Clandestine, inviting and the largest of the Pontine island group, Ponza is a tranquil yachting haven where windless coves and translucent water frame the coastline. Informal restaurants deliver understated nightspots with sunset aperitifs and delicious fresh fare; this is a place to relish unmitigated Italian charm with laid-back simplicity. The best way to explore is most definitely by yacht, hopping from cove to cove; each with romantic names such as Lucia Rosa or Cala Core and lapped by water exuding a different turquoise hue. Drop anchor near the Arco Naturale and swim in ridiculously clear water underneath the giant rock formation. Whilst cruising around the coastline, look out for the gelato boat that comes round supplying visitors with ice cold treats! The nearby uninhabited island and secret paradise of Palmarola is known as the Kingdom of Myth, with the local fisherman spinning mysterious tales of mermaids and old saints. Here nature is pristine and silence rules, untouched by time there is a primitive vibe with only the spooky ruins of a medieval monastery and a prehistoric hamlet with holes where troglodytes once lived as a reminder of its occupied past.
With spectacular views over the Bay of Naples, the historic seaside town of Sorrento is packed with colourful allure. Wander at leisure through the labyrinth of intricate lanes to soak up the authentic southern charm of the Centro Storico, marvel at elegant palazzos and look out for quirky galleries displaying regional artwork. Recommended is the Correale Museum, owned by a family of nobles, and home to an extensive private collection of paintings and craftwork plus a large garden with citrus groves offering stunning views. At the scenic fishing quarter in Marina Grande, you can enjoy delicious fresh seafood at bustling waterfront restaurants, followed by a relaxed ‘passegiata’ with the locals. Close to the harbour, the small and sandy beach at Marina Piccola is a popular choice, or slightly further south, the natural appeal of Punto del Capo is an attractive option with the Bagni della Regina Giovanna (baths) and the Roman Villa Pollio on the headland. When in Sorrento, stop at the Villa Comunale Park for a romantic stroll and some incredible views of Mount Vesuvius, plus you simply cannot leave town without a visit to the I Giardini di Cataldo, one of Italy’s most renowned lemon groves – the delicious produce is a must to take home.
Cosmopolitan, chic and rich in history, Capri is a renowned playground for the rich and famous, known as a star-studded destination since the heady dolce vita days of the 1950’s when celebs such as Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren put the island firmly on the jet set map. Strewn with high-class hotels, restaurants and boutique shopping this island is now the central hub of the see and be seen scene, where you may spot Beyonce’s yacht in Marina Piccola or be lucky to see Lenny Kravitz perform a nightclub set. Enjoy a memorable seafood lunch at celeb hotspot Il Riccio where the ‘Temptation Room’, stacked high with an array of mouth-watering desserts, is a sight to behold. Cruise around the impressive Faraglioni Rocks, swim in the azure waters and take the thrilling chairlift from Anacapri to the island’s peak at Monte Solara. Blessed with the most spectacular scenery, jaw-dropping natural beauty surrounds Capri, with an abundance of fascinating coves and emerald green grottoes. The bewitching Blue Grotto was loved so much by the Roman emperor Tiberius, he commissioned statues to decorate it; here an extraordinary effect created by the sunlight bouncing along the cave walls creates water that seems to glow many shades of blue. Stop at a bustling café to enjoy a refreshing limoncello or make way to Da Luigi Beach Club to soak up the uber-cool vibe.
Approaching the dramatic bay of Positano by yacht is a truly magical experience. The town tumbles along the cliffside in an almost impossible fashion, frequented by a stylish crowd who relish the way this infinitely classy retreat oozes glamour. Utterly fascinating, the modish atmosphere and ravishing views lure travellers who are enchanted by the charm and elegance Positano exudes. Many coves and seductive bays are only reachable from the water – go to Fiordo di Furore for incredible rock diving, the three Galli islands for secluded anchorages or head to Fornillo where the beach is a peaceful haunt for discerning locals. Impossibly steep topography is where the town’s real magic lies, with thousands of stairs and vertical streets, winding tightly amongst clusters of colourful houses and trendy boutiques. Spiaggia Grande beach with its black sand and clear blue water is where true sun worshippers come to make the most of Italy’s glamorous seaside ambience. For individuals in search of nightlife with an exclusive feel, do not miss a visit to club-in-a-cave ‘Music on the Rocks’, one of the leading clubs in Europe. Often overlooked by visitors is nearby Praiano, perched between Positano and Amalfi 120m above sea level; at Marina di Praia beach the cluster of lovely restaurants are a great spot to watch the su nset during dinner and definitely worth planning a stop during your yachting itinerary.
Memorable and spectacular, charismatic Amalfi is a cluster of brightly coloured houses cascading down a precipitous cliffside interspersed by terraced lemon groves – approaching by yacht is a picture-perfect spectacle. Narrow town alleyways wind upwards, snaking past ancient piazzas and pretty churches, linking the azure sea to the lofty emerald mountains beyond. Bursting with history and maritime aplomb, local folklore and tradition preside alongside Byzantine architecture. Dominated by an exquisitely ornate 9th century cathedral, Amalfi constantly buzzes with activity where alfresco cafes serve traditional cakes and strong espressos next door to stylish boutiques for discerning shoppers. At Cape Conca take a trip to the Emerald Grotto, one of Amalfi’s natural wonders, emitting an eerie hue that radiates from its depths thanks to an underwater crevice refracting sunlight. Away from the animated town, explore the beach scene and anchor off the secluded cove of Santa Croce, with crystal waters ideal for kayaking around the bay where you can discover the exquisitely peaceful waterfront at Atrani. Here you can enjoy the delightful fishing-hamlet feel, away from the complex whirl of Amalfi, where friendly locals run intimate trattorias neighbouring flowered balconies that overlook ancient churches.
Romantic and refined, Ravello is a stand-out on the Amalfi Coast. Offering a haven of calm and splendour, nestled in the lush green hills 365m above the stunning Bay of Salerno, Ravello town is filled with exquisite gardens and fascinating art galleries, alongside achingly beautiful views of the landscape below. Made famous as a summer retreat by celebs such as Jacqueline Kennedy and Greta Garbo, stars still flock to the magnificent hotels and sparkling music festivals whilst being enticed by the inescapable atmosphere of timeless elegance. At medieval Villa Cimbrone perched on a steep ridge, take a stroll through the ornate gardens and soak up world-beating views along the Terrace of Infinity, lined by marble busts. Try to catch an impassioned open-air concert at the extraordinary 13th-century Villa Rufolo, with romantic lighting and limoncello for the interval, this is a magical event. In the Piazza del Vescovado, soak up the tranquil mood, overlooked by the enchanting Duomo di Ravello whose impressive bronze doors are made of 54 panels and the interior boasts a cornucopia of fascinating busts, mosaics and medieval frescoes.
The Amalfi Coast is possibly one of the most picturesque and historically rewarding yacht charter destinations in Italy, where legendary hotspots deliver the ultimate Mediterranean experience. Undoubtedly the ideal way to fully appreciate this region is from the sea, where the vertically stacked villages and dramatic scenery deliver extraordinary views and sunsets are absolutely unforgettable.
Nicholas Dean is Managing Partner of Ocean Independence. Ocean Independence is a global leader in luxury yachting, providing a bespoke experience across yacht charter, sales and management.