Amalfi – The Crown Jewel of Italy
One of the most romantic destinations on the planet has to be Italy’s Amalfi coast. The names are familiar: Sorrento, Capri, Ischia, Positano, Castellamare, Naples, Ravello…..they literally roll off the tongue. This is the heart and soul of Italy. This is Italy’s answer to Greece’s Mykonos and Santorini – inextricably Italian, unbelievably beautiful and for the foodies among us, a place to enjoy the finest wines and flavors of Italian cuisine.
Cruising the waters of the Amalfi on a charter yacht puts all of these experiences into one compact trip. The distances between most of these ports, towns and villages are a convenient 15 and 25 miles of each other so it involves a very reasonable amount of time on the water and lots of time to explore, eat, drink and enjoy. A week in the Amalfi is the cultural equivalent of two or three weeks anywhere else.
Places You Simply Have To Visit
This city, steeped in nautical tradition, is the yachting portal to Capri and the Amalfi Coast. Nothing parallels the experience of cruising along the enchanting Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius serving as a dramatic backdrop.
The city is a metropolis of contradictions, with neighborhoods preferably avoided just around the corner from magnificent churches and peerless museums. This cultured city offers lovely experiences. The San Carlo Theatre is a wondrous place to hear a concert. Search for trinkets and treasures at the elegant Galleria Umberto 1, or shop haute couture on the Via Calabritto and Via G. Filangieri. At the Piazza del Plebscito take a seat at the outdoor café, order a rum bubba, and enjoy the passing parade.
People familiar with Pompeii as an ash-frozen city, a poignant window into ancient Roman life in 79AD, will be surprised to know that Pompeii is equally a modern town. Contemporary Pompeii is especially popular with well-heeled Neapolitans and other devout Italians who come on pilgrimage to the Santuario del Madonna del Rosario. Built in 1876 in the shape of a Latin cross, the church has a 53-meter high dome at the center and an 80-meter bell tower with fabulous views. The encased shroud of Madonna di Pompeii rests upon the altar in a bronze frame encrusted with gems. The streets of modern Pompeii are lined with contemporary comforts; pubs, bars, restaurants, shops and hotels.
Drop anchor at the pretty, protected, picturesque harbor beneath the city of Sorrento. It’s a worthwhile climb to reach the town that spreads across the cliff top. Handsome buildings have exquisite sea views and the impressive church welcomes both the devout and the curious. The warm air is heavy with the scent of orange and lemon trees, the aroma of freshly ground coffee, and comforting whiffs of freshly baked bread. People are friendly and greet visitors warmly. The streets around the central square are lined with a diversity of shops. In the evening, arm in arm, the townsfolk stroll about the square admiring new products in ancient windows. Step off the busy street and into the enjoyable, garden ambiance of L’Antica Trattoria. Oenophiles will especially appreciate their wine cellar boasting 30,000 bottles at friendly prices.
This island is fascinating on so many levels. Snorkeling and diving is a marvelous adventure in a landscape of conical spheres, magical grottos and secluded coves. Tender in to one of the many celebrity beach clubs, some new and glitzy, others elegant, refined and generations old.
Capri has two main towns, Capri Town and Anacapri; time permitting, visit them both.
Anacapri, perched at 902 feet, has charming residential areas, and delightful Belle Epoch architecture that keeps the aristocratic ambiance alive. Visit Villa San Michele, on the grounds of one of Tiberius’s 12 ancient villas.
In Capri Town, have an aperitif at any of the many cafes and bars on the famous Piazzetta. Watch as celebrities, starlets and dreamers vie for sidelong glances.
Villa San Michele, Museum – www.villasanmichele.eu
From the sundeck of your yacht, the elegant mansions, magnificent resorts, castles and convents appear as perfectly positioned shapes of pink and peach, white and stone, clinging to the cliff sides for the coolest breezes and most magnificent views.
It is no wonder that Positano has been the inspiration of painters and poets, bishops and kings, and Cupid is rumored to run rampant up and down the network of steep streets and steps. Positano is a place to relax and simply enjoy the ambiance.
There are the expected boutiques and wine bars, and Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta is an architectural marvel that houses a Byzantine Black Madonna. Duck into the Hotel Palazzo Murat in the city’s pedestrian zone of cafès, restaurants and shops, for refreshments and a stroll about the hidden gardens of this 18th century palace.
Palazzo Murat – www.palazzomurat.it
Approaching the Italian coast by yacht, the view of the harbor from the bow is a playful scene of beach goers beneath parti-colored umbrellas to starboard, and ships of every description to port. Ahead, the town rises up gentle slopes, and beyond your panoramic view includes the mountains of the Sorrento Peninsula. Amalfi’s medieval prosperity as a maritime power is delightfully apparent in the ornate architecture of religious buildings, easily identified from the deck. Many have been converted into opulent resorts, including the Grand Hotel Convento di Amalfi, highly recommended for cocktails and cuisine. Explore the exquisite medieval chapel, the 13th century cloister, and the breathtaking Passeggiata dei Monaci walkway. For a retreat of absolute calm, reserve treatment at the Monastero Santa Rosa Hotel Spa. Built in 1681 on the cliffs above Amalfi, the rustic terrace restaurant has spectacular views overlooking the Gulf of Salerno.
From the coast, this archetypal Italian town is reached traveling up three miles of exquisitely scenic, steeply winding road. The heart of this city is an astonishingly beautiful arrangement of historic buildings, from the intensely Moorish Santa Maria a Gradillo, to the 13th century fortified castle, to the Piazza del Vesovado, and a perfectly choreographed ensemble of medieval buildings, manicured gardens and wild vegetation. Villa Rufolo is a treasure collection of art and history and a favorite haunt of musicians, artists and poets, eulogised in the elegant poetry of Bocaccio. If you have a keen interest in regional cuisine, and three hours to spare, Norna Orsola teaches traditional cooking in the spacious kitchens of the Hotel Villa Maria, also a prime spot for cocktails with a view.
ACCESSING THE AMALFI
If you are planning a stand-alone Amalfi yachting vacation, you need to fly into Naples or Napoli as it’s known locally. So both your pick-up and drop-off would be the port of Naples. Although you could do a one way from Naples to Salerno and take a cab back to Naples. A seven day charter would include all the hot-spots including the Island of Procida, The island of Ischia, Sorrento, the Island of Capri, Positano, Amalfi and Salerno. AND many of the beautiful little ports and villages along the way
You can also visit the Amalfi as a stop-over destination on a longer charter, or on a faster motor yacht. If you started your charter in, say, Genoa or Portofino in Northern Italy, you can stop over in the Amalfi on the way south towards Sicily and the Aeolian islands. This sounds like a two-weeker to me if you really want to do justice to Italy and all it has to offer.
For Foodies Only
As the saying goes: “the PIZZA alone is a good reason to visit Naples…” Yes, but the region of Campania which is home to Naples and the Amalfi has a whole lot more to offer than pizza. Here are the top 10:
1. Neapolitan Pizza
Number one on this list could only be the justly famous Neapolitan pizza. Known as the birthplace of pizza, Naples has many pizzaioli (pizza makers) who have been perfecting their fine craft for centuries. For the most traditional experience, try the Pizza Margherita topped with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, a drizzle of olive oil and a few basil leaves. It’s simple and divine all at once, and is only one of the many choices you’ll find throughout Campania.
2. Risotto alla Pescatora
While risotto is often associated more with central and northern Italy, Risotto alla Pescatora is a classic seafood risotto popular in Naples, along the Amalfi Coast and in other seaside areas. The fresh flavors of the sea blend beautifully with the delicate rice base, making this a refreshing summer dish.
3. Spaghetti con le vongole
Campanian cooking is simple and fresh, and this dish highlights those traits at their best. This traditional Neapolitan recipe features vongole (clams), olive oil, garlic and parsley served with spaghetti, and is one that you’ll also find along the Amalfi Coast, the islands of Capri and Ischia and along the Campania coastline.
4. Parmigiana Melanzane
Campania’s famous mozzarella cheese is an important ingredient in many traditional dishes, including the well-known Parmigiana Melanzane, or Eggplant Parmesan. Thin slices of eggplant are fried and then layered with tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil, and when baked the flavors meld in an irresistible and comforting dish.
5. Caprese Salad
No dish captures the flavors and simplicity of Campanian cooking better than the Caprese salad made with sun-ripened tomatoes, fresh leaves of basil gently torn and a drizzle of olive oil over the region’s excellent mozzarella di bufala (buffalo milk cheese). The plains around Paestum and Salerno and Caserta outside Naples are famous for the production of mozzarella di bufala. Another equally popular choice in Campania for the Caprese salad is the delicious fior di latte mozzarella made with cow’s milk. While this salad is now famous throughout Italy, it is named after the island of Capri where it comes from.
6. Totani e Patate
Here’s where mare meets terra literally in this dish of squid and potatoes, a classic on the Amalfi Coast. Although it might sound a little strange, try it and you’ll likely be surprised by this warm and satisfying dish.
No food pilgrimage to Naples would be complete without trying the city’s mythic polpette(meatballs). They’re better than you can imagine! A traditional family style lunch might include pasta with the sauce from the polpette and the meatballs served separately as the second course.
8. Pesce all’Acqua Pazza
What is fish cooked in crazy water? While the name of this dish is pretty wild, it’s one of the simplest and tastiest ways to prepare fish. On the Amalfi Coast, locally caught fresh fish are simmered in water with garlic, tomatoes and parsley.
9. Fritto Misto di Mare
A classic served by the seaside in summer along with a crisp white wine with fresh peaches, this mix of fried seafood often features calamari, shrimp and anchovies. If you’re seafood shy, this might not be the dish for you. But any local will tell you that the fried baby octopus is the best!
10. Broccoli and Salsiccia You don’t have to go far inland in the mountains on the Amalfi Coast – only to Ravello and Scala – before you’ll spot this traditional fall and winter dish on the menu. Locally made sausage with fennel contrasts wonderfully with the bitter broccoli rabe that grows so well in Campania. This is a very popular flavor combination and is served often as a second dish or as an inventive pizza topping.
How about the wine?
Wine-making has been going on in this region since the thirteenth century BC..!! Especially in the Taurasi DOCG zone, a handful of winemakers have been pro-actively producing wide arrays of notable reds and whites that have acquired national respect. In addition to Taurasi, there are two other “boutique” reds that debuted in 1994 and have since acquired a respectable status in Italy.
The arguably best-known Campania wine is the Lacrima Christi or, “Tears of Christ”. Though, in the past, it was so overproduced that it almost ruined its reputation, in more recent years serious efforts have been made by local winemakers to restore its former status and have so far met with some success.
Campania, like many Italian regions, is home an impressive array of grape varieties, some of which are found almost nowhere else on earth. Its most important variety is arguably Aglianico, the grape behind the region’s two most famous and respected red wines: Taurasi and Aglianico del Taburno. Aglianico was introduced to the area by the Greeks and later cultivated by the Romans.
Also vital to Campania’s vineyards are the white-wine varieties Fiano and Greco, which are championed by the region’s most respected white wines, Fiano di Avellino and Greco di Tufo.
More Italy Islands
One of the most romantic destinations on the planet has to be Italy’s Amalfi coast. This is the heart and soul of Italy. Inextricably Italian, unbelievably beautiful and a place to enjoy the finest wines and flavors of Italian cuisine.
While the French Riviera is commonly known and very popular, Italy’s Liguria Coast is the OTHER RIVIERA where we will spend our days exploring the coastline and delightful towns frequented by the rich and famous.
Italy’s Liguria Coast, also known as the Italian Riviera, all the way from San Remo, passing through Savona, Genoa, Portofino, Sta. Margherita Ligure, the Cinque Terre and La Spezia represent a very special area in Northern Italy.
To those of you who visualize a country of sun-baked rock dotted with dazzling whitewashed houses, the Ionian comes as a gentle surprise. This is not the Greece of the popular travel brochure but a shaded green country, sheltering…