In October 2013, we left Sardinia and made our way to mainland Italy via the Pontine Islands. They are a small group of islands to the north and west of the Bay of Naples. The largest is Ponza where we anchored in the bay of Chiaia de Luna on the south western side when we arrived overnight from Sardinia. We then moved round to Ponza harbour on the eastern side later that morning and anchored just off the harbour. As it was October, there were no anchoring restrictions. In high season, June to September, anchoring is very limited in Italy due to ‘conservation concerns’ but you do wonder whether it is purely to drive you into the small, expensive marinas!
In the Bay of Naples, there are the islands of Ischia, Proscida and Capri. Ischia is the largest and is a volcanic island of about 60,000 people and around 46 sq km. Its main industry is tourism with its hot water springs and volcanic sand. We have stayed in Sant’Angelo and Ischia Town. Sant’Angelo is a quaint, colourful fishing village but the attitude of the marina staff left something to be desired! From there, we visited hot springs and beach bars. Very pleasant. Ischia Town is much more than just a tourist spot as it has a buzzy atmosphere even early in the season. It was expensive at €100 per night without any facilities! The town’s main draw is the Aragonese castle on the peninsular that was built in 1441 but there had been fortifications there since BC474.
Its smaller neighbour, Procida is a delightful island with colourful houses and some anchorages. The marina was nice and very reasonable so would have been a cheaper alternative to Castellammare di Stabia although it would have involved taxis and ferries. Close to our marina is the ancient Roman ruins of Herculaneum. It was devastated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. The archaeologists involved in the excavation learnt much from the excavations of Pompeii. There, the excavations went straight down so many buildings collapsed whereas in Herculaneum, many have been preserved. It’s a fascinating place and shows how far the sea has receded since that time.
Capri, on the other hand, is renowned the world over ever since Roman Emperors built summer villas there. It is a busy place with a small harbour with room for only a hand full of visitors’ yachts although ferries come and go all day. There is a funicular to take you to the town proper and it does give you stunning views down to the harbour. The streets at the top are very crowded but as soon as you walk for about 15 minutes, peace is restored and you can then explore the island at a more leisurely pace. It was on this walk that we saw the Marina Piccolo on the other side which is a natural harbour and a perfect anchorage if there is any south in the wind or swell. We were also able to visit some Roman ruins and see the famous rocks at Faraglioni and the natural arch with turquoise blue water beneath.
Mainland Italy around Amalfi is delightful with sheer rock faces and imposing views. It doesn’t lend itself to anchoring off but the marinas are small and expensive in season although tolerably priced (for the area) out of season. Sorrento is in the same part of the Bay as Marina di Stabia and only 5nm away. The town is set up on the hillside with a small harbour below. During the Good Friday celebrations, it is customary to have a number of processions through the town, one white, one black. The costumes are very traditional and date back centuries but do, unfortunately, to have a look of the KKK. The town itself is famous for the making of limoncello and wood carving. The other side of the peninsular sits Positano, a small town that only became a tourist resort in the 1950s. Next stop was Ravello with the fabulous gardens of the Villa Rufolo and its delightful Duomo. Again, it is set up high on the cliff face and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Just below Ravello is the town of Amalfi. Amalfi was a separate state until the 11th Century and has long been a tourist destination. It was a maritime power and as such the town and harbour are both at sea level. It is very busy at all times of the year and has a lot of tacky tourist shops but it is quite a sweet place., especially around the harbour area.