THE BAY OF NAPLES
We left the dock in Naples Saturday morning, July 3 in the most unusual harbor I have ever seen. In the space of perhaps 30,000 square feet there were more than 75 boats of all sizes double and triple birthed, stern and bow to the quay. There was music on boom boxes and the noise of boat engines and traffic on the shore. The water was filled with trash and garbage, yet crystal clear below the surface. In addition there were hundreds of people, mostly but not exclusively small children under 16 and as young as infants in and out of boats, in the water, jumping off walls and generally completely oblivious to the presents of boats or people trying to use the harbor. This picture seriously understates how crowded the harbor appeared that morning in the 95 degree and 100% humidity conditions.
In spite of the congestion and general organized chaos, we were able to sail off without a hitch and set out across the Bay of Naples to our first stop, Procida, a tiny island between Naples and the Island of Ischia. We were able to tie up to the local marina in Comichella along with an assortment of other boats beginning the season. It was congested and less than comfortable in the intense heat, but we survived a night of island food and left the next day for Ischia, a much more beautiful Island. Our first stop was the town of Casamicciola where we were escorted to the dock with the aid of an “ormeggiolo” who used his boat to nudge us into place. After a nice lunch on board, we took a bus to visit the famous gardens “La Mortella” planted by Susanna Walton and dedicated to the memory of her husband, Sir William Walton, the famous composer. We were told these were truly remarkable gardens, and we would have to agree. The unusual collection of trees, shrubs and flowers is like nothing I have seen anywhere else in the world. Some exceptional examples are below.
The bus ride back was a true third world experience with the bus packed so tightly that Sue Luconi emerged from the bus telling us she believed she had had some kind of carnal relations with the man standing next to her in the vertical position. We vowed to stay off the buses in Ischia from that point forward.
That evening we celebrated July 4th on our own, and were happy to hear that life back in the USA remained stable and safe as usual.
The following day we took a trip around the island with Vitto Scotti, and elderly native of Ischia recommended by Jeff and Marci Brawer. Although he didn’t speak a word of English, he gave us a terrific guide as we circumnavigated the island in his locally built boat. He brought us by the island castle stronghold that had been the retreat of emperors and conquerors in the past.
We also went along the coast into some caves. Here is Betsy sitting up on the bow of the boat as Vitto nudges the boat deep into the watery cavern.
The coast was beautiful with obvious evidence of the volcanic eruptions and movements of the earth’s plates that formed this area.
The next day we moved the boat to San Angelo, a harbor on the opposite side of Ischia. The harbor was lined with elegant shops and eateries and one colorful place called Il Pirata (the pirate). We met the owner and his nephew, a 32 year old radiologist who did some of his training in Boston.
This was the first place to have a truly tropical flavor to it other than the heat and humidity. We enjoyed our stay here and hope to return. This is the small beach off the harbor, though there is a long and sandy beach on the other side.
After another restful and wonderful day in San Angelo, we moved to Capri, accompanied by Julie Bierman and her friend Amanda who took the ferry from Sorrento and the bus from Porto Ischia to join us. We had a very slow sail to Capri Harbor, but saw a whale (honestly- at least 5 of us saw it) and many fish jumping on the way. Julie and Amanda had to rush off for the ferry back to Sorrento after we arrived, but we were able to get this shot just before.
That night we had dinner at Villa Verde in Capri town, now our favorite food so far since arriving in Italy. The town was packed with tourists and locals and there was much time spent on people watching. The shops have great clothes, but the prices are out of site. Still, they seemed quite busy and happy.
The next day we found a beach, sort of, on the opposite side of the island in Marina Piccola. We were once again packed in families from Capri and the surrounding islands and mainland. So far we have been struck by the very small numbers of Americans here in southern Italy. Those we have met have not been particularly friendly, though there are, as always, many exceptions. Of course, an elderly woman fell down a flight of stairs and I had to tend to her until she was able to move on her own. No injuries.
The Luconis left the following morning to return to Naples in preparation for their return home in 2 days. They were great company and we miss them already. We then moved the sailboat around to anchor in Marina Piccola., a beautiful spot, we thought during the weak daytime winds. At the end of the day we saw "Thirteen", Jon Harris's parents' 124 foot yacht. We motored over to chat with them for a while, then returned to our boat for the evening.
We picked up a town mooring and began to rock, pitch and yaw so much that Betsy was not able to eat or sleep due to severe sea sickness. We spent the night mostly awake up on deck in the cockpit. After that episode, I thought it would be best if we took a day off from the boat and moved into a hotel nearby (The Ambassador Webber). We had two quiet air-conditioned nights with no rocking and rolling, no medication to survive the nausea and normal toilets and showers. It was the break we needed. We had a beautiful view from our terrace and could see right out to our boat at anchor, right up to the moment when a sudden thunderstorm arose and pushed the boat off its anchor and into another boat. The next morning we had to deal with the distress of the boat charter company who were concerned about the cost of the damage, as am I. We’ll have to wait and see.
We took a bus ride to Anacapri, a more sedate and subdued colony on the Island of Capri. The scale of buildings is much smaller and there is only a fraction of the numbers of tourists on this remote location high in the mountain of Capri. We had a drink at the Capri Palace, an amazing ultra-luxury hotel and spa, then returned to the hotel to shower and change for dinner, this time at Aurora. The food was ok, but by no means in the top 10 of the trip.
On Monday, July 12, we had the best sail of the season from Marina Piccola to the town of Amalfi. This time we had no trouble docking and Betsy acted with great skill as first mate. The location here is terrific and we are able to get all around the Amalfi coast with bus and taxi without difficulty. The view from the marina of the ancient town of Amalfi is spectacular and we marvel at it every morning and evening.
The people in this region are wonderfully friendly and helpful, starting with the dockmaster, Aniello Esposito who greeted us wearing a t-shirt from Sole Mates (Paul and Phyllis Fireman's yacht). He climbed all over the boat setting up our power lines and water and was effusively grateful for a small tip. That night Betsy made dinner on the boat of Trofie pasta with pomedoro sauce and a salad.
The next morning we took the ferry from Amalfi to Positano, a 40 minute trip on a beautifully clear day. We were thrilled to be back in Positano after 9 years. The only thing that has changed is that it is more crowded and there are more shops and stores open in July than we saw in October. We managed to find all the shops we had visited back then and did our best to help them continue to thrive in business. Here is a picture from the boat as we were leaving Positano.
When we returned to Amalfi on the ferry, we found a cab to take us to Revello. Our driver, Salvatore, is an expatriate from the Bronx. We heard all about the differences driving cabs in NYC and Amalfi. We arrived at Revello to have lunch at Cumpo Cosimi where we ate 9 years ago.
Once again, we weren’t disappointed. The food was better than we remembered and the atmosphere was super. We had a delicious meal then went off to walk the gardens of the Villa Cimbrione, a magnificent villa and gardens overlooking all of the Amalfi coast. Since we were last here in October, we didn’t appreciate the flowers and greenery.
After touring the gardens where we met a nice young couple from Cohasset, we took the bus down to Amalfi and had dinner at a local pizzeria recommended by Fodors, Il Teatro. We managed to prove that it is possible to have a bad meal in Italy, though you have to really try hard to find it.
Wednesday morning we got a driver, Michele Acampora, who took us through the small towns and villages of the Amalfi region and then to Pompeii where we had a two hour guided tour. It was much more than I expected. The impact of seeing an entire town from 2000 years ago with intact homes, paintings, and evidence of a complex social, political and economic structure was almost overwhelming. No one picture does this justice, but the following view looking through the relatively intact forum towards Mt. Vesuvius, the cause of the sudden demise of this city of 20,000 people should put it in focus.
We then stopped in Sorrento for lunch. Sorrento is a ancient/modern clean city with wonderful restaurants, hotels, shopping and beaches, but still with close ties to antiquity. We had a great lunch and then drove back to our boat.
For dinner we were picked up by Ciccio who owns the restaurant, Trattoria da Ciccia-Cielo-Mare-Terre or sky, sea and land. We were seated next to 6 tables of celebrants of a graduation from college. It could just have easily been a wedding shower or prenuptial dinner. The guests were there to party and ranged in age from an adorable 10 month old baby girl, daughter of one of Ciccio’s sons, to grandparents with lots of partying 18-25 year olds. We had a blast. On return to the boat we checked in with Mom to wish her a happy 80th birthday. Tomorrow we begin the last two days of our trip on the boat heading back towards Naples.
We had an amazing sail from Amalfi, stopping in Positano for lunch with the boat on a mooring. We then sailed in 18-24 knot winds to Sorrento with a reef in the main and jib. We were able to get a dock in Sorrento thanks to the intervention of our driver in Amalfi, Michele Acampora. We motored back to Naples due to the lack of any wind and bid goodbye to "le Grand Bleu", our yacht, with mixed emotions. Tonight we overnight in Naples and leave tomorrow for Nice to spend a week with the Veyssi's.
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